Why is it so important that we use our client’s words when doing EFT?

Increasing your effectiveness with EFT, part 28.

If you are an EFT practitioner (or training to become one), you’ve probably heard about the importance of using our client’s words when doing EFT. Today I want to talk about the reasons why I believe this is so important.

First of all, let me clarify that when I talk about using our clients’ words, this doesn’t mean having to use all of their words. The skill of knowing which of their words would be most effective to use is an important one, and I’ll write about it in a later article. But here I’m talking about the importance of not using words or phrases that weren’t spoken by them.

This would be for example when we are leading them through a round of tapping and we are guessing or assuming what are some of the aspects involved in their issues (rather than asking them questions and listening to what they answer before and after each round of tapping). And also when we use “Reframing”, that is, when attempting to offer a different “more empowering” perspective and/or when trying to put a positive spin on the issue they are tapping on (but it’s coming from us and not from them).

I tend to refrain from doing either of the above. But why is it that it’s preferable to use only our client’s words rather than our own? There are several reasons.

  1. One of the things I like best about EFT is that it’s client-centered. This allows us to meet our clients exactly where they are, and to leave our own personal opinions, values, beliefs, judgments, etcetera, at the door. If, as a practitioner, I use my own words rather than my client’s, then I’m assuming what’s going on with them, and I’m not meeting them where they are.

  2. This tends to break rapport and can make our clients feel “not seen” and/or “not truly heard” by us.

  3. If, as practitioners, we use our own words rather than our clients, it’s highly likely that we might start projecting our own issues.

    For example, let’s say that we are tapping with a client on their fear of taking an exam at college. As we are leading them through a round of tapping we take a guess that one of the reasons why they feel so afraid is that they are intimidated by the authority figure of the professor/examiner, and that’s probably because he reminds them of their father. Mind you, they never said anything about any of that, it’s just what we believe is true based on “our experience”.

    Maybe we ourselves have struggled with that issue (fear of taking exams) at some point in our lives and it was indeed connected to intimidating authority figures. However, just because that was the case for us, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be the same for our client. So, again, if we don’t stay true to their words, we risk projecting our own issues and therefore losing rapport with them.

That being said, there’s nothing wrong with asking them (before or after a round of tapping) how they feel about the professor/examiner, to see if that could be one of the aspects involved with their fear of taking exams. But notice that in this case we are asking, not assuming. 

  1. With regards to “Reframing”, sometimes it can be a useful technique, but one of the risks it has is that it can become a way through which our personal biases and expectations (how we think people “should” be) can sneak into the session. What do I mean by this?

    Let’s think about everyday life. Has it ever happened to you that you were feeling a bit down and you told someone close to you about it, and the way they tried to help you (with the best of intentions) was saying something along the lines of “why are you feeling sad? you have so many things to be grateful for, and there are so many people in a worse situation than you are in”? While that may be objectively true, it doesn’t help with what you are feeling right now, or it might even make you feel worse. There’s like an implicit message (even if not intended by the person you are talking to) that: “you shouldn’t be feeling the way you are feeling”.

    Sometimes our attempts at using reframing with EFT can look like that. It becomes about how we think the client should be feeling, rather than accepting and acknowledging that “we feel what we feel”.

    So, when attempting to use “Reframing”, if we are not careful, we might slip into “positive bypassing”.

    “Positive bypassing” can be defined as pretending that things are fine when they are clearly not. Thinking that people can overcome their problems through positive thinking, and that we can “rise above” our emotions.

    Again, this can break rapport with our clients, leaving them feeling judged and not seen by us. We aren’t meeting them where they are, and therefore we aren’t offering them a safe space for processing and expressing their emotions.

So, using our clients’ words (rather than our own) helps us prevent all of the above, and it allows us to leave our own personal biases, beliefs, expectations, opinions, etcetera at the door. And this in turn makes us a better and safer practitioner.

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: What do you think about the importance of always trying to use our clients’ words? Do you have any questions or comments about what I wrote? Is there any particular topic you’d like me to write about? I’d love to know in the comments below.

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