I received such wonderful feedback from my first blog on Safety, Connection and Rapport; Essentials for Healing, that I felt the urgency to expand and add several more tips that may be helpful for tapping practitioners who are looking to establish tools and protocols for creating even greater safety in their client sessions.
Tip #8: Make sure to ALWAYS have a new client fill out an intake form and always review it in advance of the initial session. This applies whether it is a paying client, a swap partner, a family member or friend…any time that you are the practitioner holding space for healing to occur. Have some sense in advance of why they are coming to see you, what their expectations are, whether they are currently dealing with a mental health diagnosis and/or under the care of a licensed provider. People coming in for EFT tend to have emotional-related issues. That’s typically why they resonate and seek out tapping. So you need to be responsible and professional enough to know your scope of practice and have very clear boundaries for what you do and do not work with and know when you should work in tandem with a counselor/therapist or when to simply refer out. Having had the opportunity to clarify any questions that you may have with your client in advance of a session, if at all possible, goes a long way towards creating what is best for a client, what is safe for a client as well as what is best for you and your practice. Personally, I do not work with clients without having a 15 minute phone consultation, followed by reviewing their intake forms, all before their first session. If I do not receive their complete forms at least 24 hours in advance, I let them know that their session will need to be rescheduled. If you wait until you are amidst a first session and find out a critical piece of information, whether it be regarding them having recently had suicidal ideations or mental health diagnoses beyond your scope or skill, that puts an awful lot of pressure on you to take appropriate action in the moment, which is not always easy to do.
Tip #9: Forget you ever heard the phrase “First and Worst”, as in a practitioner asking a client “When was the first and worst time this ever happened to you?” This is especially true when it is asked in a first session before a foundation of safety, resourcing and solid rapport has been established. To me that is akin not knowing if your client can swim and asking them to jump off the high dive. Yes, the earlier the experience or trauma was experienced, the more of a core event and “belief-maker or world-view creator” it is likely to be. Our primary beliefs are often created before the age of seven. However, with a deeper understanding of the importance of how one works safely with trauma, one should approach these big events judiciously, slowly, allowing the client to come up with the events to be worked on. Begin with recent events and allow the older events to come up organically by them. Trying to hit “home runs” in the first session can be potentially traumatizing.
Tip #10: Create a Space Designed for Safety. When a client has a history of trauma, they are more susceptible to being more easily by small things. Different environmental cues can be sources of stimuli that can cause a hyperarousal or shut down response . People are not always aware and conscious of what in their environment is making them feel at ease vs triggered, so becoming more trauma informed you can lessen the chance of this happening. For example, in your office, does your client have options for where they feel comfortable to sit in the room? Do they have the option of i.e. not having their back towards the door, which can be very uncomfortable for a person who is hyper-vigilant. Does your office have soundproofing so that outside sounds, especially low frequency sounds, are eliminated? Low deep sounds can often trigger a feeling of needing to be on guard. Does your space have blankets or pillows that a client can hold when they are feeling especially vulnerable? Take a look around your office space and see how you could make it feel even more safe and supportive to a wide variety of clients.
Tip #11: Utilize the Tools of Inter-personal Neurobiology. Dr. Stephen Porges, the creator of the Polyvagal Theory, explains the term Neuroception, to describe how neural circuits distinguish whether situations and people are safe, dangerous or life threatening. Part of Dr. Porge’s theory explores the importance of the ventral vagus nerve and its critical functioning as part of the Social Engagement System. This refers to how our interaction with other human beings can assist our nervous system in feeling calm and safe. Much of the determination is made from the sensory input of things like: the sound/prosody of another person’s voice and the perception of another’s facial expression. So how can we as practitioners utilize this ever-present threat detection system to support our clients in feeling safe? First, we become more aware of the tone, volume and pace of our voice so as to have it be soothing, calming and nurturing. We can become more aware of how we hold our bodies and what facial expressions we use. Our compassion does not need to be effusive or with agreement. We become skillful in the art of holding space for what needs to happen and are not just conversational in the way we might be with a friend at the market. We train ourselves to become the safest of places so that when a client gets triggered, they can find their way back home to themselves by using the practitioner as a lighthouse to find their way to shore and out of the emotional storm.
Tip #12: Just Because a Client Says Something, Does Not Mean You Have to Insert it into a Tapping Round. While using the client’s words is always paramount, just because they stated it aloud does not mean you have them tap on it. Cognitive shifts happen and realizations are commonplace. While they are beautiful, positive awareness moments are just that, they don’t need to be tapped on. When you are focused on tapping on a specific event and mid round they think of another event, aka daisy chaining, stop the round…decide which event you are tapping on, get specific and re check the dominant emotion, SUDs and body location…don’t just pile it on. I see far too many sessions that have the practitioner mention up to six different emotions by the time the set up and reminder phrases are done. Having too many events, not being specific, listing too many emotions can easily overwhelm the client and cause either a plateau in the reduction of their intensity or actually cause an emotional melt down. If a client mentions something important make a note of it, finish your tapping round and then explore it to see if it has value for tapping. Remember, the tendency of a client will almost always be to “go global” and your job as the practitioner is to assist them in staying on target, thoroughly resolving events that lead to the resolution of issues that allow them to transform beliefs and behaviors.
I hope you find this helpful and would love and appreciate your thoughts and comments.
Craig Weiner, DC
Master AAMET EFT and Matrix Reimprinting Trainer