When I learned about psychotherapy as a teenager, I knew that was what I wanted to do. I couldn't imagine anyone actually getting paid to do something so fascinating. I studied psychology as my undergraduate pre-med major, endured the challenges of medical school, with a year's break for an NIMH research fellowship in psychiatry and for regrouping my battered energies. I trained as a psychiatrist 1967-1973, (with two intervening years in the Air Force during the Vietnam War), when psychiatry was mostly psychotherapy. Over the years, managed care has squeezed psychiatrist towards medication management. While I've resisted prescribing medications exclusively, it is pretty difficult to do much psychotherapy in a 15-20 minute medication visit--the amount of time allowed under managed care.
Fortunately, I work mostly with children (in a clinic and a day hospital), and am allowed the "luxury" of 30-minute sessions because I have to speak with parents, teachers, school counselors, and pediatricians, in addition to pharmacists and managed care companies -- all in addition to speaking with the children.
I constantly sought to develop ways of providing psychotherapy along with the medications, but was unable within my limited timeframe to use the psychodynamic approaches I was taught as a psychiatric resident. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR - see: www.emdr.com) was a blessing to me, as well as to my clients. I was able to use EMDR with children who had post-traumatic stress disorders, as children respond very quickly to this approach -- not having barnacles on their problems like adults do. I also used EMDR to de-stress myself.
With adults, it is recommended that EMDR should be done only during sessions with the therapist. This is to prevent being overwhelmed by intense emotional releases that can occur during treatment. I found that children rarely had such intense releases, perhaps because they had not kept their hurt feelings bottled up for as long a time, or perhaps because their emotional defenses are not a strongly developed. Another factor may be that I am comfortable doing this, having used EMDR for myself without the constant guidance of a therapist.
As I usually see children with their parents, I also taught the more stable parents to guide their children in doing the EMDR. If the children were mature and responsible, I encouraged them to practice the eye movements on their own, at home or at school, whenever they were upset. This was very helpful, for instance, with nightmares, when traumatic memories were stimulated by current stresses, or where excessive angers erupted. I still worried, however, that there might be intense emotional releases which could be traumatic.
I then learned to use the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) of Gary Craig (www.emofree.com) and other Meridian Based Therapy approaches. In EFT and related therapies you tap or press a finger at a series of acupuncture points on your face, chest and hand, while reciting an affirmation. Because it works more rapidly than EMDR and does not evoke intense emotional releases, it can be used as self-healing. (Affirmations are described below, under the WHEE technique.)
This works more quickly than EMDR and has extra advantages. Because it works rapidly and does not evoke intense emotional releases, I started offering "two (or three) for the price of one" introductions to EFT to children together with their mothers, including their fathers as well when they are present. This way, the children more often accept the therapy and comply with the recommendation to use it at home to deal with stresses. Parents are more confident of its therapeutic efficacy because they have experienced its benefits themselves, and therefore encourage their children to use it more often.
I had difficulty introducing EFT in my work settings. EMDR has an extensive research base to confirm its efficacy in treating post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSDs). On the basis of my certification in EMDR, I was able to obtain official permission (from the administrators of the child and adolescent clinic where I work) to use this with their clients. Because EFT has no research base, they would not grant me permission to use it. Giving this a hard think, I turned it around and now call it an "affirmation technique." No one has faulted me for using affirmations in therapy, and never mind what clients do with their hands on their own bodies while they recite these. (Now, several years later, EMDR is recommended by the American Psychiatric Association as a treatment of choice for PTSD, considered an equally effective treatment as cognitive behavioral therapy. See: American Psychiatric Association 2004)
In an introductory workshop by Asha Nahoma Clinton on Matrix Therapy, Asha observed that alternating tapping the eyebrow points while reciting the affirmation works just as well as the entire series of EFT points. Ever conscious of my time limitations, I immediately started exploring this hybrid approach, that combines aspects of EMDR and EFT, which I now call the the Wholistic Hybrid derived from EMDR and EFT, or WHEE.
EMDR suggests the use of a "butterfly hug" as one of its self-treatment interventions, particularly for children: Your arms are crossed so that your hands rest on your biceps muscles, and you alternate tapping on each arm with your hands. Instead of tapping at the eyebrows, I often have children and parents use the butterfly hug with the affirmation. Many find the self-hug comforting, in addition to being highly effective in combination with the affirmation.
WHEE has been hugely successful for several reasons.
- It takes a fraction of the time that EFT requires.
- It allows for much greater flexibility in working on target problems within the session because it is so rapid. If the child is successful but the parent is not, or vice versa, there is plenty of time to explore alternative target symptoms or alternative methods of addressing these.
- It is better accepted and the compliance outside the therapy room is much higher because of this simplicity.
- It works marvelously well and rapidly on pains of all sorts, and is excellent for allergies, though it may take several days to be effective for the latter.
- It is tremendously empowering, as it is so simple and so rapidly effective in self-healing.
Here is a generic affirmation from EFT: "Even though I have this [anxiety, panic, fear, etc. - be specific when filling in the blank], I completely and totally love and accept myself, and know that God loves and accepts me unconditionally [or use whatever strong positive statement suits you best at the time you need it]."
Prior to doing this self-healing technique, it is helpful to asses how strong the negative feeling is that you want to address. The most commonly used is the Subjective Units of Distress Scale (SUDS), where you rate it on a scale from 0 (not bothering you at all) to 10 (the worst it could possibly feel).
After tapping for a few minutes, check the SUDS again. It will usually go down. Repeat the assessing and tappng until it is zero. Then you can build up a positive affirmation to replace the negative, simply stating the positive as you tap.
If the numbers don't shift after you've tapped, you can give yourself a gentle massage on the releasing spot, located just below the collar bone at its midpoint. No affirmation is needed here. Then return to tapping.
Teenagers would often refuse to use either of these tapping approaches outside of the therapy room. Their typical comment was, "Sure, dad! Like I'm going to tap my forehead or pat my arms in front of my friends! They'll think I'm some sort of nut case!" I speculated to myself that if they alternated tapping with their tongue on their teeth on the left and then on the teeth on the right this should work just as well, and found that indeed it does. This has been received much better by those who are shy or uncomfortable with tapping in public.
A deep breath (drawn from John Diepold's Touch and Breathe approach) following the affirmation facilitates releases.
Holding your other hand over your heart center (chakra) while you tap or touch your eyebrow points deepens the effects.
Reversals and blocks are effectively managed by massaging the sore-spot/ releasing point below the midpoint of the collar bone.
With adult clients I find the Sedona Method (www.Sedona.com) is an even faster approach. This involves simply asking clients whether they are prepared to let go of their problems and then inviting them to do so (with a structured series of questions that are trademarked by the Sedona teachers). I find that younger children don't respond as well to this approach.
Clinical example of WHEE (assumed name, composite case):
Six-year old "Joe" had been seriously abused emotionally, physically and sexually by his mother from at least the age of two and probably earlier. He was removed from her home at age four, and had nine foster home placements before his latest foster mother suggested to the welfare worker that counseling might be helpful to him for his temper outbursts, fighting children in his first grade class and after school, inability to fall asleep till past midnight, frequent nightmares and night terrors, and bedwetting -- his more serious problems. In addition, he was unable to sit still, was impulsive, distractible, constantly forgetting and losing things, and had no friends.
I diagnosed PTSD (moderately severe) and possible attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). I prescribed small doses of Ritalin, as this acts within minutes and, if effective, could provide rapid relief for some of his problems. He responded well to the medication and was much better able to sit and attend in class, less impulsive, and less forgetful. His other symptoms remained. He also had counseling sessions weekly with a social worker at the clinic where I work, focused on issues of relating to his new family, multiple losses, and PTSD issues.
At the initial interview, I taught Joe and his mother to use the butterfly hug. Joe chose an affirmation about one of the bad memories he had of being left in the dark cellar by his mother. He was unable to count, so I had him show me a Visual Analog Scale ("VAS" -- equivalent of a SUDS) with the gap between his hands representing how big his bad feeling was when he thought about being in the dark cellar. He opened his arms wide and said, "I can't reach to show you how big the bad feeling is." Within minutes of using the butterfly hug, his hands were touching in the VAS. He had reduced the bad feelings to zero.
Over the next several weeks, Joe (with the help of his mother) used the butterfly hug daily on various fears, difficulty falling asleep, and nightmares, as well as to calm down after he had temper outbursts.
Within two months, Joe was functioning at near-normal levels of behavior in school and at home. Counseling continued for another four months and was discontinued. I have followed him for Ritalin prescriptions for two years and we have all been pleased with his excellent academic progress in school, and with his good behavioral and improved social adjustments in school and at home.
I have also had excellent results with proxy use of WHEE. In proxy treatments, the person receiving the treatment focuses her or his awareness on another person who is intended to receive the treatment. Therapists may do this on themselves as proxies for their clients. (While this may seem far-fetched, it has an excellent basis in research as distant healing (Benor 2001).
Clinical example: I visited a healer who was baby-sitting a six-year old boy who has developmental delays and may have mild autism. He was severely frightened by the healer's two dogs, who were lively and playful, and nearly as frightened of her two cats. He had been in the healer's home several times previously, and was constantly on the alert, if not alarmed, by any approach of the animals to within several feet. Within minutes of surrogate tapping for his fears of the animals, he was markedly less fearful, and within a few more minutes he was even able to pet the quieter dog. He had never been that calm before in the animals' presence, and certainly would not have petted them.
Pain responds dramatically to WHEE. Pains from trauma, arthritis, migraines and other causes respond within minutes - even when they have been present for a long time.
A caution here, however. Pains often come to be a part of one's life. Without the pain, a person may actually have unexpected difficulties in feeling comfortable in certain situations and in dealing with relationships WHEE can help with these problems, as well.
Because of these problems, it is sometimes important to reduce the pain gradually, even though one may be able to eliminate the pain entierly in a very short period with WHEE.
A particularly helpful application of WHEE is for people who are transitioning from difficult situations back into a more normal environment - as in personnel returning from a war zone; children transitioning from an environment of abuse; or children transitioning from one parental home to another. Click here for more information on WHEE protocols for these types of situations.
I find that 85-90 percent of clients obtain immediate benefits from WHEE When they practice this for their problems at home, there is almost universal success. (The last observation may be a matter of self-selection.)
WHEE and related approaches are rapidly and potently effective for post-traumatic stress, unresolved emotional problems (e.g. prolonged bereavement, festering angers, emotional/relational hurts, anxieties, phobias, insecurities, lack of self-confidence), sports problems in relationships, and performance enhancement. ..
WHEE is empowering. It gives you a clear way to deal with almost any problem you might encounter that raises negative feelings. It helps to clear the "bucket" of emotinal dross - that place inside where we stuff unresolved feelings when we don't know how to resolve a stressful situation.
WHEE helps to forgive others for their transgressions, heps you to forgive yourself for not having done better than your best at the time when you stuffed feelings into your inner "bucket," and to accept that you did the best you could at the time and now are more competent to deal with the residues of the situation that left you with bad feelings.
Where it doesn't work, the most frequent problem are:
- The client has not targeted the problem accurately in the affirmation.
- They are reporting that the memory has not faded. This is an incorrect expectation, as it is the negative feelings about the memory that fade, not the factual memory.
- They have forgotten to massage the releasing point when there is a block in the process.
If the above do not apply, the few remaining clients usually respond to the full EFT routine or other MBT approaches..
Many of my clients are children. I invite parents to use WHEE to explore and practice releasing old hurts and fears together with their children. I believe that when families work together there can be exponential changes for each individual in the family.
I have had enthusiastic feedback on successes from therapists who learned WHEE through lectures and workshops that I teach internationally.
Theoretical Considerations and Conclusions
I see a progression in meridian based therapies (MBTs, often called Energy Psychology) towards greater and greater simplicity. Gary Craig, with EFT, has simplified the procedures of Thought Field Therapy (TFT). WHEE Provides a further abbreviated tapping procedure with affirmations. The Sedona method is simpler yet, requiring only the decision to release whatever the problem is.
There has been controversy and extensive discussion in MBT circles on whether the specific protocols of TFT are necessary, or whether the generic EFT protocol is adequate, with strongly held opinions on both sides. We can anticipate further discussion on the benefits and limitations of the hybrid and Sedona approaches.
EMDR has a solid basis in research, demonstrating its efficacy in treating stress related disorders (www.emdr.com). The MBTs are still in preliminary stages of organizing research. WHEE, drawing from EMDR (though clearly not following the standard EMDR protocols), can claim to have a research base to support its efficacy. See also extensive studies of EMDR with children summarized at http://www.childtrauma.com.
Two other aspects of WHEE (and of the other MBT approaches) deserve mention.
First, the person who is the therapist is an essential element for change in any therapy. We should expect that there will be differences between therapists in the results obtained with these methods.
Second, bioenergy interactions, summarized on this site and well documented in research (Benor 2001a, b), are invariably aspects of any therapy. Again we would expect that differences between therapists will be evident on this dimension of therapy.
Having advocated for the abbreviated procedure of WHEE, let me step back and add that I do not see this as a "cure-all." I find that the MBTs are outstanding for addressing focal traumas, fears, pains, allergies, and beliefs. For many people, relief of these focal problems is all that they want to achieve.
I also integrate spiritual awareness and healing, along with many other approaches in my practice, matching the therapy to the individual needs of the client.
For some, deeper levels of work may be facilitated by a variety of more elaborate approaches. For instance, I have found Asha Nahoma Clinton's Seemorg Matrix Therapy (chakra based) enormously helpful to me personally and to selected clients who want or need deeper levels of work, particularly when there is an openness to including spiritual dimensions in the focus of therapy.
I truly value the stimulating discussions within the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychotherrapy (ACEP) that will continue to innovate and clarify the best ways to help people deal effectively with their problems.
Disclaimer: The techniques described in this article are intended as information for therapists, not for self-treatment. If you are having stress problems, you should seek the help of a therapist who can guide you in identifying and using the techniques that will best suit your problems.
Practical considerations: The MBTs have negligible research to support their efficacy. EMDR has considerable, impressive research showing it is effective in helping adults and children deal with PTSD. By using the hybrid the MBTs tap into the EMDR research database. (See selected samples below).
The most serious weakness of MBTs lies in the paucity of formal research to validate its efficacy. There has been only one controlled study by Steve Wells, in Australia, showing that EFT produced significant reductions in phobias to small animals (Wells et al 2003).
Countering this criticism is the personal research that anyone can do to validate that MBTs are effective in addressing physical and emotional distress. While TFT and EvTFT require tapping on various series of acupressure points that are specifically prescribed for problems, and in EvTFT following the explorations through Kinesiology to identify which are the correct points, there are other systems that provide generic points to tap on for any problems.
The system described above,WHEE (the Wholistic Hybrid derived from EMDR and EFT), is an extremely simple approach that anyone can use for relief of pains, stress and distress of all sorts. The first link below provides details of how to use WHEE for self-healing.
Further information about WHEE
Basics of the WHEE process
Testimonials for benefits of WHEE
Problems helped by WHEE
Book on WHEE for Pain
Introductory WHEE article
WHEE for trauma and re-entry problems
WHEE for children
WHEE-kly brief articles
Further References by Dr. Benor
Benor, Daniel J, Healing Research: Volume I, Spiritual Healing: Scientific Validation of a Healing Revolution, Southfield, MI: Vision Publications, 2001. Click here for details
Benor, Daniel J, Healing Research: Volume I, Professional Supplement, Southfield, MI: Vision Publications, 2001. Click here for details
Benor, Daniel J. Self-healing: Brief psychotherapy with WHEE, a hybrid of meridian based therapies and EMDR, other approaches, 2000: Articles/Selfheal.htm.
Wells, S., Polglase, K., Andrews, H., Carrington, P., & Baker, A.H. (2003). Evaluation of a Meridian-Based Intervention, Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), for Reducing Specific Phobias of Small Animals. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 59 (9). 943-966.
See list of books, tapes at MBT references
EFT Gary Craig developed Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). An enormous series of problems successfully treated with EFT are described on his website (www.emofree.com).
You may reproduce all or any parts of this article as long as you include credits as follows:
Copyright © Daniel J. Benor, MD, 2005. All rights reserved.
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