As we’ve mentioned before, ten percent of us suffer from extreme depression, and up to 30 percent live with extreme anxiety. That’s good news, of course, for pharmaceutical companies with their smorgasbord of drugs to happy us up and calm us down. But for the downbeat and stressed out, it’s mighty bad news, particularly for those who would rather not take drugs. Then again, as we’ve mentioned many times before, there are herbal remedies and simple things that help such as: exercising, eating well, and so on. And then, there’s psychotherapy.
To be sure, studies show that three times as many patients prefer drugs over therapy to ease their anxiety or depression, and yet, psychotherapy often is more effective for alleviating psychological distress, particularly for those with a history of childhood trauma..1 Whitbourne, Susan Krauss, Ph.D. “Psychotherapy vs. Medications: The Verdict is In.” 21 July 2015. Psychology Today. 7 July 2015. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201507/psychotherapy-vs-medications-the-verdict-is-in2 Friedman, Richard A., M.D. “To Treat Depression: Drugs or Therapy?” 8 January 2015. The New York Times. 7 July 2017. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/01/08/to-treat-depression-drugs-or-therapy/ Patients want the quick fix, and they hope that swallowing a capsule will deliver it. Psychotherapy seems so messy, so embarrassing, so complicated compared to the demure ease of popping a pill—as long as you don’t factor in the side effects of the drugs. Plus, traditional psychotherapy can take years.
On the other hand, some psychotherapists have stepped out of the traditional talk-only therapy mold and are using alternative techniques based on “energy psychology.” These methods work by employing somatic [physical as opposed to mental] responses in the body and brain to resolve psychological disturbances, instead of relying solely on cognitive processing. They purportedly speed up the healing process, reducing healing time from years to mere months, and often resolve trauma that won’t respond to other approaches.
The idea behind energy psychologies is that when we experience trauma, we tend to “freeze” the distressing incidents in our brains instead of processing them. In other words, the distress gets stuck inside of our psyche and we experience continuing distress, particularly if anything vaguely similar happens again. Energy psychology methods allow the brain to form new associations to the troublesome event.3http://emdria.site-ym.com/?119
There are a handful of energy psychology techniques used by therapists, but these are the three biggies:
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
EMDR is the most common of the energy psychology techniques used by therapists, with over 100,000 licensed practitioners. It’s been tested extensively, particularly for PTSD, with overwhelmingly positive results. A Kaiser Permanente study found that 100% of patients who had experienced a single-trauma and 77% of those who had suffered multiple traumas resolved their symptoms after only six 50-minute sessions. In another study, 77% of combat veterans were free of PTSD in 12 sessions.4 “Frequent Questions.” EMDR Institute. http://www.emdr.com/frequent-questions/
But you don’t need to have full-blown PTSD to benefit from EMDR. The method works on traumas large and small, including things such as having been subject to an overly critical mother, or finding out you’ve been cheated on.
EMDR clients typically meet with the therapist for a few sessions before starting treatment so the clinician can get an overview of client challenges. In that process, the most traumatic memories are identified. According to the EMDR Institute website, “When the clinician has determined which memory to target first, he asks the client to hold different aspects of that event or thought in mind and to use his eyes to track the therapist’s hand as it moves back and forth across the client’s field of vision.” In other words, a session sort of looks like a parody of a hypnotist waving a finger while telling a patient, “You are getting sleepy.”
In reality, EMDR therapists don’t always wave fingers. Sometimes they use wands or machines that flash alternating lights, or they ask patients to tap alternate knees or even look at dots on the wall. The main idea is that the client’s visual attention needs to move from right to left and back again.
The EMDR Institute website explains, “As [the client follows the movement], for reasons believed by a Harvard researcher to be connected with the biological mechanisms involved in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, internal associations arise and the clients begin to process the memory and disturbing feelings. In successful EMDR therapy, the meaning of painful events is transformed on an emotional level.”5 http://www.emdr.com/what-is-emdr/
In other words, two things happen during EMDR. Somehow the eye movements unlock early memories that associate to current traumas and that need clearing, and they also put the brain into a relaxed, receptive state similar to that experienced during REM sleep. The combination allows healing to occur with the help of a skilled therapist. Even the experts don’t exactly understand why the process works as it does, but again, science backs up the fact that it’s incredibly effective.
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
Otherwise known as “tapping,” EFT also works to reduce trauma. In contrast to EMDR, which is nearly always done under a therapist’s guidance, patients can learn to self-administer EFT.
EFT patients activate their own acupuncture meridians by tapping on them with a few fingers while they work through their psychological challenges.6 http://www.healing-with-eft.com/ According to EFT founder Gary Craig, “The cause of all negative emotions is a disruption in the body’s energy system.” Craig believes that by tapping on specific energy meridians along a pathway in the body while holding disturbed feelings, trapped negative energy can be released and healing can transpire.7http://www.tappingsolutionfoundation.org/howdoesitwork/
If you want help from EFT, you start by rubbing a meridian on your chest related to your lymphatic system, while saying something like, “Even though my boss passed me over for a promotion, I still love myself and know I’m competent.” Then, you identify the emotion the situation evokes for you. Let’s say you realize you’re angry. You’d say, “Angry,” while tapping the top of your head with both hands five to seven times, and continue on to the next meridians, tapping about eight more points, including five on your face, and moving down your body.8 “EFT Tapping Points.” The Energy Therapy Center. 8 July 2017. http://www.theenergytherapycentre.co.uk/tapping-points.htm If you notice a change in emotion while tapping—if the anger turns to sadness, for instance—you say the new feeling and continue. Then you repeat the sequence several more times, until your distress markedly diminishes.
Obviously, this is a very simplified explanation of how the process works, but you can find lots of information and even guided sessions on the internet to help you try it for yourself.9 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DAJXvRpImFM
Tapas Acupressure Technique (TAT)
TAT is similar to EFT in that it uses acupressure points and also can be self-administered, but it doesn’t require users to re-experience the trauma as they do a session. In TAT, you place your hands along several acupressure meridians on your head and hold them there while running through a series of statements. Let’s say you’re suffering because your kid cursed you out. Instead of recalling the incident in detail, you’d simply acknowledge it happened and say, “The incident with Johnny happened,” while holding the designated points on your head for about two minutes. Then, you’d move to step two, saying “It happened, it’s over, I’m okay, and I can let it go now.” Again, you hold the position for about two minutes during this process. The third step would be, “All the places in my mind, body, and life where this is stored are healing now.”
The process continues in the same way, through a series of resolution, forgiveness and reintegration statements, all repeated while holding the TAT posture. Advocates point to the advantages of holding a simple position and of achieving results without having to get re-traumatized in the process. As with EFT, this is a simplified explanation. For more detail and instructional materials, go to the TAT website.
There is a role for pharmaceutical drugs when dealing with depression, anxiety, and mental trauma, but almost never should it be the first option exercised. Less damaging options are available. Along with herbs, nutraceuticals, and exercise that are proven to work with anxiety and depression, if you want something other than traditional psychotherapy, you might want to consider giving “energy psychology” a try. For more information about natural herbal remedies for anxiety and depression, read Jon Barron’s Special Report: “Herbal Remedies For Stress and Depression.”
|↑1||Whitbourne, Susan Krauss, Ph.D. “Psychotherapy vs. Medications: The Verdict is In.” 21 July 2015. Psychology Today. 7 July 2015. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201507/psychotherapy-vs-medications-the-verdict-is-in|
|↑2||Friedman, Richard A., M.D. “To Treat Depression: Drugs or Therapy?” 8 January 2015. The New York Times. 7 July 2017. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/01/08/to-treat-depression-drugs-or-therapy/|
|↑4||“Frequent Questions.” EMDR Institute. http://www.emdr.com/frequent-questions/|
|↑8||“EFT Tapping Points.” The Energy Therapy Center. 8 July 2017. http://www.theenergytherapycentre.co.uk/tapping-points.htm|