When words fail...


We all take communication for granted. We assume that most people have similar values, beliefs and communication skills as ourselves and it is often quite easily forgotten that this is not always the case. Everyone is unique, with different frames of reference, experiences, communication skills, conscious and unconscious learning styles. Yet effective communication is key in building rapport and assisting our clients with EFT. It is a medium that not only conveys poignant statements but also gives an insight into their problems.

by Jennifer Rahman

Equally important, we are aware that negative emotion arising from trauma can affect our energy levels. But what about the effect on our communication skills? We assume that our clients have the verbal skills and competency to relay, inform and provide feedback to us about their negative experiences and trauma. But what if this isn’t always the case? Whether this issue is a consequence of learning difficulties, age, illness or emotional issue, we, as practitioners, need to be creative and explore different techniques and mediums which will allow our clients to express their feelings in comfortable and safe ways. Often by using alternative mediums to the spoken word, it creates disassociation from the trauma itself thereby enabling the client to revisit or speak of the event safely.

They say that ‘a picture says a thousand words’ and I would like to share with practitioners some of the tried and tested EFT tools in my toolkit, that use pictures and photographs. I have found that by allowing my clients to create their own picture board or use their own photographs to tell a story, I can glean the information I need to proceed with EFT. It also gives me an insight into their world as they see it, highlighting the modalities and sub-modalities used as well as a glimpse of their values, self-limiting beliefs and suppressed emotions. I have also found that pictures and photographs can also help a client create their Palace of Possibilities that is not only instantly visual, but also specific, measureable (tangible), achievable, rational and timely. Simply put, their Palace of Possibilities becomes their SMART goal.

Here are a few of the creative yet inexpensive tools that I have used:

Picture and colour story board

This is my personal take on telling a story in pictures, instead of words. Whenever I come across an interesting picture or facial expression in a magazine, I will cut these out and place these in my ‘picture box’. At client sessions, I will introduce this picture box and ask the client to select pictures that he or she feels depicts their mood or emotion presently and place these on a felt sheet or cardboard. Interestingly, if you offer the client a selection of coloured felt sheets or cardboard sheets to choose from, it may give you an indication of how they represent their problem in colour. But don’t assume that a red choice will always represent anger as red could also be an empowering colour. It is always best to ask the client to explain why they chose that particular colour background out of the rest.

Giving the client a task not only injects some fun into the session but also connects to the child within. It allows the client to disassociate from their negative emotion by creating a safety zone. Once the client has selected their pictures, I will ask them to tell me their story. I will also ask them to briefly describe why they choose those pictures, what they see in those pictures and whether size, colour or texture has any significance. Listen out for hot words to incorporate into the Basic Recipe.

Next, I will ask the client to put the ‘happy’ pictures in a pile, within view but to one side. This keeps the happy pile nearby but not forgotten, and I will reintroduce it at a later stage when we create the clients Palace of Possibilities.

I will then ask the client to look at the remaining pictures left on the felt sheet and try and delve deeper into the selection left behind. Obviously, if these are not selected by the client to be in their happy pile, the inference is that these remaining pictures belong to the ‘sad’ pile. Once again ask the client to tell you a story about the remaining pictures, why they were chosen, and so on. Also ask the client if there was a time in the distant or recent past, when they felt the same emotions and expressions represented in the pictures they have selected.

When it comes to creating their Palace of Possibilities (POP), I will retrieve the pictures in the client’s happy pile and the process of why, what, when will be played out using the pictures. In setting the POP as a SMART goal, it is important from a life-coaching viewpoint to add some time scales. For example, what can be accomplished instantly, weekly or monthly. It mentally commits the client to achieving their goals as well as providing them with pictorial evidence that change is instantly possible or may happen imminently. It reinforces the evidence criteria in the change-link sequence of NLP and cognitive hypnotherapy.

It is interesting that clients who have difficulty either naming or talking about their emotions, can identify or relate to the pictures on the felt sheet. Hence it is important to have a wide range of magazine cut-outs available to the client from which to choose. Having too few cut-outs will compromise the exercise as it will limit the client’s choice and representational scope of their present problem. And it’s also a wonderful way of recycling old magazines!

The Energy Exchange Photo Technique

This technique was developed by my EFT trainer, Marie Holliday. Photographs are memories frozen in time. Memories are only memories to the conscious mind and current events to the unconscious mind. In the same way that magazine pictures can help a client express their emotions and feelings, so can photographs old and new.

In Marie’s technique, a client is either asked to bring a selection to the face-to-face session or kept within reach if it is a telephone or SKYPE session.

Tapping with photographs involves either:

  • Tapping on the photograph itself
  • Interchanging with tapping on self and tapping on the photograph
  • Tapping on self and looking at the photograph of self or other people
  • Introducing a few photographs to tap with i.e. family group photographs.

Not only are photographs a great way to introduce surrogate or proxy tapping into your skills mix but it also provides some clients with closure to either a traumatic event, death or abusive situation. It allows the client to have the last say about their feelings or to say the words that they did not have the opportunity to say in the past. Whatever the usage, photographs are an effective alternative medium to the spoken word.

The Picture Tapping Technique

This is a technique developed by Philip Davies and Christine Sutton and incorporates artistic metaphors and symbolism into the delivery of EFT.

In PTT, clients are asked to draw a representational sketch of their present emotions and problem. The client is then asked to describe the picture and the emotions experienced. These are incorporated into the Basic Recipe and tapped upon.

Next the client is asked to either add to the original picture or draw a fresh one. Description by the client is important as it helps the practitioner get an insight into their visual and mental frame of mind as well as giving the practitioner key information to tap on.

It is amazing how the client’s emotions and perspective of their problem changes as their drawing changes.

However, having used this technique myself, I feel it is important to put the client at ease and emphasise that no artistic skill or competency is required. Otherwise, the client may feel secondary pressure to produce an artistic picture.

Box therapy

This is another dissociation technique that I have developed and used with clients. Before any session, I will ask the client to complete a questionnaire which gives me an idea of their problem. If it is a problem with anxiety, stress or phobia, I will ask the client to write down or collect pictures that represent it.

Before the start of the session, I will ask the client to place their written statements or pictures into a cardboard box, labelled ‘It stays in here’! This can be done in face-to-face sessions or via telephone or Skype. The purpose of the box (with lid) is to create a safe zone for the client to express their negative emotions without the constant reminder on their minds. Placing statements or pictures in a lidded box may be meaningless if it is not accompanied by the Set-Up statement as they place the items in the box. Saying, “even though I feel ..... and it stays in the box until I am ready/safe, etc, I completely and deeply accept myself”, mentally creates a safety zone. This is especially useful in abuse cases.

When the client has had rounds of tapping and feels comfortable to revisit their problem, then the contents of the box can be retrieved and the problem revisited. It is also an effective method of re-testing the client’s association/disassociation with the problem.

I hope these alternative methods are of use to practitioners and would appreciate any feedback on the success or challenges of the methods mentioned.

Jennifer Rahman
Level 2 Practitioner
LifeMaxx International
Email: maxx email

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