By Craig Weiner, DC
I often ask EFT practitioners if they believe that they provide a safe space for their clients. The answer is always yes.
That puzzles me because I also hear from clients and students who tell me some pretty incredible stories of what practitioners and even instructors have said to them during sessions. They felt judged or felt they were not listened to or felt that they were treated with less sensitivity than they needed and were even led into directions and subjects that they did not wish to address.
These clients often continued with the practitioner for another session or two. After all, the practitioner had been recommended to them or perhaps the practitioner’s credentials impressed them. Sometimes they fell prey to convincing marketing material and the hope that EFT would finally be the modality that changed things for them. Eventually, they ended the therapeutic relationship, feeling something was not right and sometimes offering the practitioner honest feedback as to the source of the disconnection, but more often finding it safer and easier just to discontinue. As best as they were able to, they offered an excuse about being too busy to continue or having financial constraints. Hence, the practitioner never became aware of the real reason the client stopped working with them.
So if all the practitioners I query about this topic respond by affirming that their sessions with their clients are ones that provide a sense of safety, that they are nurturing professional relationships with a strong sense of connection, then who are the practitioners that these disappointed clients are referring to? Or could it be that there is a difference of perspective between the practitioner and the client? And whose sense of safety is the one that really matters for healing to occur? I would say it’s the perspective of the client that is paramount.
I believe that the only reason a person becomes an EFT practitioner is to be of service in the healing and transformation of people’s lives, including their own. It certainly isn’t to cash in on quick and easy money! That said, good intentions do not necessarily ensure the establishment of deep rapport with a client. With this in mind, I put together a list of some of my top tips for creating deep connection with a client. It is not an exhaustive list, of course, but its purpose is to provoke thought: How can you create even greater and deeper rapport and connection with your clients so they can feel even safer, faster? For without safety, real healing and lasting change do not happen.
My Top 7 Tips for Creating Safety and Rapport in an EFT Session
1. Rapport begins with the first contact: Rapport refers to a harmonious relationship in which the people concerned understand each other’s ideas and communicate well. Realize that safety is being determined and gauged by your client right from the very beginning of your interaction, which begins from how they first become aware of you. That includes the tone on your website, the sound of your voice on your voice message, the way you respond in your email communications. Maybe ask a tapping colleague to be a “secret shopper” and offer you feedback on your initial contact process.
2. Listening deeply: There is a dance with this, in that a tapping practitioner really needs to have an understanding of where a client is coming from and what their concerns are, but at the same time, unless they are licensed as such, they are not a therapist and must move a session along into tapping. Make sure in your initial consultation and/or initial session that your clients get to express, without interruption from you, their concerns and desires for your work together.
3. Your client’s words are better than yours: This one of the most important things I can emphasize for creating swift rapport. The tendency of practitioners to fill in the blank, assist a client with finding the right word, and offer their perspective as a way of creating empathy—it often takes training to resist doing these. As my wife and training colleague, Alina Frank, and I repeat over and over in our workshops: “Parrot-phrase, don’t paraphrase.” Otherwise, it is likely to be your assumption or your opinion. Paraphrasing repeatedly breaks rapport and clients rarely feel comfortable or confident enough to correct the wording, as the practitioner is often deemed the one who knows how to do this tapping process. A client’s words are magical, meaningful, ripe with perspective, and often reveal metaphor and meaning based upon their experiences. Give silence and space for these jewels to be revealed.
4. Make sure to ask open-ended questions: Try to avoid yes or no questions, as clients can feel that there is a right or wrong answer and many will feel the pressure to give you the right response. Avoid questions like “Does this make you feel sad?” (or other emotion) and instead ask something like “Do you feel an emotion thinking about that event? What was it like for you having to face that situation? Or how does it feel to be the one who had to ____?” Open-ended questions make a client feel free to answer without there being a right or wrong answer and make them feel as if you are really interested. Unfortunately, for many people this is a rare experience!
5. Be your client’s seeing-eye dog: As practitioners doing EFT, unless you are licensed, this work is peer-to-peer work, client-centered and client-directed. I like the analogy of acting as the service animal or seeing-eye dog for my client. It is the client’s responsibility to decide in what direction and toward what location they wish to go, while it is my responsibility to try to get them there and to make sure they get there safely. That may look like pausing the client when they get sucked into the high velocity of the trauma pull and I have to pause them or slow them down. It may mean I don’t let them talk and talk about trauma to trauma and instead educate them on the nature of working slowly with trauma. Just because they start to step off the curb into an intersection does not mean that I jump out there, too. It also means I don’t run after rabbits that I want to chase if the client hasn’t offered it as a subject of interest.
6. Safety means “Going only as fast as the client’s slowest part can go”: If there is one practitioner question I hear that to me is like the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard, it is “When was the first and worst time this ever happened to you?” This is especially true when I hear it was asked during the initial session. Yes, we know that early traumas, especially before the age of 6, are the greatest source of negative beliefs, but please go slowly. Please let these memories arise organically, proffered by the client who feels safe enough and ready to allow their subconscious to bring these forward. Please establish safety and rapport first. Please work on recent events first that enable the client to feel confident and resourced by their first tapping session. Far too many times, we have seen practitioners, with the best of intentions, ask questions like this and then find themselves amidst an emotional meltdown and even a serious abreaction.
7. Empower your clients to be able to tap on themselves ASAP: This is critically important in a first session. It is our belief that all EFT practitioners should be teaching their clients how to tap for themselves. If the practitioner is doing all sorts of fancy tapping techniques that clients cannot easily replicate, then we are not doing all we can to empower clients to feel able and competent in tapping for themselves between sessions. For that reason, Alina and I do our very best to keep the EFT techniques simple for our clients in the initial session. In that way, they are more likely to follow through in between sessions in doing some of their own tapping homework and not rely on the experienced practitioner as the one who knows how to do it better and not simply wait for the next session to do any further tapping.
My questions to those who have worked with tapping practitioners are: What was done or not done that made you feel guarded, defensive, or perhaps especially vulnerable? Were you able to sense it when it was happening, or not until later when you reflected upon it? Were you able to honestly share how you felt about it? As an EFT client, these issues are extremely important for you to be aware of, and you have the right to choose relationships that make you feel safe.
And as healing practitioners, we have a responsibility to seek ways to make our clients feel as safe as possible in our presence and in our work together.