The process of dealing with cancer, or helping someone else to deal with it, can seem huge, complex and overwhelming. EFT can be a superb tool for navigating through the whole cancer experience when it's used as a complementary therapy alongside the normal medical treatments. EFT Practitioners can help themselves or their clients though the whole cancer journey. It can supplement counselling or other therapy sessions. As a result of the growing scientific basis for the efficacy of EFT, some charities and organisations that support cancer patients, e.g. cancer charities and hospices, now offer EFT sessions as part of their programme.
To begin this work, EFT practitioners don’t need to have expert knowledge of cancer or the various treatment regimes. However, we do need good training and some experience in practice plus an awareness of the legal and ethical guidelines for working with cancer patients. Some clients are hoping for a miracle, so we can manage their expectations by careful pre-framing at the start of EFT work.
We can say that we're working with the emotional effects of cancer and cancer treatment, but not that we're working directly with the cancer. We can give the expectation of an increase in wellbeing and relaxation, but not guarantee any particular outcome.
The factors underlying cancer are complex, but they can be picked apart into aspects, and successfully handled with EFT. This is never “quick-fix” work. It takes time to cover the multiple aspects and issues that show up. It also takes the willingness of the client to show up session after session and do the work.
For a client, working through the cancer process is frightening. But when they begin working with it step by step, and moment by moment, it isn't uniformly awful. A person is never more alive than when they are staring the possibility of death in the face. Senses, emotional awareness and the preciousness of each “now” moment are all heightened. It's a journey that will take the client through some deep emotional lows, but there are also moments of laughter and some amazing highs when the fear suddenly drops away. It's the ultimate rollercoaster ride, never dull and never routine! As EFT practitioners we go along with the client for the ride, borrowing benefits and learning as we go.
The EFT Sessions
The level of stress generated by this process is huge, long-lasting and toxic. The aim of EFT sessions is to reduce the stress substantially, introduce coping strategies, and encourage a return to a relaxed and well-resourced state.
Ideally, an EFT Practitioner should teach and encourage the client to tap for themselves as early as possible in the process. Self-tapping can be very simple – the client notices how they feel in that moment and taps with no words, or using very simple words. The set up often isn't needed. Tapping around the points saying, “I'm scared ...” or “I feel sick ...” or “I feel angry ...” is enough to reduce the uncomfortable feeling. Even a very simple level of engagement like this can help the client to regain some sense of control. Clients who engage and help themselves with tapping seem to handle the physical and emotional effects of treatment much better than those who are not willing to engage. Taking responsibility for our own wellbeing seems to be very much a part of the healing journey!
Working with someone who is going through cancer is essentially a two-phase process that may look like this:
- Phase 1: Diagnosis and treatment: Working with a client in this phase is mostly “firefighting”, dealing with the immediate concerns raised by the diagnosis and treatment processes and the reactions to those processes.
- Phase 2: Post treatment – After the “conveyer belt" stops: This stage of work only happens if the client is willing to continue EFT after their medical treatment has ended. Some patients aren't willing to do this, and they will leave the process thinking that the problem is solved. If they stay in the process, the work can continue to focus on immediate concerns, but there may now be time and opportunity to explore the trauma history and other factors (past and current) that may have encouraged the development of the cancer. This phase requires persistence by the client, and encouragement and validation by the practitioner.
The types of issues that might come up during the two phases of work are:
- Strong reactions to the word “cancer” – the "writing on the walls" about this from media hype can be very powerful.
- Volatile emotions about what is happening and the possibility of death, e.g. anger, fear, frustration, anxiety, guilt, betrayal.
- Awareness of feeling stressed in body and mind.
- Physical effects, e.g. pain, nausea, restricted movement, digestive issues, a fuzzy head, insomnia, nightmares, restless legs syndrome, nerve pain, tingly fingertips and toes.
- Issues about relationships, family and friends – not all reactions are as expected or desired.
- Traumatic events, e.g. biopsies, the diagnosis, surgery, treatment sessions. The body shock from these events can linger for a long time. PTSD is a possibility.
- Core events from earlier timeframes and their consequences.
- Limiting beliefs triggered by media hype and “what the doctors said” (nocebos).
- Issues with body image after surgery or chemotherapy.
- Expectations of how the client should feel and act (their own expectations and other people's).
- Loneliness and isolation.
- A need to reevaluate self, life and all relationships – Who am I now? How am I now?
Key Skills Needed by the Practitioner
There are some key skills that will help you as the practitioner.
- The willingness to meet the client exactly where they are in the moment.
- The ability to listen deeply, and accurately reflect what is said.
- The ability to ask good, open or clean questions to find out more information.
- The patience to wait for the client to fill the gaps in conversation with their own words.
- The grace to keep self out of the way and avoid any judgment or pressure as the client's journey unfolds in perfect order, guided by the knowledge embedded in their subconscious levels of mind.
- Knowing what to say. Usually the way the client talks about the situation gives some clues.
- Some people may buy into the media hype about “the fight”, “the battle”, “cancer as a hostile takeover”. Some may prefer to communicate with the problem area and work with it peacefully and lovingly. Mostly clients just want to know that you are there for them and that they are free to express how they are feeling, no matter what that might be, without judgment or censure.
- Flexibility of approach and flexibility of access.
- The sense to match the work attempted to the capacity of the client and the time available – client safety is paramount at all times.
So, are you up for this as a practitioner? It isn't going to be a quick fix. You will need persistence and skill to see it through as far as the client will allow. You may never know just how much has been achieved but, in our opinion, it's entirely possible that you may help to save a life. Find out more about working with cancer patients in EFT and the Cancer Experience: Part 1.
This article is taken from material presented at the EFT Gathering, 2020.
Christine Sutton and Philip Davis of Phoenix EFT. Christine Sutton is an EFT International Accredited Certified EFT Master Trainer of Trainers, and Philip Davis is an EFT International Accredited Certified EFT Master Trainer.