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EFT – could it benefit adoptive families?

EFT – could it benefit adoptive families? WHEN adoptive mother Claire searched for a way to help her teenage daughter she discovered Emotional Freedom Techniques, or EFT for short – involving tapping on the meridian points of your body with your finger-tips and likened to a needle free version of acupuncture. Here she and the therapist describes what happened.

Claire is the adoptive mother of Naomi, who came to live with her aged two and is now aged 14.

Claire also has an older birth child and has fostered. Naomi is bright, lively, affectionate and beautiful – and also displays extremely challenging behaviour associated with her difficult early life and resultant severe attachment issues.

Lesley Broadhead, who runs a busy private therapy practice in the North East of England is married to a man who was adopted at five months and her daughter has also married a man who is adopted,

She said: “I met with Claire and Naomi in a neutral environment outside the home, but not in a therapy setting. This was to gain the respect of Naomi since we were asking for her help not “treating” her.

“I explained that I knew of a technique which I believed could help young people, children and their families, and that I needed her opinion about the process, and how we could introduce it to others in similar situations.  If this was not to be seen as “just another therapy session” I wanted to generate some ownership and high self-esteem.

“I went on to say that it might seem a bit strange and that it involved tapping, and that it did have a scientific basis but that was maybe a bit boring (not to me!), so I would explain it if she wanted. She declined, having just finished school for the day.

“Naomi was not willing to tap on herself, and this is where EFT really comes into its own as it can be carried out by a surrogate. I asked Claire to tap along with me. Speaking as if I were Naomi, I made a number of statements while tapping the meridian points.”

As a technique it is said to be very effective for helping with panic, anxiety, stress and other negative emotions.

Lesley said: “Some of the statements were: “My mum’s mad for bringing me here and she’s mad for doing this”, “I just want to go out and be with my friends”, “This is really stupid and I feel agitated sitting here” and “I am bored”.

“Naomi still looked uninterested but Claire and I kept tapping away. I then said (as if I were Naomi) “I am an amazing young girl”, “In fact I am awesome” and Naomi appeared to enjoy this.

“Meanwhile Claire was continuing to tap and ask questions e.g. could she use this on herself? Yes of course. We noted that Claire was tired and had a feeling of anxiety in her stomach so we tapped for this with N watching yet pretending not to!

“Claire was delighted when a few seconds later she felt calm and her anxiety had disappeared. She began to ask questions about using the technique with Naomi.

“I suggested she worked on her own response to Naomi’s behaviour, such as “I feel anxious when she does X”. Also she could do some surrogate tapping for Naomi by saying “Naomi is agitated and restless.” “Naomi is angry with me.” “Naomi is very angry at her birth father”.

“Whilst doing this we both noticed a visible shift in Naomi’s state. Claire was clearly moved but afraid to show her delight. We decided to end the session there on a good note.

“Naomi’s Reaction…? I asked Naomi what she thought – could we use the technique with others? Yes, she thought it was good. Would she have a go on her own? Maybe. What about with groups of young people? No, this was not a good idea but it would be good to use with parents, as a family. (Claire smiled). We then went off for a snack as a reward.

Proponents of EFT claim it relieves many psychological and physical conditions, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, general stress, addictions and phobias, while critics says it is a pseudoscience.

Claire said: “I was interested in the idea of EFT and thought it was worth a try for Naomi and me. I had forgotten to warn Lesley that Naomi would most likely appear “not bothered” or bored, but I could tell that she was actually listening and engaging. If not she would have been out the door!

I did not and still do not really understand “tapping” or EFT, but I could definitely feel sensations when I tapped in certain places – hot when I tapped under my eye, and tingly when I tapped above my lip, and I did feel a change in my body when I tapped between my eyebrows. When Lesley spoke about Naomi whilst tapping I actually saw Naomi’s body change and she relaxed, and I felt a huge surge of love for Naomi and wanted to hug her – but I didn’t.

“Naomi said she had felt very tired before the session, and not at all tired afterwards. Later on she spoke to me in a way I have not experienced for a long time, and I felt connected to her, after months of being “blanked” and pushed away.

“Since then I cannot honestly say it has dramatically altered Naomi’s behaviour as there are too many complex issues, not to mention hormones, to be changed by one session aimed at seeing if it would be suitable for a teenager. But I have continued to use it on myself at times of great stress about N and it seems to have a calming effect.  And when Naomi is relaxed and snuggles up to me on the sofa I have “tapped” on her, saying words to myself, and she has enjoyed it, and asked me to continue, as it feels good.

“I would certainly recommend this technique to parents of pre teens who are finding life difficult, and especially with children who have suffered abuse and neglect at a pre-verbal stage, as the child does not need to do any talking therapy. I think it would work best if both parent and child are engaged in the process, but it still is beneficial if only the parent is actively “tapping”.”

   © This article first appeared in the August 2008 edition of Adoption Today the bi-monthly magazine of Adoption UK which offers support and advice to adoptive families.

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