Dear EFT Community,
In this comprehensive article, Dr. Patricia Carrington, the developer of EFT's Choices Method, writes about using EFT in cases of depression. Her discussion includes commentary on antidepressant medications.
- EFT Universe
By Patricia Carrington, PhD
By far, the most EFT-responsive depressions I've worked with in therapy with my clients have been what are (or used to be) called Reactive Depressions (for those who are interested, I don't use the present DSM-IV categories for depression except for filling out insurance forms; I find them quite meaningless for purposes of therapy).
The reactive depressions are those precipitated by a specific event or series of events in a person's life, and they usually occur in a person who wasn't depressed just before the event.
They are exactly what the name implies: reactions to something. The "something" is usually a loss or the threat of one.
It can be the loss of a person, or of a career, or of money, or security, or a limb, or the threat of dangerous illness to a family member, or loss of one's youth, or even of one's future. The precipitating event triggers a form of mourning for the lost object or person or life circumstance, and the result is a feeling of sadness and hopelessness.
This is the kind of depression that in my experience often lends itself remarkably well to EFT treatment.
It is eminently tappable because it has identifiable boundaries, it's not vague or generalized, and there are plenty of specifics to tap on. True, some people may not initially be consciously able to identify just what their painful loss or separation was, although I find that most clients I encounter with this problem do know what the event was and can tell me about it with little prompting.
For others, it may be that it isn't until I've delved a bit into their life to find out when this all started and what may have occurred around the time the event happened, or what disturbing thing they may have been anticipating at that time, that the cause of their deep inner sadness can be unearthed.
Such people may not be able to tell me the precipitating cause at first, particularly if it was an "anniversary" of some unpleasant or painful event that brought on the depression. Anniversaries are scrupulously observed by the mini-calculators in our brains even if we don't consciously "remember" them, and they can be big troublemakers.
Another reason a person may not identify the event right away is that they may be downplaying in their mind the real impact of the thing that is bothering them. Maybe a former spouse remarried three months ago when the depression started and they didn't think it bothered them at the time (but it did!), or maybe their youngest child went off to college leaving a vacant house and it all seemed fine to them (but it wasn't!), etc.
I find that these precipitating events seem to come to the surface and identify themselves naturally and often very quickly as we tap on their feelings of sadness, or emptiness, or discouragement, or self-blame or whatever may be coming up for them. It's as though the real reason wanted "out," that it was just waiting to be seen and dealt with. Of course, once it is out in the open, then we can go to town with EFT by tapping for the specific issues and those issues can often be handled remarkably quickly and with them goes the depression.
It isn't always that simple, though, as we all know.
Underneath the loss that started the depression may lie a series of other losses and separations that are hidden in the dim recesses of the past. Some are the very early and extremely painful losses that can occur in infancy before the child even had words to put to it. If these have been reactivated by the more recent loss, then they are the driving forces behind the depression and we have the familiar network of often multiple aspects to trace through tapping.
Sometimes I'll have to help a client do this laboriously and it takes great patience, but the payoff can be tremendous. Sometimes, though, it goes far faster than I had expected. More often than not, there are some core issues to be addressed and the depression that brought the client to my office may just have been the more obvious problem, the "SOS flag," so to speak, that has motivated this person to come for help.
Once the help (the therapy) is there, then the deeper meaning of it all can be addressed.
To this, I say great!
I've often found that this process is even more important than clearing away the depression symptoms themselves. Now a person's whole life is being turned around, a new perspective is being born, light is flooding an existence that may formerly have been dull or lifeless, warmth is there in place of coldness and numbness. That, of course, is the real meaning of what we do.
I could give a whole bunch of examples of how EFT has acted as a lifesaver to people I've treated who had all but given up in their lives and resigned themselves to a less-than-alive existence, which is what depression is. But others are doing that so well in their reports about the joy of helping another lift their depression that I won't waste time here on more of these wonderfully inspiring stories.
Instead I'd like to say something about the other depressions that we see, the so-called "endogenous" ones, which are thought to somehow be inwardly caused because we don't know what really causes them.
These are the depressions that often have their roots in the deepest layers of a personality because they are so ingrained, their origins so early in the person's life, and usually they are dim and vague.
These depressions have a heaviness about them that makes trying to deal with them by using EFT or by any other means often a test of endurance for the therapist who, time and time again, may bring the person to a place of lightness and feel the weight lift from them, sometimes after they have tapped their way through a whole series of aspects to what seems to be a wonderful result, only to find that the person comes to their next session almost as though they had been collapsed and their gains seem to have been swept away.
It's like watching a child build sand castles by the sea. So much painstaking work and attention goes into those turrets, moats, towers, and little stick drawbridges, then the waves crash onto the beach and swish it all away, and all that's left is mush and a few wet mounds of sand.
When this happens to a client of mine, I keep trying. I really work with them.
I use EFT with all my encouragement and ingenuity and I use every other technique I think might help. I feel hopeful then discouraged, in turn. I often have to tap on myself after they leave the office to keep my spirits up and to ensure my support of them.
But when it happens over and over and over again, then I'll finally get the message.
What we are building is being undermined as fast as we create it! The client may be trying, as I am, to beat this game, but it's like trying to hold back an avalanche, a force that's so huge we can't get ahead of it; it's pulling them back down each time, so that what we're constructing so carefully simply doesn't hold.
It's at that point, after exhausting all avenues including, if the client cooperates, with a referral to full allergy and sensitivity testing and treatment by a trained energy allergy therapist that I find myself deeply grateful for the fact that I still have hope of succeeding by getting temporary assistance through referring the patient to a specialist for psychiatric medication to be used along with the therapy and the EFT.
Saying this may sound like heresy to those who use the amazing alternative and complementary therapies that we know work so well, and which I myself use in all cases where they work, but there is an important function that the so-called psychotropic medications for depressions can fill, at least in this point in history, something nothing else can quite do in certain cases.
The Prozacs and Zolofts and Paxils, or even on occasion their more forbidding relatives such as the MAO inhibitors, Lithium and the like, are powerful drugs and like anything of power they can be dangerously misused. But, and this is an important "but," they can also, on occasion, make it possible to continue to treat and ultimately to "save" a person whom we might otherwise have had to give up on.
An example is my client "Maria" who is a gifted teacher.
She has been working with me for three years now to overcome deep-seated personality problems, including a strong tendency to depression and frequent helpless crying spells. These stem. at least in part, from an early childhood separation from and partial rejection by a mentally ill, frequently hospitalized mother who had been at least able to give her daughter some love when she was an infant, but little afterward. Maria is highly intelligent and strongly motivated to overcome her feelings of irrational helplessness and threat and is truly rewarding to work with.
However, we discovered early on in her treatment that although she would often make excellent progress, even dealing with core issues that were central to her life with the help of EFT, which she uses skillfully (at home, too), we were still unable to stem the tide of the depression.
The despair and fear were just too much for her and they could completely undermine our work. And so it became necessary for her to have the assistance of medication, which she could use while we were tapping on these problems in therapy, with the aim of phasing out the medicine as soon as she would build up her inner strength.
Through the use of Prozac (yes, the "terrible" word!) on a regular basis, Maria and I have been able to do transformational work together.
With the help of EFT, she has been able to explore the deepest issues, some of them so early in origin as to be wordless, and to resolve them one by one. And, with the support to our work that she has obtained from the medication, which didn't in itself solve her problems but did enable her to work on them diligently in therapy, she has rebuilt a "self," has restructured her relationships to people and the world, and recently has in fact been able to drastically reduce the medication and periodically to stop taking it altogether.
Right now, she is off all medication (her choice) and is doing remarkably well in an exciting new phase of her treatment.
The point I want to make though is that, without the help of the drug, we couldn't have done it and, similarly, if she had had the drug alone without the therapy and the remarkable help of EFT, she would not have healed. At best, the drug would have kept her in a holding pattern. By taking it, she could probably have functioned and continued with her teaching and family without collapsing, but her real life, her real "self," would never have emerged.
So this has not been an "all or nothing" thing, not a matter of drugs or EFT, as though these two things were opposed to each other, but it's been what I suppose might be called "medication-assisted EFT," the two modalities working in concert with each other.
I want to add that in the majority of cases where it has been necessary to use medication along with therapy and EFT, the clients involved have usually voluntarily sought to wean themselves off the drug at the first opportunity (under the supervision of a qualified health professional). Most people simply don't want to stay dependent on a substance such as medication if they can possibly help it.
Sometimes these people have even gone off the drug too soon, and unmanageable emotions have surfaced, which even persistent use of EFT and therapy have not been able to handle rapidly enough, and they have had to return to taking the medication (usually at a reduced dosage, though), until such time as they had worked through the other issues that had been waiting in the wings.
I have found, however, that even this first effort at leaving the medication, while it may not always succeed, is usually a very positive indication when it occurs.
Almost always those who try it, even if they may at first have to resume taking the medication, do eventually, with persistence and further work, manage to finally successfully get off it. The need for it is gone then because the underlying damage has been repaired, the deeper wounds have been healed, and the cause, not just the symptoms, has been removed.
I must admit, though, that I have experienced an occasional client with depression who has continued to progress in their therapy by using EFT in a creative fashion but who has nevertheless been unable to do without their medication, no matter how hard they tried to stop it.
When this happens, I don't look upon it as a failure.
If God chooses to heal this person by several means at once, who am I to quibble? If what I see in the therapy is an inner strengthening of the person, a deepening of a sense of peace and happiness in their lives, then I think, "So be it," and we go on from there.
The fact is that certain people may even have to stay on a psychiatric medication for the rest of their lives, just the way some diabetics have to stay on insulin in order to live. These drugs can save lives when they are truly necessary, if, that is, they are sensitively and expertly prescribed.
It's simply where we are now in history. Some day they will be obsolete, things of the past, but at this point in history, there are some problems we haven't yet solved, some mysteries still unexplained. I find that the best thing I can do for my clients, when this happens, is to recognize this as a fact and "deeply and completely" accept these people just as they are.
That, in itself, may be one of the best healings of all.