EFT Helps a Young Boy with Multiple Health Challenges
Forrest Samnik, LCSW, EFTCert-I, CCH
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Though I’ve been utilizing EFT as my main treatment modality in my psychotherapy practice for 7 years, I still can get blown away by the near miraculous results. I’d like to share a recent case with you that really made my heart soar. Mind you, this is a complicated case and continues to be a work in progress.
Matthew (not his real name) is an adorable 8 year old boy, who was born with several birth defects, is developmentally delayed, has TICS associated with Tourette Syndrome, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and has issues with ADD. In his young life he has had several major surgeries, including a life-saving one the day he was born (after which he spent many days in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and has had over 40 other hospitalizations.
As you can well imagine, Matthew developed severe anxiety reactions as it relates to any kind of medical or therapy appointment. Since he continues to require frequent medical and therapeutic interventions, he spends a lot of his time in a high state of anxiety. Mom has developed symptoms of vicarious trauma having to witness her son’s physical and emotional suffering.
Matthew’s mom contacted me a few weeks before Matthew was to have an extensive medical evaluation and some dental procedures. She was hoping EFT would help his anxiety relating to these and subsequent appointments.
After a thorough history was taken, I made a home visit to see Matthew. I did not want to add to his trauma by having him come see a “therapist” before we had a chance to collapse some of the previous medical traumas. His open smile and warm nature immediately endeared me to him. He ushered me into “his office” where we sat down at a child size table. Using a stuffed animal, I explained about points on the body which worked kind of like magic buttons that could be pushed whenever he was feeling scared or nervous.
After demonstrating a few rounds on the bear, I asked if he wanted to give it a try. I wanted to give him as much sense of control as possible, so I asked him to play follow the leader while he mimicked me through the tapping procedure. Unfortunately, his motor skills were not fine enough for him to tap the points himself. I gave him the choice between mom and me to tap on his buttons for him. He chose me. I asked mom to tap along with us…borrowing benefits couldn’t hurt.
Matthew does not have the cognitive, verbal, or emotional acuity to express his fears or anxieties. This is when the art of getting oneself out of the way pays great dividends. We started with latest trauma of having some teeth pulled at the dentist. Though mom had promised Matthew she would be in the room with him, the dentist wouldn’t allow it (a source of great guilt and angst for mom). Matthew also has extreme separation anxiety.
I opened myself to experience this as Matthew may have perceived the event, and the words flowed like water over a dam:
Even though I feel so scared ‘cause my mom left the room…
Even though I don’t feel safe when mom’s not with me…
Even though these people with masks on their faces scare me…
Even though bright lights in my face make me feel scared and I don’t know why…
About this time, I tried to get a sense of Matthew’s intensity level by asking him about his upcoming dental appointment. I asked him to show me how nervous/scared he feels about going to the dentist by stretching his arms. Arms stretched wide means very scared, and hands together means not scared at all. Arms stretched somewhere in between means “kinda” scared. Though he gave me the sign for not scared at all, mom was able to read his expression and said he’s still showing signs of fear but it didn’t seem to be as intense as usual.
Even though I need my mom and I don’t where she is…
Even though all these scary noises make me want to run but I can’t…
Even though I feel helpless and there’s nothing I can do…
Even though I’m scared something’s going to hurt…
Even though these smells scare me…
Even though I don’t like lying back because I feel helpless…
Even though I’m scared ‘cause I can’t see what’s going on…
After tapping on and off for about ¾ hour, I sensed the physical tapping was becoming aversive to Matthew. I gave mom some homework instructions, including to tap at teeth brushing time and anytime he starts asking questions about the upcoming dental appointment. Part of his anxiety symptoms is to compulsively ask questions.
I went back to my office and did some surrogate tapping for Matthew. I imagined what it would be like to be a neonate, use to a safe, warm, comfortable, quiet environment, and suddenly be taken from my mother’s womb, whisked away to an operating room with bright lights, startling noises, physical assaults to the body, consciousness altering drugs, the insertion of tubes. I tapped on each of these potential aspects. I then imagined the NICU, where I’m being prodded and poked while constantly being barraged by beeping noises and bustling people and more bright lights – continually tapping as these images revealed themselves.
Here’s the email I received from Matthew’s mom after the dental appointment (used with permission).
“The dentist appt. went amazing. I talked to him about it the day before and told him we were going to the dentist. He asked what are they going to do? I told him clean his teeth. He said is that it? I said yes. He did not seem the least bit upset at that point. Then when we’re going to bed he mentioned it and as we talked about it I started tapping because he seemed a little bit anxious. We went into detail about the appt. sitting in the chair, laying back, that being scary, etc. Then that morning again he mentioned it and I did some tapping and he told me to stop. He said he was fine! So on the drive to the dentist he watched his video and didn't seem bothered at all. We got out of the car and I sensed some anxiety. I started tapping and got 1 round and he told me no. Then when he went back to sit in the chair he was a little apprehensive, so I started tapping and he sat back. The girl started cleaning his teeth and he did good. The suction thing scared him, so I started tapping again, going into detail. The girl working on him had a very puzzled look. Then the doctor needed a panoramic picture and he has never done well having one of these made. He always gets tics and they usually don't get a good image. He walked right up to the machine. The 1st and 2nd try he moved back because he was afraid the machine was going to hit him. Then the 3rd try he did it! Yeah! The dentist was so excited and told him it was his best visit ever. [Note from Forrest: Matthew’s ability to have the x-ray taken without tics, appears to be a good indication that the surrogate tapping applied earlier was effective.] We have to go back in 2 weeks for some dental work and I've already told him we have to go back. I know you were probably doing some tapping for us! Thank you! I really believe that God sends different ways to heal us, and I think this is really helping Michael. I don't get it, but I don't get how we are even created and here on earth!! Faith right?”
One of the most rewarding parts of being an EFT practitioner is empowering clients to use this tool on their own. I said to Matthew’s mom, “No one knows your child better than you do, and you are the one who can put EFT to work most effectively for your son.” Even though she received a “puzzled” look from the hygienist, she instinctively knew when to tap and tap she did.
Should mom continue to “tune-in” to her son and tap, with guidance from me as needed, I have no doubt Matthew’s anxiety will continue to subside and he will not suffer from these childhood traumas for a lifetime. What a blessing for Matthew, and his family.
One Month Update: Teaching Mom how to Surrogate Tap Pays Huge Benefits
The following update is a reminder of how important it can be to explain to clients who care for those who cannot tap for themselves the benefits of surrogate tapping.
As previously mentioned, Matthew exhibits symptoms of intense separation anxiety when he’s away from his mother in the form of tics, flair up of his IBS, and inconsolable crying. Last week Matthew was going to spend the night with his grandmother. She and Matthew have a pretty strong bond as Grandma often helps Matthew’s mom with care giving duties during the day. However, spending the night away from mom, even with Grandma, can send Matthew into a state of panic.
During this recent stay with grandma, I received an email from mom stating grandma called her because Matthew, “was having tics so bad he couldn't sit still because he was so anxious, so I been doing some surrogate tapping for him.”
The next morning I received the following message from mom: “My mom called me later that night and said right after she called me the first time to tell my about his TICS, she said a few minutes later he just calmed down and was fine. He never asked to come home and he went to bed just fine. Wow! I'm still thanking God.”
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Forrest Samnik, LCSW, EFTCert-I, CCH, founder of LifeWorks Counseling & Coaching, has dedicated her career to helping people through life's challenges. A psychotherapist, life coach, and retired Registered Nurse, Forrest has more than 30 years of experience in counseling and medicine. She has been practicing the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) since 2002 and was one of first practitioners in Florida to receive EFT certification. Forrest has had phenomenal success treating issues relating to trauma, depression, phobias, panic and stress disorders, low self-esteem, and relationship issues. She also provides EFT training to other mental health professionals through the Florida Department of Health.
For more information log onto www.LifeWorksWithEFT.com or email Forrest at forrest@LifeWorksWithEFT.com.
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