Navigating EFT: Exploring the Risks of Reframing

Increasing your effectiveness with EFT, part 107.

In EFT there’s a technique called “Reframing”, where practitioners attempts to offer a different “more empowering” perspective and/or try to put a positive spin on the issue the client is tapping on (but it’s coming from the practitioner and not from the client). Today I’d like to talk about some of the risks with using Reframing and why I tend not to use it in my practice.

Let’s first talk about some examples of reframes practitioners tend to use. Let’s say that, in the context of an EFT Tapping session, the client is working on a memory where their mother treated them poorly and unfairly. A reframe might sound something like “Even though I feel angry when remembering what my mom said to me that day, that was so mean, I understand she was doing the best she could”. Another example might be “Even though I feel angry when remembering what my mom said to me that day, that was so mean, holding onto this only hurts me and I’m ready to let this go now”.

I tend to stay away from using Reframes because EFT is most effective when we echo our clients’ words, as they speak whatever is currently feeling true to them at this moment. This ensures their current feelings are fully acknowledged, minimizing the risk of disconnection. Because Reframes aren’t coming from them, but from me as the practitioner, there’s a risk that it’s not going to “land” –meaning, resonate or feel relevant and true– and this might cause a break in rapport or connection. The client might no longer feel seen or heard.

Also, sometimes these reframes can act like “wishful thinking”, they might sound ok to the client’s conscious mind, but they don’t necessarily reach their subconscious mind and/or their “emotional brain”.

Another 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 and “should” feel) can sneak into the session. In the therapeutic setting, this manifests when we, even unconsciously, impose our perspectives on the client’s experiences. 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. Or that it’s just a matter of deciding to feel better, making a conscious decision to do so. It’s important to acknowledge and validate negative emotions before attempting to shift perspectives.

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.

In contrast, when we use our client’s words and we address the different emotionally charged aspects that come up for them, once the unpleasant emotional intensity starts to come down, clients often start having “cognitive shifts”. These are spontaneous and empowering shifts in perspective that come from them, not from us. If the emotional intensity is low enough, we can then incorporate some of those cognitive shifts into our setup statements.

For instance, referring back to the previous example, the client might say after a round of tapping “the thought that’s coming to mind is that my mom was doing the best she could at the time”. One way to add that to a setup statement for the next round might sound something like: “Even though I have this remaining anger when thinking about what my mom said to me that day, it was so mean, but maybe she was doing the best she could at the time”.

So, to recap, if we always stick to using our clients’ words, there’s a higher likelihood we won’t make a mistake that will cause a break in rapport. We can always integrate the spontaneous cognitive shifts that come from them.

And that’s it for today! I’m Bruno Sade, a compassionate, open-minded clinical psychologist, and certified EFT practitioner. My approach is tailored to your individual needs and preferences, always respecting your experiences, beliefs, and background.

What are your thoughts on today’s topic? What has your experience been like with Reframing (either as a client or as a practitioner)? Feel free to share your experiences, questions, or suggestions for future topics. You can either leave a comment below or send a private message.

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