EFT Master Trainer Ann Adams teaches practitioners that our first responsibility is to help our client feel safe. We know, from the work of Bessel Van Der Kolk, Stephen Porges and others in Interpersonal Neurobiology that no significant growth or learning happens in the absence of feeling safe.
Some aspects of safety are easy to understand. Does your environment help clients feel comfortable and relaxed? Is your own manner, such as pacing and tone of voice, calming and inviting? Do you conduct a session in a way that creates a feeling of structure and order?
Other aspects are more subtle. A client who likes to please may not tell you if something about the session is making her or him uncomfortable. Even clients with whom we have rapport may worry about our judgment of them. So it’s our job to watch for clues.
I had one such clue recently in a session with a regular client. She was angry toward a certain popular set of spiritual teachings with which she had negative associations.
Just before she started to let go, she caught herself and asked me, "You're not a student of [X teaching], are you? Because I'm kind of mad at it right now."
I could have just said no, since I'm not--but it gave me this wonderful opportunity to give my client confidence about the EFT relationship.
Why did I do this? Because her question told me that she had concerns about offending me, or about my judgment of her attitude toward these teachings. In other words, at that moment her attention was on me and how I was feeling, not on herself and exploring how she was feeling.
She’s a kind person, so of course she doesn’t want to give offense. However, this can also be a clue that she didn’t feel safe to express her feelings in case they conflicted with mine.
No matter what I believed, I also knew that this moment was not about passing judgment on the spiritual teachings. This moment was about her reactions to them, based on past experiences she had.
I told her, "This is your time. My job here is to hold the space for you to do your work safely. You don't have to worry about my opinions, because it's up to me to keep them out of the session. I am completely open to where you are so you can release what you need to release, no matter what I personally believe."
Now, it’s very crucial that this be true. If we do have strong judgments about a client’s situation, or any feeling of disapproval about what they tell us, we should seriously consider referring that client on to another practitioner. Of course we have our opinions, but if we can’t suspend feelings of disapproval, we can’t be an effective practitioner for this person.
This work is so intimate, of necessity, that boundaries can easily blur. Our clients can often feel they need to take care of our feelings and modify their own, as if we were friends or family or colleagues. It's our job to make sure they understand they don't have to do that, and I got a beautiful chance to make that clear.
She ended the session by successfully releasing her anger and deciding she would seek out a friend who is a student of those teachings, who she felt could give her a more balanced view.
She subsequently reported to me that she’d done that, and had a good conversation about the teachings. And when I asked for her permission to share this story, she gave me the highest compliment possible: “I trust you completely.”
Ange Dickson Finn is an AAMET Accredited Certified EFT Advanced Practitioner. She is based in Houston, Texas, USA, and works with clients over the phone and via Skype. Ange has helped clients with issues including physical pain, health and well-being, work-related stress, equestrian sports and relationships. Visit her on the web at www.TapIntoYourself.com or www.RideWithoutFear.com.
From the EFTfree Archives, which are now a part of AAMET International.
Originally published Oct 4, 2015.