By Ida Kiss, clinical psychologist, psychotherapist and coach
My young client, “Sandra” (not her real name) suffered from clinical depression, anxiety attacks, and insomnia. She was 16-years-old when her mother died after a long and painful illness. She raised her only child alone, so Sandra not only lost her mother, but her home, too, when her mother passed away. Since then she lives with her grandmother, and aunt.
When she came to me, she was under psychiatric treatment, taking antidepressants and sleeping pills regularly, and tranquilizers practically on a daily basis. At the beginning of the first session, her hands were trembling (rather unfavorable for a music student), and she had a bad headache.
She reported a terrible fear of her piano teacher, and the exams, which led her think about quitting her studies. The headache was 6 on a SUD scale of intensity of 0 to 10.
I decided to preframe the EFT procedure, as she is of an age when young ones have an especially refined sense for the ridiculous.
First, I spoke about our energy systems. I underlined that the EFT procedure is so natural that even primates instinctively use something like this. Also, I reminded her that oftentimes when somebody is blocked, they scratch their head; impatient persons tap upon the table with their fingertips; and many religious procedures include beating one’s sternum with the fist. I interpreted this as a spontaneous and instinctive way of regulating the body’s energies.
The meridian concept and acupuncture are conscious and sophisticated applications of the same phenomenon. She accepted that, and we started with the headache. I told her that we would do some monkey business, tapping on our body and head like chimpanzees do. It took three rounds (without the 9 gamut procedure, but adding the top of the head) to get her headache from a level of intensity of 6 out of 10 down to 0.
She especially liked tapping on her head. It amused her. I tapped with her, as I always do. It’s a way to maintain rapport with the client. I would feel weird and unattached just sitting and staring while the client taps on themselves.
Sandra was pleasantly surprised, and willingly did three rounds for the trembling of her hands. She sighed, relaxed, and we spent a moment or so in silence, just smiling. The real work could begin!
We started with the fear from her piano teacher.
I applied the Tell-the-Story Technique. She chose a specific event, her last piano exam, which was disastrous. She felt awful, her result was bad, and the teacher was saying humiliating things. I asked her to report her day from the moment that she got up on that day, and stop at the moment when her tension started to grow. Soon she identified the moment, and I made her tell every step on her way to the Music Institute.
We stopped at every corner where the tension grew, and tapped for fear, ambivalence, uncertainty, anger, envy, just to name a few. As we finished with the intensity of one negative emotion after the other, she began to enjoy the process. She was really amazed by how many different emotions she experienced within such a short time. When we got through the exam theme (it took about an hour), we recalled the whole story again, and cleared the remaining negativity.
She was no longer trembling, her headache was forgotten, and she was looking forward to her next class with the piano teacher with curiosity … and so was I.
The following week she arrived calm and good-humored. She diligently tapped almost every night in bed. She no longer needed tranquilizers, and the piano class where she had to play was a success. She hadn’t any negativity about it anymore. She even reported that the teacher’s attitude had changed, too – or was it her perception that changed? However, the insomnia was still there waiting to be treated.
Now Sandra trusted the method, she knew that she wouldn’t suffer. If she had any intense negative emotion, she could face and treat it. Her subconscious mind started to believe that negative information can get to the surface without threatening her. So we decided to work on her insomnia.
Her problem was that however tired, she couldn’t fall asleep, even with the aid of pills. She told me that her mother suffered a lot, and at nights she was groaning. On weekdays Sandra’s grandma looked after her at night, but on weekends Sandra was in charge of her. The sound of her mother’s suffering affected her terribly, so that she couldn’t sleep. We tapped on this, and the intensity came down. I didn’t stop there with the detective work, and so asked the precise date when the insomnia appeared for the first time. And my gut feeling was right! Being specific was fundamental in this aspect, too.
It turned out that the insomnia began two years before Sandra’s mother was diagnosed with cancer.
Sandra now remembered that after a weekend excursion her mother suffered food poisoning, which was manifested in diarrhea, vomiting, and terrible stomach pains. The girl was eleven years old at that time, alone with her mother, and since then she had nightmares almost every night. The nightmare was about her mother, who walks in a street in front of Sandra, and suddenly disappears in a big hole, before her daughter’s eyes. I supposed that her unconscious mind wanted to save her from these nightmares, by preventing her from falling asleep.
To work on this issue I chose the Movie Technique. After three rounds of tapping I asked Sandra to watch the movie speeding it up, and backwards. She did it, enthusiastically. When the intensity was down to zero, I asked her to break her movie to pieces. She improvised a pantomime etude, tore the movie tape out of its case, and stomped on it. Boy, we enjoyed ourselves!
There was some time left from the 1.5 hours session, so we decided to work through Sandra’s problem with practicing piano at the Institute. She had the habit of procrastination, which made her angry with herself. The hall with the piano has large windows, and potentially anybody passing by could listen to her, while doing her practice. She felt uneasy, judged, not good enough. We applied the same method as with the exam, Tell-the-Story, but we had to wait for the results; how would you test procrastination?
Sandra arrived to the third session prettily dressed, and with discrete makeup. She was no longer the adolescent girl, but a mature young woman. She stopped taking sleeping pills, as the nightmares didn’t return any more, and she can now fall asleep without delay. She felt peaceful and good humored. I advised her to consult her psychiatrist about diminishing or possibly stopping the medication for depression, and she agreed.
Procrastination is no longer a problem. Now she enjoys practicing piano and feels like she’s in the flow while playing scales and etudes. She still has problems, but she can cope with them. We discussed her lifestyle, her learning and recreational habits. The therapy turned into coaching in the most natural way.