“Sexual injury (assault or otherwise) can lie at the heart of a multitude of presenting client issues, ranging from money blocks to physical health problems to a “fear of being seen” as well as more obvious concerns like intimacy challenges.” Alina Frank, author of How to Want Sex Again
This is not an easy topic to discuss, but it is an important one. It is a topic that as EFT professionals we continue to need to further understand and make a difference in helping people to heal from. It would not be difficult to interview experienced EFT practitioners only to be surprised by how many of them have worked with survivors of sexual assault. The RAIN Network (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) estimate that an American is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds. While not all of those who have experienced a single event or multiple experiences of sexual assault go on to develop and be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, the US Dept of Justice estimates 70% of rape and sexual assault survivors will experience PTSD or severe distress symptoms. Of course, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop as a result of a wide variety of traumatic experiences, this particular form of trauma has a higher prevalence of PTSD than other types of traumatic experiences.
Given the number of published studies and randomized controlled clinical trials that have demonstrated the effectiveness of EFT to reduce the clinical symptoms of PTSD (often averaging significant symptom reduction in six sessions or less), one might search the research journals expecting to find evidence of tapping to help sexual trauma and unfortunately the scientific literature is nearly empty of any evidence. Clearly, just because there is an absence of research trials does not in any way mean that EFT is not effective for sexual trauma or sexual assault-specific PTSD, just that there have been no solid studies demonstrating it. Just so you don’t feel inferior apparently the literature is significantly lacking in any types of therapeutic interventions that show a strong body of evidence with this condition as well.
That is why I was so excited to discover a newly published study using EFT in conjunction with hypnosis to assist those suffering from sexual assault-specific PTSD. Published in November 2019*, researchers Anderson, Rubik and Absenger conducted a mixed method design dissertational study of 30 individuals who received 5 sessions (4 consisting of EFT and Hypnosis), which to my knowledge has never been performed in a trial like this before (40 min of EFT and 20 min of hypnosis) over an 8 week period of time. While this was not a randomized control trial, it was the first exploration of its kind. The EFT was delivered by a trained therapist using EFT as described in the EFT Manual (Church 2018) and the hypnosis was also administered by the same clinician including induction, imager and hypnotic suggestions.
The 30 individuals in the study qualified as the result of having suffered from a sexual assault no less then 6 months prior and no more than 5 years ago with self-identified PTSD symptoms of mild to moderate PTSD symptoms who were not on psychotropic medications and without the presence of other severe psychiatric illness. Results were measured via the PCL-5 (the DSM-5 PTSD Checklist) self-scored examination and qualitative measures.
So, what were the results?
- Participants overall felt changes in self-perception, improved interpersonal relations, increase relief from anxiety, increased levels of forgiveness, and confidence in their new coping mechanisms.
- A significant decrease in PTSD symptom severity including: 40% of the individuals no longer met the criteria for PTSD, an overall 34% decrease in PTSD symptom severity, half the participants showed improvement of between 30-50% and 24 of the 30 participants had a drop in score of between 10-20 points (out of a total of 80) which is a clinically significant change.
Now that being said, like any studies, there are study weaknesses including a small sample size, no randomization or control group, no long term follow up and the lack of formal psychiatric diagnosis prior to participation. The authors acknowledge these and state the need for further and more thorough examination of both interventions as singular and combined approaches.
- More research is needed for effective ways to help survivors of sexual assault.
- Practitioners need to be very aware of their scope of practice, reporting requirements and skill level before working with sexual trauma survivors.
- A sense of continued pride in seeing EFT continuing to be shown as an effective method for helping traumatized individuals.
- Excitement for the potential for collaborative mixed-method approaches, combining EFT with other modalities to explore integrated and improved effectiveness in subject matter like this.
- The need for increased professional training and continuing education of EFT practitioners to work within their scope to effectively work with survivors of sexual trauma.
Additional Related Sexual Trauma Resources:
FREA Support: Finding REcovery and Empowerment from Abuse https://www.frea.support A fabulous website with a wide array of resources including self care and energy psychology self care recommendations.
www.rainn.org RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE, online.rainn.org y rainn.org/es) in partnership with more han 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the country
How to Want Sex Again, Using EFT to Help Return to Intimacy; A best-selling book by EFT trainer Alina Frank for explaining EFT, explaining EFT , providing insight and support for its safe application for healing from sexual trauma
Tapping out of Trauma 2.0 is an advanced online training program for EFT professionals wishing to dive deeper into working with trauma, with a module dedicated to working with survivors of sexual trauma https://www.tappingoutoftrauma.com/toot-2/
- Anderson, K., Rubik, B., Absenber, W., (2019) Does Combining Emotional Freedom Techniques and Hypnosis Have an Effect on Sexual Assault-Specific Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms? J. of Energy Psychology; Theory, Research and Treatment,31-49, 11(2).
- Church, D. (2018) The EFT Manual (4th ed) Fulton, CA Energy Psychology Press