23 Mar 2011 Home | Order | Archives | Subscribe The “Sharing My Experiences with EFT” series of articles: March, 2011 marks the third anniversary of what is the single largest EFT project ever documented. In March, 2008 a group of volunteer combat veterans, each diagnosed with complex post traumatic stress or PTSD, some accompanied with a family member, were joined by an elite team of EFT practitioners headed up by Gray Craig to conduct a week-long intensive therapy project. That effort, and subsequent therapeutic intensives, resulted in a major feature-length documentary film and an outreach effort known as the OPERATION: Emotional Freedom Project. This unprecedented documenting of EFT for the treatment of complex PTSD provides everyone studying, using, or simply looking into energy therapy numerous and long term, evidence-based examples of this protocol at work on one of the most difficult and persistent conditions. The OPERATION: Emotional Freedom story stands as a testament to what is possible when dedicated, skilled practitioners and courageous subjects come together. Follow-up research studies and presentations on this work have already found their way to the halls of Congress in the U.S. and to audiences of practitioners, veterans and the interested public around the world. EFT Universe is pleased to present a series of articles by some of the participants in the project offering their reflections and accounts of this milestone effort in the use of EFT.
Sharing My Experience using EFT – Carol Look
EFT Master Carol Look speaks of her experience working with war veterans using EFT to reduce Post Traumatic Stress. In her words, “The intensity of the program schedule allowed for minimal downtime or rest, but I couldn’t focus on that when I was witnessing such dramatic emotional changes in these veterans.” Visit Carol’s website
by Carol Look
The Challenge of a Lifetime:
When Gary Craig invited me to be a part of the trauma team for the Veterans’ retreat, my first thought was “Absolutely, I know we can help them and change their lives!” My second thought was “But… I’m not sure I can handle all the trauma, death, and stories about blown up bodies from the veterans…” and my third thought was “but I have EFT, of course I can handle it!” And I answered with a resounding “yes” to participating in the project.
Why PTSD Veterans for the Intensive Pilot Project?
The biggest attraction to the pilot therapy project for me was my confidence that the team could provide significant healing to the veterans with PTSD. I had experienced enough results in my long term practice and more than a decade of providing EFT workshops, and I knew this group of veterans was in desperate need of help. I had been hearing how they had been underserved and inadvertently neglected by healing communities, and knew we could change this sad fact. If these veterans with severe symptoms of PTSD could be helped, I knew the project would encourage thousands of lay people who had not been in war battles to use EFT or ask their doctors and health care workers for this “new” and sometimes odd looking treatment.
Not only are the veterans overwhelmed when they return home, health care workers get overwhelmed by helping them and feeling inadequate to affect any real change. Medications have not proven that useful, and the therapeutic techniques available to date for them haven’t done enough to relieve their suffering in any measurable ways. (We heard even more grim stories about inadequate treatment from the veterans themselves during the retreat.)
After our team meeting where we read and discussed the bios of the participating veterans, I knew we had a very steep uphill battle! These veterans had been suffering for years, some of them for decades, and were on multiple medications with multiple diagnoses, and viewed, sadly, by the medical establishment as virtually incurable. The medications were used sometimes in desperation to “stabilize” the symptoms or the patient’s mental health, but the veterans often appeared to be barely hanging on. I still felt confident we could make significant strides and reduce their suffering from PTSD syndromes and symptoms, but I knew we had a really tough job ahead of us.
I was bolstered by my hope that once people saw what EFT could do for these veterans, other traumatized clients might be open and willing to try this new treatment.
As the Therapy Week Progressed:
In my sessions and in others, team members saw significant progress on Day One of the retreat. My remaining yes but what if…fears and doubts quickly subsided as I focused on the work ahead and on helping the veterans reduce the flashbacks, nightmares, and torturous visions they had been suffering from on a daily basis. What we witnessed was progressive improvement as the veterans reported feeling and looked incrementally better with each successive session.
The way I work is to tap on myself while the client sits in front of me and taps on him/herself. This of course greatly reduced the “secondary trauma” that I was exposed to during the sessions. I heard stories and witnessed pain I had never experienced before in my life, in spite of years of working with clients with trauma, addictions, and abuse. So throughout the week, I continued to tap on myself during and outside of the sessions I was conducting. I often had to “clean up” leftover emotional trauma after having listened to the stories I heard. I am a “visual” and some of the scenes described to me left images that were horrific, anxiety provoking and stomach-turning.
The veterans’ emotional progress was visible immediately. Many veterans and their family members were astonished by the reduced symptoms and improved moods during the group gatherings. Several had called home and heard responses from other family members noting their obvious progress. Many reported sleeping better the first night after their initial introduction to tapping. The momentum of success and hope was building, as it always does with EFT. Small as well as significant successes encouraged each veteran and confirmed team members’ confidence that we could make huge inroads into these troubling symptoms that were destroying lives.
The 26 year old veteran, Carlin, who had completed two tours of duty in Iraq appeared “stone cold” the first night we all gathered. His stories were gruesome and haunted him nightly. He had admitted to basically trying to obliterate his life with alcohol. He was completely emoti onless, and looked as if he wasn’t present at all. The observing psychiatrist present throughout the week long intensive said Carlin had what was known as the “thousand yard stare” of traumatized patients. He was visibly shaking during our first session on Day One, terrified that while we were offering him “help” it required that he revisit some or many of his wartime memories. During the first session, Carlin opened up and divulged several haunting memories. His affect, demeanor, voice and attitude was vastly improved after one short session. He reported sleeping without alcohol for the first time in months or years, and felt peaceful and relaxed. His mother, who also attended the retreat, said his progress was noticeable and uplifting.
Art Fritog, a Vietnam vet with severe PTSD issues, was also making significant progress; his emotional and physical pains had been reduced on the first day. Art’s wife Carole who suffered from debilitating migraines also showed immediate improvement. I watched as Art and his wife started tapping with and on each other in between the sessions provided by the team.
I knew that for Art and Carole to continue their progress and experience success at home after the week long retreat, they would need couples sessions as well, which proved to be very successful later in the retreat.
By Day Two of the Retreat, several other veterans were also looking different, their moods seemed lighter, some of them actually laughed or smiled for the first time since we met them Sunday night. The extreme hyper-vigilance, a hallmark of PTSD, had lifted.
The entire group had opened up emotionally and were able to give each other support and feedback about their behavior, their demeanor, mood, and interpersonal interactions. My fellow trauma team members seemed exhausted from the tough schedule, but determined to continue and elated by the signs of movement and progress. I know I felt that way. The intensity of the program schedule allowed for minimal downtime or rest, but I couldn’t focus on that when I was witnessing such dramatic emotional changes in these veterans.
The Legacy of the Project
The film documenting this project, OPERATION: Emotional Freedom, offers an extraordinary account of progress, success, hope and triumph over debilitating psychological and physiological symptoms as a result of witnessing or participating in trauma, torture, abuse and war. The film is at times painful, moving, touching and exciting – the “take away” is that in spite of the mental health field’s history of providing inadequate tools for military veterans, there is now irrefutable evidence that a tool exists to restore them to mental and physical health.
The project accomplished more than I could have dreamed possible, even though we knew the value and strength of EFT for treating PTSD ahead of time. For veterans and their families, it offers hope and encouragement that there is “life after combat” – and not just a life of merely existing, but a life of joy and peace. For me as an EFT practitioner, I know I will never be the same again. The intensity, the trauma stories and the exhilarating success of reducing the veterans’ PTSD symptoms has literally changed every cell in my body. I am truly grateful to the veterans for their vulnerability, willingness to share their pain, hard work and continuous tapping.
This work was not just important for the mental and physical health of the volunteer veterans, but for the future of EFT. The record of this pilot project, now on film, gives the EFT population a tangible results-oriented success story to offer up as evidence of the possibilities this treatment protocol is capable of delivering. While the traditional therapy community continues to dismiss EFT and Energy Psychology as fringe or even useless therapies for PTSD and other challenges, the documentation of this work (including follow up interviews with the veterans and their family members) will be instrumental in spreading the word to the self help, therapy, as well as veterans’ communities worldwide.
For health care workers, I hope the project is deeply inspiring – it’s hard to believe that after viewing this film, any health care worker would ever give up on anyone with deep and supposedly “incurable” PTSD! EFT is a serious therapeutic tool that could literally change thousands of lives of returning veterans who are suffering from the disorientation of re-entering civilian life, as well as traditional PTSD. We know the extent to which tapping can relieve trauma, flashbacks, nightmares, violent memories, physical responses to trauma and constant hyper-vigilance. Healthcare workers deserve to have this tool available to them, and veterans and others suffering from PTSD deserve to have the tool available for self-help use as well as during sessions with their counselors.
The documentary has introduced EFT and tapping to thousands of newcomers who would never have heard of Energy Psychology unless they were interested in or related to someone in the veterans communities across the world. DVDs have been sold and donated to dozens of countries.
The film has of course attracted more interest to the EFT community, and I and the other trauma trained therapists have done radio interviews about the project, and have made important contacts for collaborating with VA therapists in our various states. The potential for follow up training for already established EFT practitioners as well as new mental health care workers is vast.
I had several follow up telephone sessions with Carlin as he navigated being back living with his father and working out his relationship with his girlfriend and fellow veterans. The most important point I made at the end of our sessions was that he needed to continue using this tool for the stressors in his life. He didn’t need to be reminded, as he recognized how dramatically different he felt and behaved after the retreat. I also participated in one of the group calls with the veterans and have spoken to Bob on the telephone.
Working with PTSD
While we were all taught to “try it on everything” with EFT there are some important cautions for practitioners. I consider the PTSD group of clients in the world among the most challenging to treat. First, the material they have been haunted by and bring up in sessions can be surprising and emotionally overwhelming for the practitioner. (As much as I had heard on the news about the wars over years, I had never talked to someone face to face who discussed and described body parts and death in this unique way.) Second of all, since a key feature of PTSD is not trusting outsiders and having a near phobic fear of addressing the old wounds, getting them to open up in the first place is difficult and problematic. Third, practitioners who do not have adequate trauma training may be unprepared for sudden and unpredictable reactions of someone with severe PTSD, such as sudden suicidal thoughts and feelings, rage, the sudden onset of physical symptoms, hostility, panic attacks). With this in mind, I collaborated with film director Eric Huurre to create the follow up PTSD series for advanced Energy Psychology students who want to pursue their training in the treatment of trauma.
Creating a PTSD Training Series
While the film is a fantastic introduction to the potential for successful trauma treatment for veterans, I was passionate about exploring the PTSD training set with the Vietnam veteran Art Fritog and his wife, Carole. Not only had they suffered the longest out of the veterans in the group (4 decades) they had immediate concerns and at risk issues that needed addressing at home. They had 10 children and several grandchildren under their care, and the escalation of Art’s symptoms was truly dangerous for the family. In addition, Carole’s debilitating migraine syndrome and unhealthy patterns of trying to calm her husband down while in the midst of a PTSD episode/reaction, were not and had never worked well for either of them.
In my opinion, serious trauma training has been missing from the available training products in the energy psychology world. Practitioners end up treating traumas “accidentally” – for instance, a smoker attends sessions for smoking cessation, and unbeknownst to the practitioner, deep and troubling traumas are right under the surface of the cravings and anxiety when cigarettes are taken away. We bump into traumas all the time, and while EFT is an exceptional tool, details about what trauma looks like, feels like, and how it affects the clients has been missing for most of us.
The PTSD training set is a must see for and mental health practitioner serious about treating any kind of trauma – not just veteran trauma. The sessions portrayed in the 18 hours of DVD instruction are so powerful in their immediacy and as evidenced in the follow up videos, instrumental in saving this family from further hurt and pain. Practitioners will immediately advance their skills as trauma practitioners, and can learn the how-to’s of advanced trauma treatment with EFT on even the most challenging cases. While showing slightly different styles, hour by hour, the PTSD training set details how different advanced practitioners work to unpack a trauma gently, definitively and successfully so the clients are left with peace, forgiveness and insight into their own psyche and reactions to their environments.
The success of the EFT sessions with the Fritog family are shown in subtle as well as obvious changes in their attitudes, behaviors, perceptions, and the follow up maintenance of their symptom reduction when they returned home to their family. I can’t express my gratitude enough to this family for allowing us a window into their pain, thereby allowing us a way to teach others how to relieve this pain and spread the effectiveness of EFT to treat PTSD throughout the veteran and trauma communities.
Carol Look, EFT Master