Meridian Therapies Enhance Addictions Treatment Programmes
Reprinted from Addiction Today December, 2000
Add Meridian Tapping to Your Toolkit
…control cravings and negative emotions with this simple self-treatment
Susan Courtney reports.
Working with those who misuse substances can be one of the most frustrating fields in the counselling world. Ambivalence about stopping, the complicated tangle of emotional, historical, physical and social factors driving the habit, and repeated relapses can lead addictions counsellors to feel discouraged and de-skilled. New meridian-based techniques can help both counsellors and service users to achieve their desired goals.
White-Knuckle Struggle Relieved
When Tom (names of clients have been changed) walked into a groupwork session at Multiple Choice in Leeds last March, he had no idea he'd be given the tool that would enable him finally to feel truly free of his heroin addiction. He'd been involved in the intensive structured day service (which is part of the Leeds Drug Project) for three months, following a medicated de-tox after twenty years of substance abuse and ten years as a serious heroin addict. He had worked with the programme on monitoring his cravings and identifying patterns to learn how to avoid high risk situations, and still he was suffering strong cravings six or seven times a day. Abstinence was a white-knuckle struggle and he had repeated lapses.
But that day Team Leader Malcolm Bray showed a video describing how tapping on a sequence of acupuncture points could reduce cravings. Tom and the others in the group were led through a sequence of tapping with two fingers on a series of acupuncture points. Four days later, when Tom returned with his cravings diary, the first day showed only one episode and the following days were blank. Not only has he had no struggle since and successfully remained abstinent, but he later taught the sequence to his friend John, who was still using heroin and attempting to stop. John was craving badly at the time, and the tapping gave him relief from the craving.
Gentle, rapid, effective
What is going on here? How is it possible that the seemingly irrelevant action of tapping a few places on the body could have such dramatically successful results? The short answer is that we don't know. Meridian-based psychotherapy and counselling challenge our frame of reference about the mechanisms of psychological dysfunction and therapeutic change. This new paradigm suggests that emotional problems are based on disturbances of the body/mind energy system. With roots in clinical psychology and psychiatry and the 6,000 year proven successes of traditional Chinese medicine, meridian therapies use cognition, affect and non-invasive treatment of the acupuncture meridians to resolve emotional disturbance.
The theory speculates that stimulating the acupuncture points by tapping or holding them while concentrating on the target problem enables the subtle energy system to re-balance itself and to establish a new and healthier relationship with whatever has been the problem, a new balance that is carried over into physical and psychological experience in daily living. And experience in North America, Europe and Australia over the pas twenty years indicates that whatever the mechanism of action, these approaches are gentle, rapid, and powerfully effective.
Resolve underlying emotions and traumas
The techniques are not a replacement for skilled counselling, training in self-monitoring, learning to deal with high-risk situations, and developing the life skills and new social structure to support change. What they can add to every addictions programme is a powerful and rapid means to address the craving itself, and even more importantly the underlying feelings which drive the craving and for which the substance is used as a form of state management, distraction and avoidance.
Clare, a young woman who was drinking very heavily on a daily basis and smoking large amounts of cannabis and amphetamines at the same time, had been sent to the Leeds Drug Service by her employer under threat of being sacked if she did not stop because her job performance had become unsatisfactory. Clare's drink and drug diaries showed little impact from the counselling she was receiving, and her failure to stop was feeding into her already low sense of self-esteem, self-efficacy, and under-achievement. When addictions counsellor Sonia Evers used meridian techniques with her, however, Clare's drinking and drug use diminished almost overnight and she maintained this progress over time. Further work helped her to control her anger, something that had bothered her for many years. Once the pressure of the immediate problems had been reduced, Sonia worked with Clare to reduce the emotional intensity of a past rape, the event that had originally triggered the excessive use of drugs and alcohol. Three months later Clare reported that she was still abstinent, felt happy and had just received a promotion from her employer.
Well-received by clients
Malcolm Bray has found these methods to be well received by clients. He cites the advantages he has seen from introducing these methods into the Leeds Drug Service programme:
"They can be taught to the service user. He or she can take them away to use whenever they feel it is appropriate and on any issue they want. The service user becomes a very active participant in their own rehabilitative process
They are rapid and effective. Service users often get relief from cravings and bothersome feelings at least as quickly as they would from smoking, drinking or using drugs.
They are especially useful for those whose substance misuse has served as an escape from past traumas and emotional pain. Our experience in Leeds suggests that the idea of having to talk about these issues and experiences often causes even more emotional hurt and sometimes stops people from engaging in any form of treatment. With meridian-based approaches, service users are not always required to talk aloud about what is disturbing to them, and can treat themselves whenever difficult memories or feelings are triggered."
Counsellors and clients are trained in the following treatment steps:
1) Formulate a clear target for treatment, e.g. "I'm dying for a drink."
2) Rate the level of craving or emotional distress on a scale of 0 to 10
3) Tap gently but firmly 5-10 times on a sequence of acupressure points while the staying in contact with the target.
4) Rate the distress again and repeat treatment until the rating drops to 0
Many, though not all, clients will respond immediately to this simple application. In an Association for Meridian Therapies accredited training, counsellors learn to correct for blocks to treatment and to develop tapping sequences customised for each client. It is also important to identify relevant aspects of the client's issues and to work through the various layers of problems which may surface successively during this therapy. Addiction involves much more than cravings, of course, and often includes feelings and judgements about ourselves, as well as overwhelming emotions, and experiences from the past which we have found hard to cope with.
Treats deep, early issues
Clinical psychologist Peter Leakey, who works in the Derbyshire NHS Trust has usually found that tapping directly on the craving has worked successfully for smoking and compulsive eating. When Linda came to him for help to stop smoking, however, this approach alone was not enough. She had also tried many other approaches and had not benefitted. It was only after tracking back to earlier experiences the feelings she associated with wanting a cigarette, and treating her for a cluster of early losses -including the death of her parents - that the cravings themselves became amenable to successful treatment.
Corrects self-sabotage and reduces relapses
As with all treatment protocols, compliance is a concern. Addictive substances may disrupt the energy system and undermine motivation. Agreement to self-treat at specific times or occasions can be helpful with this, as can buddying and group support. We encourage those who are struggling to overcome addictions to tap at every stage of the misuse process. , including correcting the energy imbalances that contribute to self-sabotage. Training equips counsellors to respond to whatever difficulties their clients may present.
Meridian-based approaches have the potential to free clients from the tyranny of their cravings and urges and from the overwhelming emotions that drive them. For all who work in this difficult area, they offer a rapid, gentle and effective approach to help clients to successful recovery.
If you want to know more…
Susan Courtney practices as a counsellor and psychotherapist and runs open and in-service training programmes for addictions workers and other counsellors and therapists. She can be contacted at email@example.com, www.meridianpsych.org 08700 767015. She is a director and licensed trainer for the Association for Meridian Therapies. http://TheAMT.com. and runs the UK training programme for the Institute for Meridian-based Psychotherapy and Counselling.
Two books to read are:
- Adventures in EFT by Silvia Hartmann, available from DragonRising Publishing - Note: in 2012 Adventures in EFT was superseded by Energy EFT
- Energy Tapping by Fred Gallo, published by New Harbinger and available from Amazon.