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How do you know if therapy is working?

Before I learned about energy psychology, I had no real way to measure whether or not therapy was helping. Feelings change from day to day and are heavily affected by outside situations. Unwanted behaviors can be stopped, but the compulsion often remains. Urges can cause quite a bit of emotional discomfort and distraction only goes so far. Improving your distress tolerance feels like a crappy way to live, long term.

I thought I would know therapy was helping me when I finally felt happy, until a trusted therapist told me that the point of therapy was not to be happy. It was to have greater understanding and develop a wider range of emotions. That answer felt like a huge disappointment that I’d spent years and thousands of dollars waiting for. Happiness was my goal, and I know it’s the goal of most people.

Much of therapy can feel like a pointless dead end full of useless advice and not enough unless advice. As a therapist and a long term client I was used to living in the grey area. Hoping that what I was doing in therapy would pay off eventually but not completely convinced that was true. Energy psychology changed all that.

Continuing education

I love conferences. Spending a few days out of town, fully immersed in continuing education is one of my favorite things. I consider myself a nerd and a guinea pig. I was only just beginning to use tapping in my practice when I attended my first energy psychology conference (ACEP). I had taken EFT and level one energy psychology. Although I was interested, I felt lost. This was a far cry from the psychodynamic therapy I spent years studying.

There are many different varieties of energy psychology. Common to all of them, is muscle testing. Muscle testing allows access to unconscious information held in the body. As I soon discovered, the body weakens with information it finds upsetting or disagreeable. The body is strengthened by things that are true and promote a sense of well being, truth and peace. Asking simple yes or no questions provides a wealth of deeply buried, unconscious information.

Psychodynamic therapy relies on unconscious information also but uses silence, free association and the therapists’ interpretation to gather it. Unconscious material is symbolic, exaggerated and often humiliating or embarrassing in nature. It’s not stuff you would normally think or say out loud. Muscle testing allows you to access it easily because you can bypass the conscious minds sensibilities. In the beginning, I was highly skeptical about muscle testing. It was hard for me to test myself and I had no confidence testing other people.

A whole new way of looking at things

My plan for this conference was to stick to the beginners track but I felt bored and out of place. Then, I noticed a lecture By Dr. Judith Swack on Attachment/ Detachment Trauma. That got my attention. Judith Swack is a powerhouse of a speaker. She looks like a college professor or someones mom. She has a Phd in biochemistry and she the farthest thing from a hippy you can get at a conference full of hippies. She commands a room. She should. She has dozens of lectures, classes and papers under her belt.

I’ve studied attachment theory. I’ve read Bowlby, Ainsworth, and Main. I have written papers about attachment including one that I wrote and presented to a social work delegation in South Africa about the impact of the HIV crisis on infant attachment. I got a big surprise when I heard Judith Swack talk about attachment trauma for the first time.

Dr. Swack began by asking for a volunteer from the audience. This was a room packed with therapists and many people raised their hands to be her subject. She used muscle testing to determine which volunteer to choose. The volunteer was a random member of the audience. She used muscle testing to determine the exact time the attachment/ detachment trauma occurred. Dr. Swack uses the word “detachment” to describe the moment when trauma severs an attachment bond. She found this exact moment by muscle testing the client.

A lifelong issue cleared in a session

The woman was in tears as she told the audience about the difficult relationship she had with her mother. She knew, from the family stories, that her mothers’ pregnancy with her had not been planned, nor was it a happy time for her mother.

Through muscle testing, D.r Swack determined the exact moment the woman (as an infant) thought the pain of her birth had harmed her mother and she blamed herself. At the moment, she was traumatized and detached; making future attachments impossible. She suffered from ambivalent attachment to her mother as well as her husband and her own children. The woman disclosed some of the information she knew about her parents and the circumstances of her birth. She described the emptiness she felt all her life. She described a sense of relief in her body as they cleared the traumas, guilt, and shame she carried about her birth as well as the phobias she still had of being loved.

Using a timeline regression, Dr. Swack helped the woman go to the exact moment of the trauma and heal it on her timeline. She used a number of interventions to help including meridian tapping (EFT) for the trauma. The entire room was mesmerized.

Over the course of the two-hour workshop, the woman went from muscle testing positive for a variety of traumas to testing that they were completely clear. By the end of the workshop, she reported feeling a greater sense of peace in her body and her mind. She had more positive cognitions (thoughts) about the relationship with her mother and herself. She she completed one full piece of work and felt calm and at ease.

Can you trust it?

For those who believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe, no explanation will suffice.

-Joesph Dunniger

Energy psychology asks clients to rate their subjective experience after every intervention. This is the clients “subjective report of disturbance”. For example: How disturbing is this memory on a scale of 1-10 right now if 0 is no disturbance and 10 is the most disturbing thing you can imagine. The goal is to begin wherever the client is and continue until you reach a [sud’s] of 0. We do not stop working on the issue until we reach 0 disturbance.

Most traditional therapy sessions do not get measured, nor do they [usually] leave the client with a sense of peace or accomplishment. Anyone who has ever had therapy knows that it can take many sessions if not longer to fully resolve an issue. While most therapy is often thought of as difficult, or emotionally painful, this woman’s pain seemed to dissolve in the course of the session.

That’s how I found my tribe.

Back to my story. I met Dr. Swack in person and told her how I’d enjoyed her workshop. She invited me to look at her website and consider training, which I did after a few months of treatment with her. I spent my first three sessions with her getting my limiting beliefs and phobias under control so I could muscle test myself. My earliest sessions focused on clearing my limiting beliefs and phobias.

They included:

  • This won’t work for me.
  • I’m a tough case.
  • I don’t think this will help me.
  • I don’t know what I feel. I’m numb. I’m confused. Etc.
  • I don’t trust muscle testing. Or: I don’t trust myself to muscle test properly.
  • I am not good at this.
  • I’m afraid my colleagues will turn against me/ think i’ve lost my mind/ think I’m unethical/ think i’m crazy etc.

These are pretty common themes for clients who are new to this method.

Follow my story to learn more about how energy psychology changed my life and the way I practice therapy. This is a total paradigm shift. After many years of traditional therapy, I was very insightful but still fucked up. Now I feel like I have greater control of my emotions, my relationships, and my future.

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