ptsd and eft

How Can EFT Help?

PTSD and EFT. As with any therapy or healing tool, once the choice for change is sought, commitment to the process is of vital importance. EFT is a user-friendly tool that can be used on the spot with uncomfortable emotions when they arise suddenly. On a deeper, more permanent level, EFT has a perfect set of gentle techniques to address and let go of root causes of these traumas, that can be anything from mildly annoying, to life-shatteringly invasive.

PTSD and EFT takes every precaution not to re-traumatize during treatment. It is also able to get to the core of and release deep issues much more quickly than general psychotherapy. The results are imminently more permanent.

With several techniques available at any given time, EFT anchors the client into the present moment, so as to help him/her keep a safe distance from the younger/traumatized self, who up till this moment has been holding the present-self hostage. The “work” then is done from a place of mindfulness, and with the practitioners help, allows gentle unlocking of a former self frozen in time; the self that may be holding fear, anger, frustration, etc. and may arise suddenly during life situations.

EFT works on both the energetic as well as the psychological level, to unblock energy pathways, discover beliefs locking feelings and responses in place, and updating them old beliefs with current information about an environment no longer fraught with danger.

PTSD and EFT: What is PTSD?

PTSDstands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is recognized as a cluster of symptoms or manifestations, several of which must be present but may include more. The DSM V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5) breaks down PTSD into various criteria. The following is excerpted from DSM V, along with a case study and links to articles supporting the use of EFT to treat PTSD.

These descriptions are NOT meant to help you diagnose yourself, but to better understand what PTSD is, and how it can impact someone’s life. If you feel that you may have PTSD, it is important to seek professional support and help. 


What Constitutes A Traumatic Event?

Exposure to real or threatened:

  • death
  • serious injury
  • sexual violence


  • direct
  • witnessed
  • indirect, witnessing or hearing of close friend or relative who has
    experienced the event—must be accidental or violent
  • repeated or extreme indirect exposure to qualifying events, usually by professionals. Not just general media exposure.

Many professionals who work in trauma differentiate between “big T-traumas,” the ones listed above, and “little-t traumas.” Little-t traumas can include complicated grief, divorce, non-professional media exposure to trauma, or childhood emotional abuse, and clinicians recognize that these can result in post-traumatic stress, even if they don’t qualify for the PTSD diagnosis.

How Does PTSD Manifest?

When Response Becomes Evident:
There is no longer a requirement that someone has to have an intense emotional response at the time of the event. This requirement has excluded many veterans and sexual assault survivors in the past.

Intrusive Thoughts, Feelings, Re-experiencing
Symptoms that may manifest in someone who is re-experiencing a traumatic event, i.e.:

  • Intrusive thoughts or memories
  • Nightmares related to the traumatic event
  • Flashbacks-feeling like the event is happening again
  • Psychological and physical reactivity to reminders of the traumatic event, such as an anniversary

Avoidant symptoms
Avoidant symptoms describe ways that someone may try to avoid any memory of the event, and must include one of the following:

  • Avoiding thoughts or feelings connected to the traumatic event
  • Avoiding people or situations connected to the traumatic event

Negative alterations in mood or cognitions
This criterion is new, but captures many symptoms that have long been observed by PTSD sufferers and clinicians. It may manifest in a decline in someone’s mood or though patterns, which include:

  • Memory problems that are exclusive to the event
  • Negative thoughts or beliefs about one’s self or the world
  • Distorted sense of blame for one’s self or others, related to the event
  • Being stuck in severe emotions related to the trauma (e.g. horror, shame, sadness)
  • Severely reduced interest in pre-trauma activities
  • Feeling detached, isolated or disconnected from other people

Increased arousal symptoms
Increased arousal symptoms are used to describe the ways that the brain remains “on edge”, wary and watchful of further threats. Symptoms include the following:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability, increased temper or anger
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Hyper-vigilance
  • Being easily startled

Above symptoms must have lasted at least a month, seriously affect one’s ability to function and can’t be due to substance use, medical illness or anything except the event itself.

Subtype: Dissociation
Dissociation has now been set apart from above symptom clusters, and now its presence can be specified. While there are several types of dissociation, only two are included in the DSM:

  • Depersonalization, or feeling disconnected from oneself
  • De-realization, a sense that one’s surroundings aren’t real


Psychological criteria from DSM V as listed on VA website: 

Links to Articles on EFT and PTSD

Link to Veterans Stress Project using EFT/Tapping for PTSD

Significant reduction of PTSD in Vets with EFT, three part article:

Releasing Trauma with EFT

Rapid Treatment Of PTSD With Psychological Exposure And Tapping

Psychology Today-Treatments for PTSD with vets and others: 

Free booklet and CD: The Tapping Solution by Nick Ortner

PTSD and EFT: Two Case Studies 

Case Study #1

Paul was a tall, somewhat cautious man of approximately 54 years, who lived with his wife and their two dogs. Both of their children were living independently after graduating from college.

Paul came to try EFT initially at the behest of his wife. He presented with a somewhat “mild” desire to try to stop drinking, a decision that was fueled by his wife’s threats to leave him.

Paul divulged that his wife was “fed up with living with a man who was out drinking every night with friends; and when he was home, was rarely sober”. He said he knew he couldn’t argue with her comments, and though there was probably something wrong with this, he had never before had any desire to stop (drinking). Paul felt he took care of all the things that needed attention in the house, he had a lucrative career and he never yelled at his wife. Paul said that even though he knew his wife might leave him, he felt helpless to change his lifestyle.

According to Paul, after the children went to college, his wife voiced her interest in the two of them traveling for pleasure. Paul however wasn’t so interested, and though he didn’t use the word fear, he said he didn’t like flying at all. Paul said he enjoyed his life as it was, getting off work and hanging out with friends. He admitted that his social life had become more focused around drinking, and that what activities he did partake of, always included alcohol. Paul said he was sad that his wife didn’t join his social forays, as many of his friends got together as couples.

Paul and his wife had met in college. Both of them had attended the usual parties, drinking socially and having fun together. After graduation, Paul and his wife continued to enjoy the occasional party, even after the kids were born. They enjoyed relaxing over cocktails with friends in their community, and in Paul’s eyes they never considered drinking a problem. After getting pregnant the second time, Paul’s wife began to seek a healthier lifestyle, and as years went by she switched drinking for exercising. Not so for Paul, and although he considered himself in good health, as the years progressed, so did his drinking.

Tapping during the first session began with what was immediately present in the room, namely Paul’s fear of losing his wife, his home and connection to his children. Though he initially presented with the mild desire to get help to stop drinking, what was most powerful for him was a possible loss that felt unbearable.

After talking for a while, Paul’s fear and sadness was extremely high. His family he said was his rock and his anchor, without them he would surely “fall into an abyss”.

Having a place to begin to make words of his life situation and learn the tool of tapping, we were able to bring Paul’s fear and sadness intensity low enough for him to want to return the following week. Having this new tool to use during the week gave Paul a way to contain the sense of free-fall he was afraid of feeling when he was alone, particularly when sober, with the possibility of loss.

Paul agreed to be sober when he came in for his appointments.

For someone who self reportedly seldom discussed his inner life, Paul seemed eager to divulge his emotions as he spoke, and quickly found himself discussing some historical facts about his life.

During the third session Paul casually reported that he did not drive, and had in fact not driven for most of his adult life. He said he learned and drove briefly in high school because all the other boys learned, but that he later “lost interest”. He said he liked to take the bus into the city to work and usually got rides from friends if he went out. He laughed slightly when he said “at least he didn’t get DUIs”.

What I wasn’t aware of until later was Paul’s hyper-vigilance around his children learning to drive and his almost obsessive need, while they were living at home, to know where they were at any given time.

Upon further discussion about Paul’s (not) driving, I asked if he remembered when he “lost interest”.  Paul averted his eyes and said he didn’t really know. I sensed something was touched as he looked away, and indeed Paul said that he felt a bolt of anger and helplessness shoot through him when he thought of how to answer the question. Using PTSD and EFT, we tapped on the emotions Paul experienced around the possible timing of his loss of interest in driving. The anger quickly dissolved into fear and parts of a memory re-emerged of an auto accident when Paul was a young boy. His father was driving (drunk) and he was in the back of the car. No one else was with them.

To prevent Paul from becoming flooded with emotion, we paused the tapping and, using a technique that gives the client perspective from the incident, just tapped on the feelings and emotions that were present with the general incident. Once the charge on the whole story was released, we could then tap on the memory of the story, piece by piece. This is how PTSD and EFT works.

Paul saw me several times in the following two weeks and we cleared most of the emotions around the memory of the auto accident. We cleared the charge around sights, sounds, smells, and beliefs that he had created about himself and the world at the time of the trauma. The memory itself is not erased, merely the terrifying emotions that got locked in when the terrible shock happened. Once the trauma from the accident was cleared, what emerged was the loss of a father Paul had never really had. The loss of a man he had dreamed of every night but who was usually out and rarely came home sober.

After a couple more months of work, Paul broke through the silence he had created within himself, a silence of shame (about his father) and the constant underlying fear that he was, or would become just like him, unreliable and rarely sober. This is how PTSD works with EFT.

Over the months Paul appeared to inhabit more of himself, his energy bigger and his enthusiasm for life brighter. Paul remarked one day that he had begun going to a “Harm Reduction” support group to be around other people who wanted to find a way to live with less or no alcohol in their lives. He liked the camaraderie and as he felt less in common with his drinking friends, he was happy to find new people to hang out with who were seeking a new way to live.

After about 4 months, Paul and his wife planned their first international trip. We tapped on what was left of his old fear of flying and he and his wife enjoyed their first international trip together.

After he returned, Paul brought his wife in. She had already learned EFT in a workshop and knew the process well. They worked together briefly as a couple to heal some of the wounds from their marriage, learning better communication tools and deepening the love that had been buried under years of disappointment, resentment and fear.

Paul now has a better relationship with his children and he has even allowed them to talk him into getting back behind a wheel to drive again.

PTSD and EFT: Case Study #2

Amira, a 42 year-old woman came to see me for depression and irritability that she felt was destroying her relationships with her husband and two daughters. She also expressed that she was experiencing more and more of a sense of isolation from friends, and mostly kept to herself at work. Amira’s had her head lowered for most of the first session.

Amira had heard of EFT through the Mother of one of her daughter’s friends. She had previous experience with family therapy, and several years of individual therapy before seeking treatment with EFT. Amira felt that none of the prior therapies had helped and she was afraid to open up in case she felt out of control again and gave up. She said she didn’t want to feel disappointed yet again on top of everything else.

When I first met Amira she was very guarded. As we began to talk about her current life, she expressed concern about “losing it”, and said that she never knew if the “out of control” part of her might not come out and seize her words. Amira appeared to choose her words carefully and spoke particularly slowly. She closed her eyes when she spoke, as if to shut out any response I might have. Amira shared that she seldom, if ever, felt like she could relax because she never felt completely safe, even in her own home, which she had created with so much love and spent so much time in.

I asked Amira how long she had been experiencing her life this way. As she reflected she scrunched her eyes, and clenched her jaw. She said that she couldn’t remember a time when she truly felt safe. She also remarked that it felt dangerous to even express that.

The most immediate issue at hand was to address Amira’s present sense of safety in the room, what needed to be attended to and what resources she had available to ground herself should she ever dissociate or begin to feel out of control. This was the beginning of PTSD and eft healing.

Amira had as a young child frequented a wooded area near her home, somewhere that she could be alone or with friends, and that she associated with safety. Outside my office window was a wooded area that she said reminded her of “her woods” and she agreed to visually come back to this place, with my help if necessary, should she feel she was becoming overwhelmed or dissociated in a session.

Though tapping time was under 30 minutes during the first session, Amira quickly learned the points and a taste of how she was able to lessen the immediate emotional intensity around a thought or feeling. She now had a tool that would help her to feel a sense, if not yet of empowerment, then certainly influence. Something she could use as needed in her every day life.

After the third session, as we tapped on Amira’s feelings of safety in the moment, her immediate fear remained low enough to begin to clarify a timeline, if only hazy, of her life’s emotional course. Though clear memories were not yet emerging, the general sense of un-ease and fear began to take on a historical form.

For a couple of sessions work took the shape of tapping on feelings and emotions corresponding to particular ages or times. We worked slowly and gently, always resourcing and using the present moment as a stabilizing force. Mindfulness and perspective were crucial to meet what could easily become overwhelming emotions.

Slowly memories began to emerge, and even more care was taken to use techniques that both anchored Amira in the present, as well as releasing the physical/emotional/spiritual traumas from the past with tapping.

Amira had come to this country when she was about 7 years old. She was witness to monumental political events that she had no way of understanding or making sense of. In the violence outside her home and ensuing upheavals, she also lost her father. Amira’s mother collapsed emotionally after her husband’s death. As the only daughter, Amira fell in to keep the home and family together, as her Mother couldn’t cope.

The family remained in the country of Amira’s birth for several months after the initial violence. Disorder was prevalent, and the unfolding of social upheaval reigned. During the months following there was little to eat, and in the chaos Amira was raped twice as she went out to find food.

There was no one in the family with whom Amira could discuss her circumstances. Her Mother was too depressed, and her brothers she felt, would blame her for the acts. In fact, Amira herself had no idea how to explain what had happened to her, and consequently she buried the pain, both emotional and physical.

Like peeling the layers of an onion, as the intensity of Amira’s fear and un-ease became more manageable, her glimpses of possible safety (however brief) gave her the impetus to continue. Amira began to challenge her life-long beliefs that she’d developed to initially protect her, memories became more available to her, and she was able to address and tap on trauma’s she had suffered even before the political upheaval that surrounded her life at 7 years old.

Amira brought in a picture of herself as a young girl in the country of her birth and at times she tapped on that little girl from her adult self. A deeper and stronger connection with her younger self was slowly taking place. Opportunities to tap on more and more specific memories emerged, releasing blocked energy that held these “younger selves” captive.

As the layers unpeeled, it emerged that Amira had, long before the revolution, survived repetitive traumas that had occurred in her home, and had early on shaken the very ground on which she walked. Trauma that broke her trust in even those who were there to nurture her.

With gentleness, consistency and trust, Amira released more and more blocks. She was able to address and tap on more limiting beliefs that had been formed in the name of seeking protection. As blocks were released over the months through tapping, core beliefs and limitations that revealed themselves, became available for “updates” with the life that Amira is living in the present.

As evidenced here, tapping isn’t always a “2 minute wonder”.  With a multi-layered history such as Amira’s, thoroughness, consistency, curiosity, respect and trust (not speed) are of the essence.

Stabilization, resourcing and pacing have been an integral part of the work of PTSD and eft  in every step, and continue to guide the way as the tapping does its work.

Though the memories are not erased, today Amira has a sense that she has for the most part, a sense of control back in her life. She is no longer in constant fear that she will “lose control” or hurt the ones she so dearly loves. She is empowered in having created safe spaces in her beloved home and has learned ways to communicate her feelings and needs rather than lash out when she feels ill at ease.

Amira learned that her anger was and is not an emotion that makes her unacceptable.  Once upon a time it served a purpose of protecting more vulnerable emotions that were difficult or life threatening to show.

PTSD and EFT for Self-Healing

Today Amira has tapping as a tool she can use and shape into what she needs. She has developed language to communicate (first with herself) what she is feeling emotionally. Amira is feeling a deeper right to ask for what she wants and needs. She is not long in constant fear of losing control with her family, and though she still suffers periods of melancholy, she no longer hides from her friends or family. Amira enjoys her work more and through honesty and sharing has developed a deep, loving and communicative friendship with her daughters.