A local social worker guides her clients in a stress-release technique
By Amelia Blades Steward
Creating positive emotional states, achieving desired goals, and attaining higher states of health, well-being and resilience are what most people are wanting today in the stressful world in which we live. Many are finding balance through a psychological acupressure technique called Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), or commonly known as “tapping.”
Clinical social worker and therapist Gail Weissert, LCSW-C, DCSW, of GW Associates in Denton has been practicing the technique since 2008, helping clients with everything from general anxiety, phobias, stress, depression, and pain to helping individuals who have experienced a traumatic event. Since the pandemic when many mental health practitioners are using teletherapy, EFT is proving to be as effective virtually as it is in person.
“I call myself a student of the mind. The mind is so vast and infinite. I am in awe of it. I started learning with an amazing teacher, Michael Preston, PhD, author of the book, Hypnosis: Medicine of the Mind. He mentored me for over 15 years. This experience changed how I thought about therapy of any kind. If I didn’t know what to do about this or that — like a person had hives or was experiencing pain or wanted to stop smoking or lose weight — hypnosis could be effective,” Weissert states.
In about 2008, Weissert learned of the work of Gary Craig, one of the pioneers of the world of energy therapy and founder of EFT. The EFT technique can help people who have experienced some sort of emotional trauma that was compromising both their physical and emotional health. EFT can rapidly reduce the emotional impact of memories and incidents that trigger emotional distress.
“EFT is similar to hypnosis, although they will tell you it’s different because you are tapping on 13 endpoints of meridians in the acupuncture system, which they believe are portals into your subconscious mind,” Weissert explains.
Weissert shares that Craig, who was an engineer interested in human performance, streamlined and then expanded on the works of others. He simplified the model, assembling the endpoints of the meridians in a way most people could easily understand. The simple tapping process involves using the fingertips to input kinetic energy onto specific meridians on the head and chest while you think about your specific problem — whether it is a traumatic event or physical pain — and voice positive affirmations. The combination of tapping and voicing positive affirmations works to clear the “short-circuit” or emotional block from the body’s bioenergy system. This can help restore the mind and body’s balance, helping create optimal health and the healing of physical disease.
This form of psychological acupressure is based on the same energy meridians used in traditional acupuncture to treat physical and emotional ailments for over 5,000 years but without the invasiveness of needles. Over time the technique evolved to what they call the gold standard that is taught the most around the world. There are nearly 40 different variations of these different types of energy psychology type techniques today.
Of 400 forms of psychotherapy available today, most do not have research backing them. EFT is evidence-based and is in the top 10 percent of published research for efficacy with 114 studies that demonstrate clinical effectiveness, including MRI scans which show neural changes and drops in the stress hormone cortisol. High levels of cortisol are also associated with lowered immune function, which in turn can have significant and negative effects on our physical health.
“I am just the vehicle for the therapy. I love to see someone use it and get a positive result. It’s not so much what the event is that drives the effectiveness of EFT, but it is how someone is responding to the event in his or her body. I had a client who had a very tragic situation when her husband died suddenly and she had the responsibility for all of their children She was over the top with her anxiety, describing it as an elephant on her chest. She came out and worked with me and in one session that elephant on her chest went away,” Weissert shares.
“I’ve seen that type of thing over and over again when the physical manifestation goes away. With extreme stress, people have more body aches and more physical illnesses like fibromyalgia when they have experienced multiple traumas in childhood. With acute physical issues, I have helped people come down from a 10 on the pain scale to a seven or eight with EFT.”
What Weissert likes best about EFT is that it’s so quick to teach. It is the simplest, fastest way she knows to have people down-regulate when they are over the top with their emotions. She adds, “With hypnosis, you have to get people into deep relaxation first which takes 20 minutes to achieve. You can teach EFT in 10 minutes, however, some issues are more complex and can be related traumas. In that case, I will attempt to help my clients find that common thread and figure out what it might be, and then try to address those stories, reducing the intensity of the level of emotion for each part of each story. So that’s the advanced application of EFT and how it can be used for more complicated things like PTSD.”
Another story Weissert shares was using EFT for a client working on weight loss. She went and bought a brownie from the deli by her office. She and the client wanted to see how EFT would work with helping them resist eating the brownie. The client said she was a 10 on a scale of zero to 10 for wanting the brownie and Weissert said she was an eight. Both of them tapped, round after round after round. When they were finished, they opened the saran wrap surrounding the brownie and neither of them could smell the brownie.
“Some people don’t want fancy tricks — they want to be listened to, and they want to be guided to what seems like a hopeful outcome. So, I kind of combine EFT with talk therapy,” she adds.
Weissert herself used EFT when her house burned down on the property where she has her business. She had to look at the charred remains of the house for eight months out her office window. She had guilt, anger, and resentment and used EFT to cope with her emotions.
“I knew I had to let them go because those resentments were only trapping me,” she reflects.
EFT is often used to change negative feelings, reduce distressing and/or self-limiting thoughts, alter repetitive unwanted behaviors, and is even effective for working with and resolving traumatic memories. Conditions that have been studied using EFT for treatment include general anxiety, test anxiety, phobias, obsessive-compulsion disorder, PTSD, general trauma, stress, depression, addiction, pain including fibromyalgia syndrome, tension headaches, frozen shoulder, psoriasis, insomnia, seizure disorders, sports/athletic performance, learning disabilities/educational challenges, epigenetic and physiological functioning and general psychological functioning.
More recently, the United Kingdom has acknowledged that EFT research met their inclusion criteria for PTSD treatment and may be a treatment choice for military combat trauma. The U.S. Veterans Administration also approved EFT as a “generally safe therapy.”
In addition to EFT, Weissert has recorded several meditations on the app Insight Timer to help people figure out what change they want to create for themselves. She has over 2000 followers on the app and often has her clients use recordings along with their therapy.
For further information on EFT, visit eftuniverse.com. For more information about Gail Weissert’s offerings, visit gweissert.com.