By Dr. David Lake
Common request from client: “I found your name on the internet and I can take the day off to come and see you for an EFT session”.
Therapist: May I ask what kind of issue you want help with?
Client: “I’m not good at relationships….and I’m very overweight…and a bit depressed”
It is normal and human to think that a magical technique or strategy will somehow cut through such complex, multilevel problems quickly and easily like some kind of psychological surgery, or a massive existential shortcut. The facts, and common sense, dictate otherwise. There is hard work involved. With people, groups, behaviours, beliefs in that person’s life.
One of the enduring and pervasive beliefs about using EFT is that it should work quickly—the “quick fix”. While this might occur on occasion, typically in a single session of treatment, and most likely for pain or anxiety-based conditions, it is not that common. Let me repeat: not that common.
Not that common if you include every condition, physical and mental. Not that common if you mean “cure” or “total healing”. If by a “fix” you mean symptom relief only, in part or full, then it is common, since the relaxing and stress-reducing effects of EFT are legion. EFT is a marvelous self-help technique.
Possibly because space-age medicine can be ‘miraculous’, and because EFT can have these kind of results in anxiety-based problems (e.g. phobia treatment), people come to expect magic. Techniques like hypnotherapy also attract the same magical thinking (working with the ‘unconscious’). Why should EFT be different?
Here is what EFT “might not” be able to do:
Change the underlying pathological process e.g. infection, degenerative joint change
Change the symptoms permanently e.g. moderate to severe depression
Change anything e.g. the root cause of personality disorders or psychoses
“Make you a cup of tea (according to Steve Wells)”, or remove loneliness, unhappiness, boredom, irritability or anger per se)
Treat legitimate, authentic negative emotions that are meant to be there at present in your human life e.g. it won’t really help to learn EFT as a coping strategy if you are being abused in a toxic relationship
Cure addictions or eating disorders as the sole treatment technique
To say this is not to be negative; it is realistic given the current state of knowledge. Things will change but this is the reality now. I want it on the record that I am pleased with fast and thorough results. I would just like to see more of these in difficult conditions—or even in ordinary ones!
A mutual friend of ours attended our workshops and Retreat and became a tapping ‘legend’! He was able, over some years, to gain partial relief from severe episodes of heart palpitations, but eventually came to curative heart surgery. This is good. EFT was helping him but surgery cured him. Now he is married he’ll need tapping more than ever!
The whole EFT field is held back by the lack of good information about its effect in complex, major conditions. This is in complete contrast to the stunning effects seen in the treatment of fear, anxiety and trauma. In my opinion EFT (and its cousins) is the treatment of choice for trauma and post-traumatic stress because of the compelling superior results. Despite not "enough" quality scientific validation by evidence-based medicine these results can't be ignored. But even then it would be irresponsible to talk about "cures" because there is no guarantee in such a complex condition. Remember that nobody actually knows how EFT works.
We are all looking for the right kind of help or intervention to assist healing. It is a massive disservice to EFT to use it thoughtlessly, and by itself on conditions that require a team effort, or medical help primarily, because they are so serious (e.g. retinal problems, severe depression, anorexia). Sometimes conditions respond so slowly that it takes a lot of persistence to deal with them, using everything you have. [If, for example, EFT were the best treatment alone for serious depression, the world would already be a much better place for thousands of afflicted people. Why would anybody even consider antidepressants in this level of depression if it were so easy to cure?]
But this is common sense, and sometimes this is what is missing from the discussion on what EFT can do or not do. The "quick fix" is so often a myth in my experience--yet this concept turns out to be the number one issue on many, many people's minds when they encounter EFT personally. The client wants it now. The practitioner secretly might expect it too. This is a recipe for confusion and “over-promising”.
We owe it to ourselves and our clients to be as honest as possible. Let’s deal with “what is” (thanks Byron Katie). Let’s say what’s true for us and then find what works better.
The issue when someone wants to know "can EFT help in such and such a condition" (and this question is perennial) is that you must speak to an experienced practitioner. And what is that experience? Is it anecdotes from the EFT websites? Or is it the thousands of people with many different conditions that someone like Joaquin Andrade (a consummate trained professional) has assessed and treated in his clinic over many years? I maintain that the "experience" for most, especially when talking about complex issues, is a handful of cases. This often reflects the kind of practice the person runs, as well.
My own experience in rough figures over 10 years using EFT on (or in the presence of):
- Schizophrenia 4 cases
- Severe OCD 5 cases
- Chronic Fatigue 4 cases
- Multiple Sclerosis 2 cases
- Cancer generally 25 cases
- Chronic Pain (specific condition) 10 cases
- Severe Depression several hundred
8 Mild to moderate depression many hundred
- Phobias More than a thousand
- Panic disorder More than a thousand
Obviously my pronouncements seem important because I am a doctor but for some conditions I don't have the breadth of experience. But I am willing to try in any case. And when I do, “how many sessions will this take?” Good question.
I’m also very keen for practitioners to be more forthcoming about when EFT doesn’t work so well—or at all. I once delivered 6 solid sessions of EFT designed to help a patient cope with, or eliminate, the symptoms of a drug reaction (a drug he needed to take for hepatitis treatment). My efforts were in vain. This kind of feedback is sorely needed to advance knowledge and hasten the day of acceptance when both sides of medicine can talk about such treatments in a balanced way.
What do you think? We would love to read your comments.