I have discovered that working with people who suffer from extreme anxiety (OCD, voice hearing, DID) conditions needs a slightly different approach to that which we first learn in EFT (namely find the core cause of the condition).
Why A Different Approach?
Approaching the extreme symptom's core issue head-on (like in conventional EFT or therapy) just never seems to work. It will only make clients even more frightened or angry, or they will disappear (or dissociate even more, if they are dissociative)!
I am going to present you some of the techniques and strategies that at the beginning of sessions with clients suffering extreme conditions proved helpful in ensuring a good working relationship and ongoing results.
Validate The Protective Function of the Nervous System's Extreme Symptoms
Extreme condition (heavy OCD or anxiety or dissociation) sufferers often feel a lot of negative emotions about the extremeness of their symptoms in the first place. They will come to see you with a lot of inner conflict over this. What they most need in the beginning is you helping them to work along with their symptoms (instead of fighting them) by being able to see the symptoms having a valid and positive function, and by allowing the appreciation and validation for this to develop in them, as well.
Reminder Phrase: "Our symptoms always have a positive intention for us, trying to keep us safe."
An Exercise: The Watcher on the Hill
Invite the client to imagine: nervous system is like an army, or a bodyguard team - ideally at rest, until the ‘Watcher on the Hill’ sounds the warning! See the Watcher on the Hill article for an example case study.
Ask the client:
What are the soldiers doing? Are they at rest? Armed and ready for action? Already fighting?
For dissociation (DID) clients a metaphor can be a divided army,
aviation not trusting the navy backing them up, and navy not trusting the soldiers
on the ground backing them up, either.
The Watcher on the Hill, what is his condition? Is there more than one? Is he tired?
There will be many, many variations of this. The idea at this point is to tune in to the state of the nervous system. This can then be done at any chosen time thereafter to give the client an idea of where they are.
Positive Intention of Anxiety
Invite the client to guess:
What is the state of the client's nervous system (bodyguard team/army)?
Is it on duty 24 hours a day?
Is it divided (like in dissociation)
(in order to make sure at least one branch of army is not defeated?)
Once this exercise has been completed the client has often had a cognitive change and is now feeling appreciation for their nervous system and are now open to considering when this decision was made.
Reminder: "What is the state of the army?"
Be Aware That Conscious Agreement Does Not Mean Subconscious Agreement
The client may feel comfortable with the chosen therapist but upon accessing this part we find that the inner child does not trust the adult self (or anyone else that the adult self chooses to trust without consulting the inner child first). Its vital to establish a trust between the adult self and inner child self at this point. Inner child visualization can be very helpful at this time. The idea being to establish communication with this damaged and frightened "part" of us.
Protocols I have found invaluable for this work are Betty Moore Hafter's Inner Child protocol, which is truly beautiful. I have spoken to Betty about making this protocol publicly available as it has proved to be so powerful and this will be available from: http://creativeeft.com/.
Karl Dawson's Matrix Reimprinting technique is also useful here for this, and Tania Prince has also written about this in an excellent article on Soul Retrieval. Both articles can be found at http://www.eftmastersworldwide.com/articles.html
Reminder: "What is the state of the communication between adult self and inner child?"
Most extreme anxiety (or a dissociation or OCD) symptom sufferers can be re-traumatized every day by their symptoms, especially if this includes "hearing voices" (like in schizophrenia) or "being voices" (like in dissociation - DID / DDNOS). We have to address this as well as considering the events that causes this and give the client tools they can use to calm themselves.
This is always much easier for them to do when they understand that their nervous system is trying to protect them from a memory of a past experience, which may still not be consciously known to them.
Gwyneth Moss has an excellent anxiety protocol which is a very helpful tool at this point. Again this can be found at http://www.eftmastersworldwide.com/articles.html
Reminder: "Is everyone safe, inside and outside?"
Specific Tapping Statements for People who Experience "Hearing Voices" or "Being Voices"
Even though I feel terrified of me "hearing voices" (or "being voices"), (there's still deep down in me a part that is able to) deeply love and completely accept myself and all my parts, and I am choosing to feel safe knowing that (they are only a partial reflection of how I'm feeling about myself right now).
Even though I have no control over these voices (or parts of my divided bodyguard-team), and they are running my life, (there's still deep down in me a part that is able to) deeply love and completely accept myself and all my parts, and I'm choosing to feel safe because I know they are just trying to protect me.
Even though I experience "hearing voices" (or "being voices"), I still deeply love and completely accept myself and I choose to find the deeper meaning to these voices (or/and parts of me).
Even though it's very hard for me to find the event(s) in my past that caused me to experience "hearing voices" (or/and "being voices"), (there's still a part of me deep down that is able to) deeply love and completely accept myself and we are choosing to find the event(s) when we feel safe enough to do it.
Even though the experience of "hearing voices" (or/and "being voices") has been keeping me safe, I still deeply love and completely accept myself.
Even though I feel like a bad mother (/father/sibling/child) because I hear (or am) these voices (parts), (there's still a part deep down in me that is able to) deeply love and completely accept myself (and all my parts) and I am choosing to know that I am a wonderful and caring mother(/father/sibling/child) and this experience will only help me become a better one still.
By taking the first steps outlined, it is much easier for you to introduce the reframe to the client(s) that the voices (or the parts) are not saying things (or/and being things/persons) literally, which additionally takes the fear out of experiencing or re-experiencing them.
Homework For The Clients
Whenever they hear the voices/experience parts:
Even though I don't feel safe at the moment, I still deeply love and completely accept myself and I am choosing to know that I am safe
Later, whenever they hear the voices/experience parts:
The client can be taught to tap on the exact words that the voices (parts) happen to be saying/experiencing when the therapist feels the client fully understands that the voices/parts are "only" a symptom that the client is not feeling safe at the moment.
Now We Can Get Specific
Now that all this preparation is done, we can begin to work with specific events and traumas that precluded the onset of symptoms. This often includes birth trauma, and pre- and perinatal trauma as well as specific traumatic events. The client may have also been severely and systematically abused (this will also include the trauma of any previous psychiatric intervention which will have compounded the original trauma).
If you are comfortable working with sexual trauma and PSTD, and have a good understanding of the function of the nervous system, and have tapped on all your own issues about doing this kind of work, then you can safely help people with these issues.
Clients find Waking the Tiger by Peter Levine invaluable in helping them to understand the function of their own nervous system.
Conclusion and Reminder:
Experiencing extreme symptoms such as heavy OCD, "hearing voices", or "being voices" (dissociation such as DID or DDNOS) are all valid modes of surviving profound traumatisations.
From the EFTfree Archives, which are now a part of EFT International .
Originally published on April 14, 2012.