Some years ago I came up with a very simple approach incorporating drawing with tapping, as a result of feeling the need for additional tools to help clients struggling with intense emotions. This was long before I came across the wonderful Picture Tapping Technique, developed by Christine Sutton and Philip Davis. I have since shared this Doodle Tapping Technique with some of my students, but have never before got round to writing the process down. This morning, as I was sitting in my garden with a cup of tea, a quiet but insistent thought kept tapping somewhere at the back of my mind telling me to write this article. Since nowadays I am much better at listening to these subtle messages, here it is.
Helping the overwhelm
You may find Doodle Tapping particularly helpful for clients who are overwhelmed in a session. Where the intensity and level of distress are high, and are not lowering naturally or through normal tapping. Whilst the standard EFT approaches normally do a great job, occasionally they didn't seem to be enough with some clients. Therefore I had to be more creative, and I came up with
The Doodle Tapping Technique
When we are hijacked by intense emotions, one thing that can be very helpful is to externalise them. In other words, to take these emotions from the inside and put them on the outside. This means we can observe them with a degree of detachment, rather than being consumed by the tsunami of feelings.
There are numerous ways of achieving this externalising effect, including different forms of creative therapy. I love sand play therapy in particular, as well as therapeutic art. There are also various effective approaches employing parts therapy. One of my favourites is the EFT-based Identity Healing, developed by Andy Hunt. You can also use props such as magic tapping bears and other tapping ‘critters'.
These techniques may or may not involve tapping. However, I do believe that, if we add tapping to other therapeutic approaches, it only enhances their efficacy. This is through the grounding effect of connecting to the physical body, and the soothing of the amygdala, the “emergency control room operator” of our brain.
What do you need to start Doodle Tapping?
I suggest that you practise the Doodle Tapping process with yourself before introducing it to your clients. My general rule, which is common sense as well as a matter of ethics, is that I do not subject other people to something I have not experienced myself. To start, you need some simple equipment, and an issue to work on.
Here is the equipment you will need for the Doodle Tapping process.
Have a dozen sheets of A4/ Letter sized sheets available (if the paper is larger or smaller it is ok, but A4 is ideal), as well as something for the paper to rest on. Maybe a table, a board, or a hard-backed book. You can use a pad of paper, as long as it is easy to turn over the pages.
It is useful to have a set of felt-tips in a range of colours, though I have done this process with a single biro pen a number of times and it still worked well. I feel that felt-tips are easier to use for this particular approach than coloured pencils or crayons, as the latter can break under pressure. Sometimes clients do put a fair amount of force into their doodles! Also, felt-tips are easier to use for creating a line at some speed - and speed is an important part of the process. This is one thing that distinguishes Doodle Tapping from The Picture Tapping Technique, where the client is typically given a more generous amount of time to create their picture.
When to Doodle Tap
Doodle Tapping is particularly useful when you are experiencing an intense emotion, as a sort of a creative First Aid. However, when choosing an issue for practising with, you may not want to wait until you get overwhelmed. I find it can also be useful in other instances. For example, when you are struggling to pinpoint the specific problem to work with, and only have a vague feeling or sensation of something “not being right”. Pretty much any other issue which has a feeling or sensation to it can be "doodle-tapped" through.
How to Doodle Tap
If trying this out for yourself, have your equipment to hand, and follow the steps below.
1. Place one sheet of paper in front of you, then pick one felt-tip pen, quickly, without thinking.
2. As quickly as possible, draw whatever you are experiencing in the moment on the sheet of paper. Make this definitely no more than one minute - set a timer if you need to. Do not try to think about what you are drawing, and resist analysing. Just put the pen to paper and allow your hand to move. Do not stop to change colours - unless you feel absolutely compelled to do so.
3. Once you’ve finished the doodle, do just one or two rounds of tapping (no more), whilst looking at the picture you have drawn. You can tap without words or use a very simple Reminder Phrase, e.g. “This purple zigzag” or “This black swirly thing”, describing the shape and colour that you see on paper. Do not go into associations of “This purple zigzag reminds me of the time when…”
If you do get an insight, awareness or connection in your mind, just allow it to rest at the back of your mind, without it interfering with the process. You can always come back to it later if needed. If you do use words whilst tapping, there is no need for the Set-up/Balancing statement. The Reminder Phrase is more than enough.
4. On completing the one or two rounds of tapping on the first doodle, turn the drawing over and put it aside (it is important not to peep at the previous drawings as you work on your next one!)
5. Take a fresh sheet of paper, pick a felt-tip of another colour (or same colour if that feels right), and repeat the process. Draw a very quick doodle, taking less than one minute. Do one or maximum two rounds of tapping whilst looking at the picture. Turn it over and put it aside.
6. Continue doodling, tapping, and putting the drawing away upside down, so that you no longer see the picture. Make sure you use a fresh sheet of paper after tapping, so that there is no more than one doodle per sheet.
7. There will come a point where the intensity subsides and the doodle will take on a positive or healing quality. For example the colour is likely to change: there is no strict rule as to what the “positive” colour may be, but often it is yellow, gold, pink or green. The shape of the doodle may acquire a symbolic quality of healing or wholeness - e.g. it may be a circle (a symbol of unity), an egg, a flower, a star, a diamond, sunshine. Regardless of what the picture looks like, it is the quality of the feeling that goes with it that lets you know the process is complete.
I do not generally use the SUDs scale of 1 to 10 with Doodle Tapping, as it tends to be fairly obvious when the shifts occur, from the non-verbal signals as well as what client says (or from your own internal experience when working with yourself). However, it may be helpful to use SUDs with those individuals who are not as well practised in identifying their emotions and connecting to their bodies. Mostly, people report an increased sense of peace, calm, acceptance, centering, or grounding. At the very least, the original intensity of emotion has subsided dramatically. Enough to be able to look upon the original issue with a different perspective, or with more compassion and acceptance.
8. You may choose to keep the last drawing if you feel a special sense of connection with it, but you do not have to look at the previous drawings again. You can discard these, unless you strongly feel you need to review them.
One practical point - the maximum number of sheets of paper I have ever had to use for this process is 12, but often between 8 and 10 is sufficient (and sometimes fewer are needed). However, it may be prudent to have a couple of sheets spare just in case.
In my experience, the main advantage of Doodle Tapping is its speed, which helps to by-pass the conscious, analytical mind. The latter sometimes interferes with the natural healing process. By working quickly and spontaneously, whilst externalising our suffering on the sheet of paper, we can peel off the layers quickly and safely. Before the doubting conscious mind brings in objections, questions, and “what ifs”.
If you have found this process beneficial for yourself, do try it out with clients as and when you feel it is appropriate. I would love to hear how you get on.
Accredited Certified EFT Master Trainer of Trainers. Specialises in the areas of trauma, addictions and spirituality.