Sexual injury (assault or otherwise) can lie at the heart of a multitude of presenting client issues. These range from money blocks, to physical health problems, to a “fear of being seen”, as well as more obvious concerns like intimacy challenges.” Alina Frank, author of 'How to Want Sex Again'
This is not an easy topic to discuss, but it is an important one. Sexual trauma is a topic that, as EFT professionals, we continue to need to further understand and make a difference in helping people to heal from. It would be easy to interview experienced EFT practitioners, only to be surprised at how many of them have worked with survivors of sexual assault. The RAIN Network (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) estimate that an American is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds.
Not all of those who have experienced a single event or multiple experiences of sexual assault go on to develop and be diagnosed with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). However, the US Department of Justice estimates that 70% of rape and sexual assault survivors will experience PTSD or severe distress symptoms. Of course, PTSD can develop as a result of a wide variety of traumatic experiences, but this particular form of trauma has a higher prevalence of PTSD than other types of traumatic experiences.
Where are the EFT studies?
There are a large number of published studies and randomized controlled clinical trials (RCTs) that have demonstrated the effectiveness of EFT to reduce the clinical symptoms of PTSD . These often achieve significant symptom reduction in six sessions or less. There should be evidence of tapping to help sexual trauma in the research journals. Unfortunately, however, the scientific literature is nearly empty of any evidence. EFT is clearly effective in treating sexual trauma or sexual assault-specific PTSD; it is just that there have been no solid studies demonstrating this. There is a significant lack in the literature in any types of therapeutic interventions that show a strong body of evidence with this condition.
A newly published study
That is why I was so excited to discover a newly published study using EFT in conjunction with hypnosis to assist those suffering from sexual assault-specific PTSD. Published in November 2019*, researchers Anderson, Rubik and Absenger conducted a mixed method design dissertational study. This comprised 30 individuals who received 5 sessions over an 8-week period of time. Four consisted of EFT and Hypnosis, which to my knowledge has never been performed in a trial like this before (40 min of EFT and 20 min of hypnosis) . Whilst this was not a randomized control trial, it was the first exploration of its kind. The EFT was delivered by a trained therapist, using EFT as described in the EFT Manual (Church 2018). The same clinician also administered the hypnosis, including induction, imager and hypnotic suggestions.
The 30 individuals in the study qualified as the result of having suffered from a sexual assault no less then 6 months and no more than 5 years previously. They had self-identified PTSD symptoms of mild to moderate PTSD symptoms. They were not on psychotropic medications and did not have any other severe psychiatric illness. Results were measured via the PCL-5 (the DSM-5 PTSD Checklist) self-scored examination and qualitative measures.
So, what were the results?
- Participants overall felt changes in self-perception, and improved interpersonal relations.
- They displayed an increase in relief from anxiety, increased levels of forgiveness, and confidence in their new coping mechanisms.
- There was a significant decrease in PTSD symptom severity, including:
- 40% of the individuals no longer met the criteria for PTSD,
- an overall 34% decrease in PTSD symptom severity,
- half the participants showed improvement of between 30-50%,
- 24 of the 30 participants had a drop in score of between 10-20 points (out of a total of 80), which is a clinically significant change.
Like many studies, there are weaknesses. These include a small sample size, and no randomization or control group. There was no long term follow up, and there was a lack of formal psychiatric diagnosis prior to participation. The authors acknowledge these and state the need for further and more thorough examination of both interventions as singular and combined approaches.
- More research is needed for effective ways to help survivors of sexual assault.
- Practitioners need to be very aware of their scope of practice, reporting requirements and skill level before working with sexual trauma survivors.
- A sense of continued pride in seeing EFT continuing to be shown as an effective method for helping traumatized individuals.
- Excitement for the potential for collaborative mixed-method approaches. The combination of EFT with other modalities to explore integrated and improved effectiveness in subject matter like this.
- The need for increased professional training and continuing education of EFT practitioners to work within their scope to work effectively with survivors of sexual trauma.
Additional Related Sexual Trauma Resources:
FREA Support: Finding REcovery and Empowerment from Abuse https://www.frea.support A fabulous website with a wide array of resources including self care and energy psychology self care recommendations.
www.rainn.org RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE, online.rainn.org and rainn.org/es) in partnership with more than 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the country
How to Want Sex Again, Using EFT to Help Return to Intimacy; A best-selling book by EFT trainer Alina Frank. Explaining EFT, and providing insight and support for its safe application for healing from sexual trauma
Tapping out of Trauma 2.0 is an advanced online training program for EFT professionals wishing to dive deeper into working with trauma. This has a module dedicated to working with survivors of sexual trauma https://www.tappingoutoftrauma.com/toot-2/
- Anderson, K., Rubik, B., Absenber, W., (2019) Does Combining Emotional Freedom Techniques and Hypnosis Have an Effect on Sexual Assault-Specific Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms? J. of Energy Psychology; Theory, Research and Treatment,31-49, 11(2).
- Church, D. (2018) The EFT Manual (4th ed) Fulton, CA Energy Psychology Press
Craig is an Accredited Certified Master Trainer of Trainers, a Practitioner and Mentor.
Here is a link to the original article published