The Emotional Freedom Techniques
It worked for me, and it can work for you.
I lost eleven brothers on my first deployment alone. Their initials are tattooed on the inside of my left forearm in memorial. I will never forget them. But I will not let their loss cripple me emotionally for life, either.
If you are at all like me, your first thought – if you are even aware of EFT to begin with – is that this stuff is a bunch of BS. How the hell can tapping on your face and hands alleviate PTSD? But I was wrong, and found this program to be far more effective – and less emotionally invasive – than anything else I have tried for combatting PTSD.
When I got out of the Army and moved back to Oregon in late 2010, I planned to take some time to clear my head. I wanted to avoid responsibility, and I sure as hell didn’t want anyone telling me what to do. I was glad to be free of the overly-structured military life.
Six months later, I could barely leave the house. Nearly all of my personal relationships were strained – or worse. And I had almost zero interest in anything but wallowing in my own self-pity. At the urging of my family, I finally sought treatment at the VA in the spring of 2011.
I started a six-month traditional PTSD therapy program at the Vancouver outpatient clinic (part of the Portland VA Medical Center system). To track my progress, my therapist had me complete a PTSD Checklist-Military (PCL-M) at the start of every other session.
The PCL-M asks the veteran to rate the severity and/or prevalence of 17 different PTSD symptoms on a scale from 1 (Not at all) to 5 (Extremely). Answering “not at all” to each question would produce a final score of 17, while answering “extremely” to each question would produce a final score of 85. A score of 50 or higher is the field’s accepted cutoff for a veteran having PTSD.
My first PCL-M score was in the mid-70s. When I finished the VA program in the fall of 2011, I was in the low 40s, below the threshold. Outstanding improvement to be sure, but it didn’t stick. Within a few months, many of the symptoms had returned.
My emotional condition continued to deteriorate throughout 2012. I had dismissed Viking Vets emails about the Emotional Freedom Technique for months, immediately deleting each without even a cursory glance. Around Thanksgiving 2012, I finally relented – again at the urging of my family – and set up an appointment. I decided to complete a six-session (one per week, or more spaced out if you prefer) treatment program.
My EFT provider, like the VA, had me complete a PCL-M prior to the first session, after the third and sixth (final) sessions, as well as 90 and 180 days after completing the program. Here is how I looked:
Before session #1: 54. While not considered extreme PTSD, it is certainly above the cutoff.
After session #3: 35. This was only two weeks after the first session.
After session #6: 27. This was HALF the score of when I started the program, but the progress is even more substantial considering my final score was only ten points above the rock-bottom minimum one can score on the PCL-M.
90-day Follow-Up: 32
180-day Follow-Up: 32 (no change!). I have not had a single nightmare or involuntary reaction (i.e., jumping at a loud noise or breathing hard when remembering a stressful experience downrange, etc.) in almost a year. While I will always remember the men who died and the moments when they did, my emotions no longer control me.
I have attached the Veterans Stress Project brochure which offers no cost EFT to veterans and contains testimonials and symptom improvement information from veterans who have utilized the program. It also contains contact info for local EFT providers.
If you would rather not meet with an EFT provider in person, they can also conduct sessions via Skype. Or, if you’d rather not interact with a provider at all, there are pre-made videos on the internet that can guide you through a session. They are cheesy, but effective. Here are a few:
Battling Anxiety: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ToGCnIcaC9o
Battling Sadness: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NU7FJFEhd84
A simple search of YouTube for “Battletap” produces these and several others, for emotions such as stress, shame, insomnia, and fear. I strongly recommend trying one for yourself. If you feel like a video has helped, even a little, I further encourage you to visit http://www.battletap.org, where you can create a personal account and complete customized sessions.
I also recommend checking out the Veterans Stress Project website at http://stressproject.org/
What do you have to lose? Give it a shot!
Former President, Viking Vets
Iraq Nov ’06-Feb ’08; Afghanistan May ’09-June ‘10