Tapping and counselling – uncomfortable bedfellows or the best of both?


Deborah Shakespeare suggests ways in which counselling skills can be used to enhance your role as a tapping practitioner. She uses the term tapping to apply to both EFT and Matrix Reimprinting.

by Deborah Shakespeare

As a new EFT trainer, I taught my first Level 1 course recently. One of the attendees happened to be a friend of mine; we first became acquainted at university when we were in training to become counsellors. As the EFT course progressed, I could see that my friend was struggling initially to put aside his counsellor background in order to apply the very different approach that EFT entails.

I had a similar struggle myself when I first encountered EFT. The person-centred approach to counselling in which I am trained is rooted in the understanding that it is the quality of the relationship between client and practitioner that is the most healing aspect of therapy. The specific modality or techniques that are that are used are thought to be less important in bringing about change, and a plethora of recent research supports this. When I first began using EFT with my clients, I felt as though I was plying them with questions, directing the sessions and not giving my clients space to be heard. All of this went very much against the grain of my counselling training and felt almost unethical to me.

But still…I could not ignore what I had seen happen to others when I trained in EFT, and what I had experienced myself; noticeable therapeutic change brought about by a technique-driven approach, often in a remarkably short space of time. In addition, tapping was far and away the best approach to working with trauma that I had encountered. I concluded that no serious counsellor could afford to be without it.

It quickly became obvious to me that there were strengths to be drawn from both EFT and person-centred counselling. I realised that I would be short-sighted and biased to ignore one approach in favour of the other, simply because they appeared initially to be uncomfortable bed fellows. Therefore I set out with the intention of integrating the two in my practice, determined to have the best of both.

A therapist who believes in the importance of a good-quality relationship with clients may shape this relationship by using the core conditions (Rogers, 1957). Employing these conditions allows the therapist to value and understand, warmly and without judgment, what the client’s experience has been. The therapist will not hide behind a professional mask or present themselves as being something they are not, but will allow their own unique personality to be an integral part of the relationship.

In addition, the therapist will have a fundamental belief that the client already has the natural, innate ability to heal and change, and therefore holds within them the answers to their own questions; the role of the therapist is to respectfully facilitate the client in doing this, at their own pace and in a way that the client deems appropriate.

Such a relationship is very much based on trust. The therapist can prove that they are trustworthy by being themselves in the relationship, and by respecting confidentiality (unless there are legal or moral reasons not to do so). It also helps to be reasonably unshockable and to be able to ‘hold’ the client when they reveal distressing material – this means not breaking down and sobbing along in sympathy but remaining calmly supportive and understanding, no matter what. In doing this, the therapist will have provided a space where the client can feel safe to work on whatever their deepest, darkest fears are, without fear that they will upset, shock, disgust or burden the therapist and therefore risk being rejected by them.

So how can you apply these counselling concepts about the importance of the relationship to enhance your role as a tapping practitioner? I share with you some of the things that I have found to work for me.

  • Be on time for each appointment, and give plenty of notice if you need to cancel.
  • Get the room ready well in advance, and think about the client’s comfort; have drinking water and tissues at hand.
  • Never judge what a client has said or done; they will always have their reasons for it.
  • Remember what was said in the previous session. If you do this by taking notes, you will need to consider data-protection, but it’s not very valuing to have forgotten what the client focused on the week before, so I suggest finding a way of remembering the content of the previous session that works for you.
  • Be led by the client; they will choose to work on whatever they choose to work on, and it will be the right thing for them (even when you might disagree).
  • If the client wants to talk, let them (although you may want to remind them at some point that they are here for tapping). Sometimes clients need to be heard, especially if they’ve never been listened to, and there can be a great deal of therapeutic value in being able to say out loud what has previously been kept hidden. You may choose to use the ‘telling the story’ technique (tap and talk) with clients who express themselves by talking a lot. However, sometimes talking can be an unconscious avoidance of the issue. If you think this is the case, you could bring it up very gently, but only if you have already established a trusting relationship with the client.
  • Never force the client if they are unwilling (to address a traumatic memory, for example). If they have been forced at some point before in their life, you are risking compounding this abuse.
  • Seek to understand your client’s experience, and to show that you understand. This can be done through your facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, and by verbally reflecting. A reflection is where the therapist mirrors what the client has said in slightly different language. When done with skill, the client feels that the therapist has real insight into what’s going on for them, and values and understands their unique experience. There are times when your client will say something and it’s simply not appropriate to dive into a new set-up phrase, because you could seem rather heartless. For example, (client) “My partner died last year and I still don’t understand why I feel so hollow inside”. The therapist could respond with “So you’re feeling all this emptiness about losing her, but you’re confused about why you still feel it.” If this is an accurate reflection and the client agrees that this is how they feel, you can then have a choice of using the words “hollow”, “don’t understand”, “emptiness”, “loss” and “confusion” in the set-up phrase. Reflections have more than one use – they demonstrate understanding and valuing, and they can also be used to gather information and allow the client to gain further insights, all of which can then be utilised in tapping.
  • Seek to understand your own experience by becoming self-aware. As I wrote in a previous article (Get Out of The Way), when we are not self-aware we risk confusing our own issues with those of the client, which can lead to us making incorrect assumptions about what’s going on for the client, and making incorrect interventions as a result. We can also end up acting judgmentally because we are not aware that aspects of the client or their experience are triggering something in us – for example, we may find ourselves disliking the client or feeling irritated with them and blaming the client for this, rather than wondering what it is within us that’s causing us to respond in this way. Finally, we can end up forgetting that the session should be all about the client, not a vehicle for fulfilling our own need to be clever or good at what we do, or for giving advice and sharing our pearls of wisdom about life and the universe. Self-awareness requires constant internal self-evaluation throughout the session to monitor our own thoughts, feelings and reactions to what comes up. It also requires a commitment to being honest about what has worked well in the session and what we, as therapists, may need to address or develop in order to improve our practice.

My hope is that these suggestions may, in some small way, help to enhance the important work that you are already doing as tapping practitioners, and that I have demonstrated that counselling skills and tapping can be complimentary, not contradictory.

Contact Deborah on 07821 274579, or via deborah email for further information on her Counselling Skills for Tapping Practitioners workshop. Deborah will also be presenting on this topic at the forthcoming Matrix Innovations in April 2011.

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