by Sarah Haté, certified performance coach with NLP, EFT practitioner, New Paradigm MDT practitioner
‘‘ The cause of ALL negative emotions is a disruption in the body’s energy system ’’
Imagine that you’re coaching a client and each time you start talking about her limiting beliefs or the things that are holding her back, she begins talking about her fears, related to some childhood memory that has come back to haunt her. You’re not a psychologist, you’re not an expert in childhood trauma, yet you really want to help her get over this, as you both know it’s what’s stopping her from moving forwards.
This is where the technique EFT (or Emotional Freedom Technique) comes in to my coaching practice. I trained to be a performance coach with NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) skills, and despite the fact that NLP is a wonderful tool to help get over past trauma, it’s sometimes not enough. And here’s the reason why: whenever we experience a traumatic event (it could be a single event or something that is repeated), our body registers it somewhere, together with the emotions that we felt at that particular moment in time.
As the majority of us are extremely resilient, even if we don’t admit it, we can often tend to ‘just get on with life’… until life decides to remind us of a particular traumatic event, in the form of a limiting belief, lack of self-esteem, self-confidence and/or self-love, for example. Depending on what we experienced and on our individual capacity to heal, a normal coaching session can be enough to accept this, process this and move forwards.
In my experience as a coach, there are times when more traditional coaching methods simply don’t work for deeply embedded trauma because the obstacle pops up further down the path the client is on. Such methods are great for shining the light on the problem and pulling off various layers to get to the heart of the matter, but can leave us frustrated as coaches, like we haven’t been able to get to the stage of complete closure.
I’d like to share with you the benefits of introducing EFT into our coaching practice, talk about the origins and how it works, and what it takes for you to become an EFT practitioner.
EFT was founded back in 1991 by Gary Craig, a student of Roger Callahan. Just to give you a bit of background, Callahan was one of the founders of energy psychology, which can be described as ‘acupuncture without needles’, and is a combination of exposure therapy and meridian point stimulation. For those of you who don’t know what exposure therapy is, it involves exposing the patient/client to the source of anxiety or its context, without the intention to cause any danger.
As I have already stated, traumatic events trapped in our mind/body can have a negative impact on our life, and it is believed that energy psychology techniques can help us release these events more rapidly than if we simply talk about them. The process of tapping on meridian points is intended to send signals to the brain, to help it to regulate any physical and emotional reactions affecting health and well-being. The physical stimulation of acupoints is thought to create electrical and chemical signals in the brain that are thought to help normalize cortisol levels and balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, thus reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress, among other issues.
It has been found that EFT leads to a 68% decrease in physical problems, such as pain and disease, and a 45% decrease in psychological problems, like anxiety and depression, fear and phobia.
So, how does EFT work? One of the wonders of EFT is that you can practice it alone, without any former training, whenever you feel stressed or anxious about something relatively minor. The following steps are to be followed if you are doing this alone. They will vary if you have an EFT session with a practitioner, as he or she will be trained to deal with trauma and much deeper issues. Part of his or her expertise is the ability to create many different reminder phrases and to introduce them at the right time during the tapping process. He or she is also trained in making sure that the patient/client is safe during and after the session, and dealing with extremely intense emotions that can come up while tapping certain meridian points. When working with a practitioner, you will repeat everything he or she says, and will be guided through the whole process. Some NLP techniques are also used to identify and get to the heart of the problem and the trapped emotions.
There are 7 steps to the self-help process, and it’s important to follow them in this order:
1. Recognize the problem: First of all, you must identify your problem. It can be physical or emotional, but focus on the issue that is troubling you, for example feeling stressed before an exam.
2. Create a reminder phrase: After identifying the issue, make a short phrase that summarizes your problem. Fix it in your mind, so you get focused during the rest of the process, e.g. I’m really stressed about my exam next week.
3. Rate the issue: Now, rate the intensity of your problem on a 0 – 10 scale and understand how important the issue is. 10 indicates that your stress is through the roof. It’s not uncommon for my clients to begin with an intensity of 8 or 9.
4. Set up an affirmation: Create a self-affirming statement, which is positive. Repeat the statement frequently so that you will feel better when you think about your problem. For example, “Even though I am really stressed about my exam next week, I deeply and completely accept myself”. Repeat the statement as you tap on the meridian points mentioned below, in step 5.
5. Perform the tapping sequence: The tapping process should cover all the 8 meridian points of your body in the following order. You will begin with the top of the eyebrow, then move to the side of the eye, under the eye, under the nose, under the chin, under the collar bone, under the arm, and finally top of the head. The tapping must be very gentle but it should be constant and firm taps. Use your index and middle fingers to tap.
6. Re-rate the issue: Now, rate your issue on the same scale from 0 - 10. The aim of this reassessment is to see how much better you feel, and to ideally reach an intensity of 1 or 2 maximum.
7. Repeat the process if necessary: If you still struggle with the same issue, you can either change your affirmation statement with some more positive sentence and/or repeat the whole process again.
As you may have realized from reading the description of the technique, the results can be very quick and it sometimes only takes one EFT session to bust through a client’s blockages and move forwards. This has happened to me a few times, when I introduced EFT during a particularly difficult coaching session. 30-40 minutes later, the client felt a great sense of relief and inner peace, and was able to shift her mindset.
To become a practitioner, you need to train in levels 1 and 2 of EFT. If you’re interested in training in order to help yourself, friends and family, then level 1 is enough. I trained with one of the best practitioners in France (as I live in the southwest of France!), and each level required 3 days of intensive training which combined theory and practice. Requirements may vary from country to country, so you will also need to make enquiries where you live.
There are more and more online self-learning opportunities, but I highly recommend you do this in person or at least online with the trainer. Lots of emotions came up for me during the training, as we were asked to practice on ourselves and other people. Having the trainer and other trainees in the same (virtual) room was a great help and comfort for me.
Here’s a useful link for more information about training if you are based in the UK: https://eftinternational.org/eft-training-courses-united-kingdom/
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