Preparing for the EFT Certification Application

Ok, guys, the time has come for me to start preparing for sending in my EFT Certification Application … which has some Implications … and Complications … and Obligations … (you’re welcome). I’m not sending it in yet, I’m just compiling everything. I figure it will be another few weeks before I am able to mail it off.

I waited until I felt I had my two tapes before even looking at the list of requirements. Mistake. As I’m doing this, I wish I had researched the application requirements before I felt ready to submit, because there are some items that take a little time and others that help clarify what pieces of tape they are looking for.

1) Finding what to submit and how isn’t intuitive from the ICEEFT website. I ended up calling the office there to get help (and they were very nice). Here is a link to the Application Checklist. Some of the materials you need are on the non-member ICEEFT website, and some are only in the member area.

As you can see, you need copies of your diploma, transcripts, and proof of membership in an organization other than EFT. Some of those things need to be ordered or signed up for and aren’t just automatically on hand.

Some other items, like the summary of previous clinical experience, can be written up before having the tapes.

2) I didn’t realize you need a total of four, FOUR, letters of reference. One from your supervisor, and three from colleagues. This might be something to think about in advance, so you’re being intentional about who you’re asking and can ask for them ahead of time since it takes time for people to write them.

3) I wish I had ordered an encrypted hard drive earlier. Because I still haven’t. Because I’m procrastinating. You need to send your tapes on an encrypted hard drive. I’m just going to include a note with my phone and email and ask the reviewer to contact me when they’re ready for the password. You won’t get it back, so kiss that fancy hard drive goodbye.

4) I wish I understood better what they are looking for in the tapes. I felt like I was running around asking everyone what the tapes should look like. With Stage 2, it sounds like they are looking for a couple to be de-escalated, and to be able to take in at least some of their partner’s vulnerability. I wish Stage 2 tapes weren’t so hard to get, but to me that seemed like the silver unicorn, always out of reach. I almost cried at my desk last week feeling like I was never going to get a good Stage 2 tape, and went down a hole of feeling like a crap EFT therapist. It’s not easy.

5) You need your couple(s) to sign a specific ICEEFT permission form for their tape to be submitted in this application. I wish I had my couples sign that up front, since now I may have tape they’ve given me permission for taping for supervision, but I can’t know if they’ll give me permission for having ICEEFT review it - thus, anxiety. And scrambling. I wish I had just had all my couples sign this alongside the other permission sheet I have them sign for recording. Then it’s all done and I can send in a tape whenever I have it.

You might wonder why I’m telling you all about this now, before I know if my application was good enough. Well, if it’s not, then I think that would be good information to share. This is all a learning process, if I live or die by this thing I won’t be able to handle it. So I’d rather go about this the way I usually do, transparently, so we can all learn something together.

(but please say a good thought/prayer for me)

Processing The Block

 As a therapist using EFT, a lot of what’s going through my mind in any given session is what do I catch and stay with, and what do I let pass by me? A lot of content is easy to let pass by, but sometimes I find myself brushing past places I need to slow down and really unpack.

Sometimes when I’ve been with clients for a long time, I can get muddled about this, because I’ve heard so many things repeatedly. Sometimes a bullet and View of Other and the Action Tendency are all mushed together in a comment, and I can brush by when I’ve heard that bullet 100 times. Also, I can get caught in assumption land, where I’m thinking to myself, “of course they can’t believe their partner, it’s still too early in the work …” and I don’t stay and understand what is actually blocking the important message from their partner that deep down they longing to hear. 

My supervisor helped me understand the importance of slowing down, and really processing The Block. When someone isn’t able to take in what their partner is saying, what is happening in that block? And here is where going into detail about what words mean for clients, instead of me assuming, is invaluable. I might try to say things like:

Let’s stay here a moment, when he tells you how much he wants to be helping you with this, what happens?

What about this is so hard to take in, or believe?

That makes so much sense, right now it feels impossible to believe those words (validating is key so the client doesn’t feel like you’re questioning them about what’s wrong with them that they don’t just believe their partner)

Reflecting attachment: It’s so hard to believe that they really do want to be in this with you, after all the other messages you’ve received?

Is it hard to trust you are that important to them, that they want to be working on this with you?

 So happens inside when you don’t believe them, what is the feeling right now when you can’t believe what they say?

What does that feeling make you do, then?

And that’s how I’d set up the enactment, linking the action tendency to all of this:

Can you share with them, it is so hard, right now I can’t trust that I’m really that important to you. It’s really hard to believe that, and so I do put my shields up and block you out, because I don’t think you really mean it.

And with this, we’re making it more explicit and more clear – here is the impasse right now. It is too hard to trust right now, and that’s totally ok. We’re just sending a clearer message than what happens in the cycle at home, which is probably more like, “Why won’t you talk to me?” “Because you’re a jackass!”

Can you imagine how impactful it would be in de-escalating the cycle, if in that moment at home someone could say, even from secondary emotion: “I can’t talk to you, I can’t trust that you care about me at all. It’s too hard right now.” Their partner would actually understand what they are feeling so much clearer in that moment.

So much of what I’m learning now involves just making things clearer. That really, we have much more emotional bandwidth to stay in certain tough places with our partners when those places are clear.

The Mystery Hurricane of Stage 2

I write to you this morning sitting at my kitchen island, watching the wind sway the trees in my yard. Since I’m in Charlotte, NC, we’ve been on hurricane watch with Florence since Wednesday. And basically no one knows what to prepare for, how intense it will get, or how long it will last.

This makes me think a lot about Stage 2! I feel like the question I ask my wonderful and very patient supervisor Felicia every other week is, “What is Stage 2? What am I really doing in Stage 2?” And she answers with kindness and understanding, and I listen and nod sagely. Yes, I say, that makes sense. Then I leave and immediately forget everything she said.

I don’t forget because I’m not listening, I forget because it still feels so unfamiliar to me that there isn’t much sticking power up there. I really do feel like I understand the Pursuer softening, the reach out of fear, the leap off the cliff. For some reason, heightening and reaching from their fear makes more sense to me than the Withdrawer Re-Engagement, possibly because I’m a Pursuer. But darn, I cannot get a handle on what the Withdrawer Re-Engagement looks like. How deep into their emotions are we taking them? How do I take them that deep? How does it feel when we’ve hit the right level of emotional resonance? Am I trying to get them to evoke anger? Am I trying to get them to evoke sadness or fear? How should the reach for what they need sound like? What is the concept behind this, what level of emotional showing-up am I looking for?

There are definitely the conceptual pieces I want more clarity on, but really it’s the experiential in-the-room counseling I need more help with. How do I DO this?

In Lorrie Brubacher’s remarkable book, Stepping into Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy, she describes Stage 2 so clearly and beautifully (starting on page 135). She helps me understand more of how to conceptualize what’s happening for each partner, and what to look out for. She gives us a helpful road map for possible reactions, fears, and needs to look out for depending on how the client presents.

Even with this, I feel the need to watch Stage 2 to really get a sense of it. I need to see a therapist doing Stage 2, and how they are tracking with the clients to evoke their emotions. That’s why I’m re-taking the Stage 2 training with Jennifer Older and Kathryn Rheem (starting Oct. 3). I already took it! I already saw this! But I need so much more repetition for my brain to absorb what I’m doing with Withdrawer Re-Engagement.

Deep down, I also have the fear that maybe I’m not ready to go into that emotional space with my clients. In grad school, I was taught over and over - you can’t take a client where you won’t go yourself. I admit, I am scared to go into some of these deep pools of emotion that clients may never, ever have touched into for themselves. I get scared of how big the emotion could get, and if I can contain it with them. Will I help them fundamentally restructure their bond? Or just bring way too much scary, messy emotion alive without their partner catching them?

That’s why I seek out training, supervision, and reading over and over and over. I need the masters to help me jump off the cliff, to reach out from my own fear that exists in my therapy, and take the risk that there is growth and love on the other side of that leap. So really, Jennifer Olden, Kathryn Rheem, Lorrie Brubacher, and Felicia Friesen are all helping me track, heighten, and risk over and over until I can take the biggest leap with my clients, and have my own fundamental change event inside myself. Aren’t we lucky to have these masters who wait on the other side of the cliff, arms outstretched, encouraging us, with their loving and knowing empathy?

Mental OCD

I’ve wanted to write something about mental OCD for a long time now, because it's really not talked about much in our society and it can be really torturous for the person experiencing the mental OCD. The treatment is also really different than regular therapeutic treatment, so it's vitally important someone goes to a specialist, or the problem can get worse. As therapists, we can easily fall into a trap of reinforcing the OCD, which I’ll go into later on. At the end of this post I’ll provide some helpful resources for mental OCD in particular.

Ok, so think of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as a branch on the tree of Anxiety. There are two types of OCD, mental and physical. Most people are familiar with physical OCD - when a thought comes in (the "obsession") and the action ("compulsion") is physical. So a classic example is the obsession being, "germs are everywhere," and the compulsion is, "I have to wash my hands."

The obsession/thought is SUPER powerful with OCD. It's called an "intrusive thought". So take someone with a non-anxious brain. That person might come home from the park and think, "my hands are germy." It's a natural and healthy response to wash them as the solution. The OCD mind says, "my hands are germy," and washes them, but then the thought intrudes again. Maybe my hands are still germy. Am I sure I got all the germs off? Can I really be sure? So the compulsion to wash them over and over begins.

Mental OCD is much trickier, and the thoughts can be so difficult that very few people ever even tell their therapists about them. Mental OCD is nuanced; there are some thoughts that exist in distinct categories (health, sexual, religious) but some that are more random than that. The main root of mental OCD is that the person is terrified they are capable of something bad or harmful to others, or something that would make them repulsive to others. As with all anxiety, the fear is rooted in loss. What horrible thing about me would cause me to lose relationship/connection to others? The great OCD therapist Jill Garman shared this quote in a training: “Our fears are like dragons, guarding our most precious treasures," - Ranier Maria Rilke.

The OCD specialist Martin Sief would say, your mind has a ton of weird thoughts. Someone with OCD will have an odd thought, and then the mind wakes up and says - Wait a minute, what? You just thought about swearing in church? What is wrong with you? Oh my God, what if you did that? Wait, you had the thought, maybe that means you WILL do that. Maybe you're a bad person. Maybe you can't control yourself and how bad you are.

Or you’ll see a friend’s picture of their naked kid on instagram and you might feel a little uncomfortable. Your thought might just be – "huh, unusual". But then the OCD dragon wakes up and says, wait, why are you thinking of a kid being naked? Are you turned on? Are you attracted to that? What’s wrong with you for thinking that way? Are you messed up? 

Some common intrusive thoughts are:

Maybe I’m attracted to people of my own sex, and I’m gay

Maybe I’m attracted to children and a pedophile

Maybe I could give someone I care about herpes or another disease

Maybe I would hurt my partner, like stab or poison them

Maybe I would hurt my child

Maybe I would say a racial slur or something similarly awful to someone or in a house of worship

With mental OCD, the thought is usually so repellent to the person, they wouldn’t tell anyone about it. Can you imagine telling someone you’re scared you could be a pedophile? Or that you would hurt your child? And an untrained professional, who doesn’t know about this, could do some serious harm here.

The compulsion part of mental OCD is unique. Unlike washing hands, or checking to see if the door is locked multiple times, they “check” with their thoughts. So someone might “check” about the thought they are gay by thinking about people of their own sex, and thinking, wait, am I turned on by that? Am I having any physical change about that? Could I be gay? 

Or someone might check against past behaviors, “I’ve never hurt someone before, right? I’ve never stabbed anyone before, so why do I fear doing that right now?”

These reassurances provide only temporary relief, just like washing hands only provides temporary relief. This is where therapists can really go wrong.The therapist, coming from a good place, hears something they don’t think is true and reassures. “Suzy, I’ve known you for 3 years, you are not going to put your baby in the oven.” Suzy feels some temporary relief. “My therapist, an expert and someone who knows me, is reassuring me!” But that relief will only be temporary.

As you’re reading this, you might be thinking that someone fearing that they’re gay could mean they actually are gay. I have counseled both people who are trying to figure out their sexuality and fear family/societal rejection, and people who fear they are gay from their OCD. They are distinctly different. I can write more about this distinction later, or feel free to contact me if you want more information!

 What breaks my heart about OCD is that it seems to manifest the most in such careful, conscientious people. Jill Garman described typical features of someone who suffers from OCD as:

Perfectionistic

People-pleasers

Self-critical

Agreeable and well-meaning

Struggles to tolerate uncertainty

I want to emphasize the “struggles to tolerate uncertainty” because I think it’s particularly important. My favorite analogy for OCD comes from the old Jim Carrey movie, Dumb and Dumber (see video). The idea that there’s a chance that someone could harm someone, give someone a disease, have a disease themselves, even if it’s 1 out of a million, will cause enormous distress. So a lot of the therapy is accepting uncertainty, as painful as that is.

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For people who want resources for OCD, and mental OCD in particular, these are the best resources I’ve found:

Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts by Sally Winston and Martin Seif

S.T.O.P Obsessing, by Edna Foa and Reid Wilson

www.drmartinseif.com- he has a fantastic newsletter

Find a therapist who is specialized in OCD: https://iocdf.org

Looking Unaffected IS the Action Tendency

I was listening to one of Anabelle Bugatti’s awesome We Heart Therapy videos, and she was talking about when she’s working with a Withdrawer who is “really deep in the back of the cave” with their emotions and affect. And they appear very self-sufficient, not even needing much connection.

So many Withdrawers do have access to their internal worlds, and as Anabelle said, we just need to scratch beneath the surface a little bring that out. But for some, it can feel like they are absolutely blocked from their emotions and their internal experience.

In these more rare instances, my mistake has been to try to evoke more vulnerability from their partner in session, to try to get the Withdrawer to feel moved. And, if I’m being honest, to try and get the Withdrawer to see how serious this is. I’m sometimes thinking, “If you don’t wake the f-up right now, this person will leave you!”

Debi Scimeca-Diaz named this beautifully in this video, saying, “We (the therapist) see this beautiful vulnerability and think their partner will love this – how could you not?” But the reality is that they are still caught in this confusing cycle, it’s not reading to them the same way it’s reading to us.

When I see a partner's pain and vulnerability seem like it doesn't affect their partner, I can feel SO stuck. It's so counter to how I operate that I can genuinely start to believe all the bad things in the cycle, too - this person doesn't have feelings, this person doesn't care anymore. It takes a lot of reminding myself that this IS the cycle, that when the Withdrawer sees their partner's pain, they are having an automatic reaction that doesn't look great.

Luckily, my amazing supervisor Felicia helped me see that I can name the, “looking fine, staying neutral," as the actual action tendency. 

So in Step 2 it might sound like me reflecting:

Me: So right now, when you’re hearing Jane get upset at how bad she feels the relationship is, what happens for you?

Withdrawer: I don’t know, I just don’t think it’s that bad. I just think it’s a rough patch.

Me: So if I’m following you right, you tell yourself, “This isn’t so bad, things aren’t as bad as she thinks, we’re ok,” is that right?

Withdrawer: Yeah, I just think she’s being dramatic.

Me: Mmmm, it doesn’t really make sense to you why the woman you love is so upset? It’s kind of confusing?

Withdrawer: Yeah, I just don’t think it’s that bad.

Me: So when you see Jane get upset about not feeling as connected to you, you kind of think, “hey, this isn’t that bad, we're ok,” and then what do you automatically do next?

Withdrawer: I just don’t feel that upset, I try to change the subject, move on.

Me: You don’t feel so upset, and you show her, I’m ok , I’m fine? Trying to get her to be fine, too?

Withdrawer: Yeah, I want her to see we’re not that bad, so I just try to move on.

Me: Mmmhmm, so you kind of show her, I’m not so affected by this? You show her, I’m not upset? And a little underneath that is trying to get her to see things as not so bad?

Withdrawer: Yeah

Me: Can you share this with her? It’s true, I look unaffected when you’re upset, I look fine, I’m trying to show you things aren’t so bad?

In an ideal world, I’d be unpacking more, repeating things more, but I often find with my really closed off Withdrawers that this process feels quite intense for them. In the beginning (and by beginning, I mean like the first 6 months, sometimes), I try not to flood them with staying too long in the interpersonal if I feel like they can’t handle it. 

What my eventual goal would be is to help them see their “looking unaffected” as the action tendency, and the very thing that confirms the message to their partner that they (the Pursuer) is the only one who cares, and is hurting in the cycle.  It’s sometimes hard to catch the attachment frame with Withdrawers, so here I’d be trying to tie that action tendency to not wanting their partner to be so upset. It’s hard when what we have to start with is, “She’s crazy! Everything’s fine, she’s just making a mountain out of a molehill.” Doesn’t sound like much attachment in there, right? But I try to tease out what might be motivating this person’s action tendency, with the idea that they don’t actually want to lose this relationship. 

It helped me so much to think of the "looking unaffected" AS the action tendency, I hope this is helpful for you, too!