I was ready to leave my job as a Sexual Assault Counsellor just before I found EFT / tapping.
Even though I loved lots of things about this role, I was finding it tough.
Because I did not feel I was really helping people very effectively.
And that just didn’t sit well with me.
It was also hard to admit.
When I started I had over 25 years experience in counselling, including a successful private practice as a child, family and couples therapist. I was pretty confident in my ability.
I thought if anyone could do this work, surely I can?
I had loads of specialist training and experience in working in mental health, when you are always hearing about childhood sexual assault.
It is in the background for lots of people who present with a wide variety of mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, low self esteem, relationship problems.
Sexual assault affects so many people, and is the root cause of lots of emotional difficulties.
I attended all the mandatory specialist training for Sexual Assault Counsellors required by my employer. And plenty of additional training too.
I was always searching for the training that was going to help me feel confident in working with this client group of traumatised people.
I had all these certificates on my wall, which only served to make me feel like I should know what I was doing by now.
But the truth was, I didn’t.
And it was getting me down.
I was reading articles about “compassion fatigue” in therapists, and “vicarious trauma” and realising that I was ticking a lot of the boxes myself.
And I think it was mainly because I was feeling useless, and powerless to really help people who are stuck in trauma. Or even people who are just stuck with bad thoughts about themselves.
As a therapist, I was great at “engagement”. That has always been a strength of mine. I could get people to come in for counselling, and get them to come back. Which is actually pretty hard in sexual assault, as people really don’t want to talk about sexual assault.
They have often spent years trying to avoid thinking about it and talking about it. And the idea of going to see someone specifically to do that is not usually very appealing. But I could do that part pretty easily. People trusted me.
And I don’t mind hearing all the awful stuff. In fact I like it. There is something really special to me in knowing that people are sharing stuff with me which they have sometimes never told another soul in their life.
I enjoy hearing about the “Dark Side” of human nature, the shadow parts of the self.
But the hard part for me was that people would come and tell me about their experiences and the impacts of the sexual assault in their life, and I found that there wasn’t that much I could do to help them with what I had learned from traditional therapy.
Talk therapy just wasn’t cutting it.
Of course listening to and acknowledging people’s experience can be very therapeutic and powerful. Lots of clients we see really have not had anyone empathic to talk to about what has happened to them.
Or they may have had really negative experiences of telling people, which have lead them to believe it’s not safe to talk about this stuff. They are often full of embarrassment, shame, self-blame, anger, and their self worth is typically low.
So being a skilled counsellor, a sensitive professional with great listening skills, who isn’t going to say dumb, inappropriate things, is all really important.
But I found just talking with clients about their problems did not make them go away. And even worse, it could be re-traumatising for people if I get them to open up about their trauma and don’t help them to process that. Their mental health could actually get worse, especially if they didn’t have a good support network around them. And often these clients do not.
Even the “gold standard” therapies like CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) did not always seem appropriate to me in this area of work.
As many of the clients are just too traumatised to be able to settle in and do the cognitive work.
This ends up being just another thing they feel worthless about, and they give up.
Can you see why this job felt hard and risky to me?
Until I found EFT.
Since introducing “tapping” into my practice, my job satisfaction has really improved.
Because I feel that I really do know how to help clients to process their trauma, and any negative emotion, safely and effectively.
This often happens pretty quickly too.
I now look forward to my clients coming back for their next session, because I get to see them change and grow and get happier, as they leave their old stories about themselves in the past, where they belong.
It’s like watching a snake shed it’s scaly old brown skin, and slither out with a smooth shiny green skin. It’s really rewarding for them and for me.
And I love how empowering EFT is, as you can teach people to use it themselves at home, to calm themselves down, or to shift a negative emotion of any kind.
So they are not dependent on me to feel better, and they learn a really valuable life skill they can then share with their children or friends.
EFT helps with everything from scary PTSD symptoms like nightmares and flashbacks, to hypervigilance and inability to get to sleep.
It then assists with shifting the negative self talk and core beliefs the person has been replaying in their minds, to help them become more kind and compassionate towards themselves.
It is a beautiful way to work with people, helping them to feel in control of the process. Which is so important for sexual assault clients who have not been in control of what has happened to them.
I find clients are more engaged with EFT as they really are participating in their own treatment.
They decide on the words we use and the emotions they want to shift
And testing the work using the “SUDS” (Subjective Unit of Distress Scale), we are continually evaluating how the EFT is working and how much improvement they are getting.
With a client group of people who are used to trying to tune out of their emotions, and to disconnect from their bodies, EFT helps people to learn safely to tune back into their bodies, as we ask where they are feeling their emotion or stuck energy in their body.
With time and practice using EFT, people can learn to be friends with their bodies again, and to trust their body again, maybe for the first time. They can learn to like themselves as people, developing more acceptance for themselves and respect for what they have survived.
And with time and practice, using EFT, I have found that I too can like myself more as a therapist, and to value what I do.
I am more than just a nice lady who listens to all the horrible stuff, nodding empathically. I feel much more useful. And it feels really good.