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Resolving Depression with Emotional Freedom Techniques

by Sejual Shah(more info)

listed in eft, originally published in issue 160 - July 2009

When talking about providing a natural lasting resolution to depression, I often find the following metaphor helpful in setting the scene. Imagine a hot air balloon that would allow us to journey towards a greater sense of mental well-being. When up in the air, we feel free to be our natural selves, expressing curiosity and joy at the possibilities available to us.

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Now think of that balloon being weighted down by countless sandbags. Their sheer weight ties down the balloon, keeping the person stuck in sadness, despair, and worry. Unless we remove those heavy weights, the person will remain grounded.

What are those sandbags made up of? In this metaphor, they are the big and small mental and emotional traumas. These traumas are specific incidents from the past which have left their negative imprint on the depressed person. The individual may not think about such events very often, but if they were to they would feel a negative emotional response. Those diagnosed with depression typically have an accumulation of traumatic events with accompanying negative responses. An overload of small traumas can cumulatively have as strong an effect as several large traumatic experiences.

How we deal with these events from the past can make all the difference to resolving depression. Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) owes its success in helping resolve depression because it neutralizes the sting of these incidents lodged in the body's memory.

EFT or tapping was developed from a background of Acupuncture, Clinical Psychology and Kinesiology in the mid 1990s by Gary Craig. Its versatility as a self help tool, and focus on generating lasting results, has helped it grow in widespread use – it is in use by people all over the world.

EFT uses a mind-body connection to quickly and easily reduce physical pain, emotional and mental distress. With EFT we tap on meridian points on the body whilst using skilful wordplay to resolve constituent elements of a problem. The tapping on specific points releases stored up distress in the body's energy system.

Tapping Points
EFT Points

Karate Chop


The premise behind EFT is that negative life experiences can disrupt the body's meridian or energy system. Physical complaints can arise as a direct result of such disruptions, for example, pain in the body or feelings of anxiety, even though the event is in the distant past. These physical complaints can continue because the imprint of the experience held in the unconscious mind continues to disrupt the person's energy system. Properly applied, EFT can quickly balance the person's energy system in relation to negative memories and neutralize discomfort that the body and mind connect with it. Usually symptoms are permanently resolved.

When treating depression the first step I take is to deal with the accompanying physical symptoms, e.g. lethargy, and physical aches and pains. This helps individuals quickly find their own evidence of EFT working for them so that we can get meaningful results from the first session onwards. It also means they have the physical strength to do the deeper emotional work.

We then work on the root emotional causes, e.g. specific incidents. Returning to our metaphor of the hot air balloon, with tapping we cut away the sand bags that keep us grounded so that we can find greater emotional freedom. EFT regularly brings about deep peace where once there was anguish and other negative emotions. The lasting relief it achieves allows individuals to return to normal life. Results achieved with EFT are usually permanent. Testing the work we've done enables us to be comfortable that the problem has been collapsed.

Sometimes depression or feelings of anxiety may be made up of a number of traumatic events. We systematically and carefully neutralize the negative response to each event so that the person is left feeling calm in response to them. They remember the memories clearly, but no longer find themselves sucked into a spiral of feeling miserable because of them. The memories don't stand in their way as before. This process of neutralizing the pain sometimes enables a client to discover the gift in the challenge they have experienced, and so the process can become a self development tool as well.

Gentleness is at the heart of the EFT process and this lends to its powerful effect. Memories that we may have consciously pushed to the corners of our minds and tried to forget can be safely approached to then clear. At no stage do we attempt to 'courageously confront' a painful issue. Instead we neutralize the charge on each specific memory that is related to the depression or anxiety issue and so take away its barbed sting. The result is usually an amazing physical and emotional release that leaves the individual free to enjoy life more fully than before. EFT works well alongside conventional medication a person may be taking for their depression. I normally work with my clients' doctors. This means that the doctor can monitor medication levels and reduce them as the depression eases.

Some of my depression clients come with stories that their illness was triggered by a more serious incident, for example a distressing experience in giving birth. Often tapping through that key incident can be enough to significantly reduce the issue if not resolve it. If the event was some time ago other events can be rooted in it. We just work through all these issues and the depression lifts.

"Sally"[1] came to my therapy practice feeling constant tiredness, particularly in her eyes. It was a real effort for her to do anything, as her head felt foggy. She had been diagnosed with depression two years before, but felt it may have been around much longer. She was prescribed by her GP SSRI[2] medication that was containing the problem, although Sally's ability to go about her daily life was severely compromised. She constantly felt tired from the depression, and unable to enjoy quality time with her family.

In the first session we reduced the physical symptoms by more than 50% intensity, and then worked on the key event behind the depression. We traced it back to the difficult time she had when giving births to her first set of twins 10 years before. Over 4 sessions we tapped on all the issues relating to the births and the consequent difficulties she faced in the home. The physical symptoms petered out as we felled the diseased trees in her emotional forest of events all connected with the births. After the 4th appointment Sally not only described feeling as if the depression had shifted, but her appearance changed – she took pleasure in dressing in more colourful clothing. She also found herself responding to challenging situations in her life with new found calmness. When her eldest children didn't get into the secondary school Sally and her husband had hoped for, she didn't find herself down in the dumps. Instead she remained optimistic and looked for solutions so that it all worked out well. Her newly emerging strength meant she was able to be more involved in family projects and be there for her children as they grew. With her GP's approval she initially reduced her medication as her mood improved and ultimately came off them.

Other clients tell me that their depression was sparked by an innocuous seeming tipping point – e.g. a low-speed car accident that didn't result in any physical injury – or that it's always been there. On enquiry we find that there is a back-catalogue of painful events in the past that underpin the depression. We work through the key events with EFT and neutralize the distress they still experience. As we clear the emotional debris they show signs of recovery as pockets of improvement appear.

"Daniel" came to work with me having suffered from depression for more than 3 decades and couldn't remember what triggered it. He had tried various combinations of medication with his medical advisors' involvement with mixed results, and was deflated that the focus seemed to be on managing the side effects of the drugs rather than working on the core issue. Conventional talk therapies had made no difference. In the first session we worked on and resolved an issue that had taken him 10 sessions of psychotherapy to even talk about. Trust is a key component in successful therapy work, more so when we can so quickly neutralize traumatic events. In that first session we worked on the bullying Daniel experienced as a teenager when making the transition from junior to secondary school. The bullying had continued well on into his adult years in different workplaces. Daniel seemed to be constantly chased by bullying incidents. Inevitably there were many incidents to tap on. During sessions we cleared the most difficult memories, and I also gave Daniel support to continue tapping in between sessions. Where my clients are willing, I teach them to tap for themselves so that they can continue to help themselves. I provide helpful structure on what to tap on so they can accelerate their progress.

After 6 sessions Daniel noticed that he was performing better at work and receiving praise for his performance. This was something that had eluded him previously. He also succeeded with his doctor's knowledge in coming off one half of his medication regime with no ill effects felt.

As we tapped through other areas of his life that had distressed him, his mental well-being continued to improve. There was outward evidence of change with his relationships in his home, life being more supportive, and he found himself able to thrive in his career. He developed healthy ways of responding to situations of being intimidated at work. As the depression receded he came off his remaining medication safely and with no ill effects felt. Moreover, our work changed from being remedial – dealing with the depression – to generating a better quality of life. We worked at developing positive qualities in his life experience, such as peace, joy and fun.

Having suffered with their illness for much of their life, some of my clients question the speed with which change happens. In effect, we're talking about weeks and months of work rather than a lifetime of coping. One way in which EFT differs to earlier approaches my clients have taken is that instead of focussing on the body's biochemistry, we work with the mind/body connection. Scientific research in the field of epigenetics – the study of how the environment including diet, stress, and negative thought patterns can trigger the expression of strands of DNA – provides a helpful insight into why our emotional well-being is critical to our physical health.[3] With EFT we seek to neutralize energy imbalances in the body's system which are connected with our mental and emotional state of health. This paradigm shift in our approach to health care provides a framework for understanding how EFT is able to achieve such a fast rate of success.

As the scientific basis for EFT grows, and as more people experience its convincing tangible results of change for illnesses like depression, there is more likelihood of it being made available widely on the NHS. In December 2008 I ran a Stress Management with EFT workshop for a caregivers' group paid for by the West Hertfordshire Primary Care Trust. My work with stress management is also taking me into businesses where illnesses like depression are seemingly hidden, but deeply felt. You're likely to hear more about EFT in the coming years, as its results speak for the therapy so convincingly.

Notes and References

1 Client names in both case studies have been changed for reasons of confidentiality.
2 Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor
3 Lipton B. The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter and Miracles. Santa Rosa California. 2005.

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About Sejual Shah

Sejual Shah EFT Practitioner AAMET runs an Emotional Freedom Techniques therapy practice in Hertfordshire, specializing in helping with depression and anxiety issues, as well as career performance issues. She works in person, by phone and webcam and has worked with clients over 4 continents. Sejual spent 5 years as a corporate lawyer in Brussels and the City of London and has first-hand experience of managing the high stress of corporate life. She additionally provides corporate stress management programs. Her website is www.healthyinmind.com. To download a free self-help manual introducing you to the basics of EFT please visit the website of the founder of EFT, Gary Craig: www.emofree.com

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