How can I use EFT with a client who has different beliefs than my own?

Increasing your effectiveness with EFT, part 19.

Have you ever felt a bit uncomfortable when noticing that the client you are working with has different beliefs than your own? Maybe they have different beliefs about politics, religion, health, or even about anything else that, according to your belief system, “is limiting them” or “harming them in some way”. Here are my thoughts, or actually, my beliefs on this, which may or may not be useful, and you may or may not resonate with. And it’s ok either way.

First of all, I believe that it’s very important that I meet my clients where they are at. Who am I to say that my beliefs are right and theirs are wrong? Yes, they might have “blindspots” (because the beliefs we hold tend to prevent us from noticing and taking in any “evidence” that contradicts them), but I probably have blindspots as well. 

And it’s also very important to consider: What are they hiring me for? Are they specifically asking for my help in changing a certain belief? In that case, yes, I have their permission to help them work on that belief. But what about other beliefs they aren’t asking for my help to change?

And what if they aren’t even aware that a certain thought they have is not a fact, but a belief? My aim as an EFT practitioner is to be super respectful of each person’s beliefs, even if (or especially if) I don’t agree with them. Fortunately, EFT doesn’t require us to be in agreement with our client’s beliefs in order to help them.

The way I understand EFT is that it helps us diminish or release the unpleasant emotional reactions we have in response to thoughts, memories, situations, triggers, etcetera. That’s what I help my clients with. If they have certain “negative” emotional reactions or blocks they’d like to stop having, then I’ll do my best to help them with that even if their beliefs don’t match my own. I can simply let the tapping do its job, without trying to convince them of anything. 

Sometimes it happens that after tapping on certain memories or events, some of their beliefs might change (this is something known as a “cognitive shift”, which happens organically after the unpleasant emotional intensity is diminished or released), and other times they don’t. It’s unlikely that their political or spiritual beliefs are going to change as a result of using EFT. And that’s ok. Some of the beliefs that might spontaneously change as a result of doing EFT are those related to how they see themselves, such as “I’m not smart enough”.

It’s very important when working as EFT practitioners that we can hold a safe space for our clients to work on whatever it is they want to work on. And part of holding that safe space has to do with not judging them for their behaviors and beliefs (or for anything else). If I ever find myself judging a client, I gently remind myself that I don’t know with a 100% certainty what’s best for them. All I can do is walk along with them on their journey for as long as they want to work with me. It’s not my job to convince them of anything.

If that reminder is not enough, then after the session I will probably tap on whatever emotional reactions I might have that are making me judge my client. There’s probably something being triggered from my past, or something negative I believe might happen in the future “if they don’t change that belief”. So I have an opportunity to uncover that and work on it, so I can do a better job at holding space for my clients in the future.

I’d like to point out that it’s a very normal human tendency to want to judge someone else’s beliefs when they are different from our own, because on some level we might even feel that our beliefs are threatened by them. However, we still want to do our best not to let that cloud our judgment or impair our ability to hold space for our clients. Having good boundaries implies knowing that they can have their own beliefs and we can have our own, and it’s totally ok.

It is true though that, just as clients get to choose whether they want to work with us, we can also as EFT practitioners choose if we want to work with a certain client or not. If for whatever reason you feel that you and someone else have “irreconcilable beliefs”, then maybe you are not the right fit to be working together. And that person would be better served working with someone else whose beliefs resonate a bit more with theirs, rather than working with someone who is going to be judging them.

I’m sure you don’t like it when someone judges you because of your beliefs, tries to change them without your permission, or tries to “shove their beliefs down your throat”. So why would we want to do the same thing to another person? Instead we might want to do our best to see things from their perspective and work within those parameters.

When I’m working as an EFT practitioner, I do my best not to operate from my own personal opinions, judgments and beliefs. What really helps with that is trying to be self-aware and also not being in a triggered “survival state”. Which is why it’s so useful to continue to work on ourselves and our own triggers, beliefs and unpleasant emotional reactions. As well as working with other EFT practitioners and mentors, so as to reflect upon our practice and its challenges.

Now, what happens if we are working with a client on a specific event, such as a recent memory, and suddenly they say something like: “Well, it’s because I’m not smart enough”, or even something like: “it’s because all men/women are bad”? And maybe they say that same statement several times throughout the session. It’s true that this is probably a limiting belief that can be changed, however, sometimes pointing this out directly (“what you just said is actually a belief”) can feel a bit disruptive to the client and break rapport with them. 

Something I like to do instead is ask them: “So as you think about this phrase you just said, (in the example above, that “you are not smart enough”, or that “all men/women are bad”), what feeling, emotion or sensation do you notice coming up for you now?”. Notice I’m not questioning the truth or validity of the phrase, just asking them how it makes them feel. Chances are they are going to mention an unpleasant thought, feeling or sensation. So then I ask them if they’d like to tap on that. If they say yes, then we can come up with a setup statement such as:

“Even though, just thinking about this phrase: ‘I’m not smart enough’, I feel this sadness in my chest, I accept what I’m feeling right now”. 

So we are tapping to diminish the emotional charge around the phrase itself. You could say we are working on the specific event of “right now, thinking about this phrase”. What might happen when tapping on it is that maybe the emotional intensity around it will reduce enough that the client will gain some distance from it and realize it’s not a fact, but a belief that can be challenged. Or maybe their mind will come up with a memory that confirms why this belief feels true (such as “the time I was asked to read aloud by the teacher and I couldn’t do it, and everyone laughed at me”). 

Chances are that tapping on the phrase/belief alone, and how it makes us feel, will not transform it per se, but it can start to bring some choice for the client, to decide whether they’d like to continue working on it some more or not. And it’s ok either way. If we are to continue working on that belief, we do that by working on some of the memories that “make it true” and/or on some of the ways that the belief plays out in their life nowadays. An example of the latter would be: “The other day I went to a job interview and I was sure I wasn’t going to get it, because I didn’t believe I was smart enough, and when I remember that I feel this hopelessness in my stomach”. 

Now, of course, besides the tapping, if you feel it might be helpful for your client to hear your perspective or mindset regarding a certain matter, provided they ask you to tell them and/or give you permission to do so, it’s ok to share it with them. I like to preframe it like: “Here are my two cents on this subject, and you may or may not resonate with my perspective or find it useful, and it’s ok either way”. They can do with my advice/insight/perspective whatever they want.

That’s it for today. I hope this article 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 use EFT as a tool to help people (who speak English or Spanish) change their negative emotional reactions.

And, I’d love to know: How would you deal with a client whose beliefs don’t resonate with yours? Do you have any questions or comments about the tips I shared? I’d love to know in the comments below. And remember you can click on my profile and then “follow” if you’d like to be notified every time I post a new article.

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