Help! My client is bringing up all these different things at the same time and I don’t know what to do next

Increasing your effectiveness with EFT, part 11.

A common fear for EFT practitioners (that I used to have myself) is that something might happen during the session and we might not know what to do next. One of these scenarios could be when your client starts bringing up all kinds of different things at the same time, for example something along the lines of: “I notice this pattern with my husband, but also this other pattern at work, and this other pattern in my relationship with my kids”. And when you hear all this you are not sure how to come up with a specific event. 

Yes, we usually want to tap on specific events or triggers, but we also want the session to flow. And one thing that can help with that is the tapping itself. So here are some tips for when you are in a session and you find yourself thinking: “Oh my God, my client is bringing up all these different things at once, and I don’t know what to do next!”.

Now, there are several options, and I want to emphasize the third one: 

If you notice that your client’s nervous system is becoming clearly dysregulated (for example, they are flooding with very high emotional intensity) you can then use Orienting EFT, which I discussed in Part 10 of these series.

However, if you have a sense that your client’s nervous system is regulated, meaning, they can talk with you without feeling overly uncomfortable/overwhelmed by what they are saying, one possibility is to ask them to choose one of the things they said, and to come up with an example of that (in other words, a specific event). For instance, you might ask them: “when is the next time you imagine that might happen?”. This is certainly something you could try, but sometimes what I notice is that if we try too hard to come up with a specific event, it can disrupt the flow of the session and it feels kind of like a forced or rigid approach. It’s like we are not meeting our client where they are at. So there’s another approach that I find myself using frequently, which is the following option.

The third option is that you can ask them: “when you think about everything that you just told me, what feeling, emotion or sensation do you notice coming up for you now?”, “And do you feel that anywhere in your body?”. Once they reply with some kind of emotion, sensation or feeling (even if the feeling is “I feel like I’m a failure”), you can then ask them: “And out of everything you were just telling me, what part of that is your mind focusing on the most that makes you feel that way?”. So then, even if they reply with a global statement, you could still tap on: “Even though when I think about the phrase… (fill in the blanks), I feel this… (fill in the blanks with a feeling, sensation or emotion) in my… (fill in the blanks with wherever they are feeling that in their body, if anywhere), I accept that’s what I’m feeling right now”. 

2 other useful questions for the scenario above could be: “Do you notice any particular mental image or phrase when you think about that?”. “And when you think about that mental image/phrase, what feeling, emotion or sensation do you notice coming up for you now?”. 

These are ways to get more specific without losing rapport (which sometimes can happen if we are overly focused on trying to come up with a specific event). Maybe we are not tapping on a specific event, but we are tapping on a specific trigger, whether it’s a mental image, or a certain phrase (even if that phrase is global such as “I’ll never live up to my potential”). We are not necessarily going to resolve the whole issue by just tapping on how a certain mental image or phrase makes us feel, but it can certainly be useful to release some of the emotional intensity attached to them. Besides, we can then notice what else comes up after that round with the shifting aspects. 

We might even say that we are doing Basic EFT on a specific event: the event being right now when I think about this triggering phrase/thought/image. And so we are working on this specific “table leg” supporting the “general issue’s table top”.

A caveat to this approach is that I wouldn’t use it if the client is talking about something that we might classify as a “big T trauma” (for example, something where their physical integrity might have been compromised). In that case I would use some of the Gentle Techniques (discussed in previous articles) plus specific trauma techniques such as Tell the Story or The Movie Technique.

So, to recap, if you find that your client is bringing up many different things at once, and it’s kind of hard to come up with a specific event to tap on, one approach that you might try (if they are not feeling overwhelmed by the emotional intensity of what they are saying) is asking them: “when thinking about everything you just told me, what feeling, emotion or sensation do you notice is coming up for you now?”. And then after they reply, you can ask them: “And is there any part of that in particular that your mind is focusing on the most that makes you feel that way?”, and/or, “And when you think about all that, is there any specific mental image or phrase that maybe your mind is focusing on and that is triggering that emotional reaction?”.

As you address it with Basic EFT, you might find with the shifting aspects that eventually a specific event comes up. Or maybe it doesn’t, but the tapping was still useful for the client to be able to process some of the emotional intensity and associations attached to whatever triggering thoughts, images, phrases or sensations you tapped on that day.

That’s it for today. I hope this post was helpful to you. My name is Bruno Sade, and I’m a certified EFT practitioner with a mental health background as a clinical psychologist licensed in Argentina.

I’d love to know: What do you think about this approach? What other things would you recommend for those times when a client is talking about many things at once? Please let me know in the comments below.

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