Other effective emotional healing techniques, with comparisons to Whole-Hearted Healing
Revision 1.0, December 6, 1999
This is a paper on effective healing techniques that I knew of in 1997, and how they compare to basic Whole Hearted Healing. Although it’s already out of date due to the very rapid change in the field, most of the material is still applicable. I will update it in the future when I get a chance.
- Grant McFetridge, Dec. 1999
Alternatives to Conventional Psychological Therapy (58min, 1996)
This paper is a brief comparison among the emotional healing techniques that I’ve found to be effective. I’ll be contrasting them with my ‘Whole Hearted Healing’ technique where appropriate.
My personal opinion, based on observation of therapists and my own training in a doctoral program in clinical and counseling psychology, is that therapy as practiced by the vast majority of psychiatrists and psychologists does not work and is ruinously expensive.
Why is this? From my perspective, the primary reason is the mistaken idea in this field that trauma is irrelevant to most psychological problems. Virtually no training or teaching time is spent on this topic, no currently taught models consider it relevant, and the singly category in the diagnostic manual that even mentions it, ‘Post Traumatic Stress Disorder’, implies it is primarily limited to soldiers, war survivors, and a few unfortunate crime victims. As a student, I cannot recall the word even being used in any of my classes for the first two years!
My own work on myself and hundreds of people leads me to say that trauma is the single key to the vast majority of problems people encounter. Fortunately, a number of groups outside the psychological profession have come to this conclusion, and pioneered a variety of techniques to heal. Unfortunately, since these techniques are not standard practice, licensed professionals risk loosing their licenses by using them, even though they are effective. Presently, many therapists who have chosen to use these sort of techniques do so quietly, or get religious or alternative certification as in hypnotherapy to practice legally. [Note 1999: This is no longer the case because of Dr. Figley’s work and publication in peer review articles. However, the field has not changed very much even so.]
The other major reason standard psychotherapy does not work, in my opinion again, is the assumption that ‘curing’ someone of problems is not possible, and the best that can be hoped for is a reduction in symptoms (except in the case of a few types of phobias). This belief has lead to the bizarre situation that standard measures for psychological difficulties don’t measure specific change on the problem the client comes in with. In fact therapists avoid any mention of the word cure in their work, which is a sad comment on the effectiveness of their tools.
Finally, the last major reason standard therapy is ineffective is that a significant percentage of the causes for people’s difficulties are in phenomena that are considered unacceptable by the mainstream. Thus, birth trauma, womb trauma, past lives, spiritual emergencies, soul loss, etc, etc, are considered to be impossible, and so a client with this sort of experience is treated as delusional, or else the real cause of a client’s difficulties can never be allowed to be uncovered.
Alternative therapies are slowly moving into the mainstream, due to the dedication of many professionals who are committed to helping their patients. Until recently, these techniques were never published in the professional journals because they couldn’t get past the ‘peer review’ stage of acceptable work. However, last year an exceptional article came out on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the June 1996 issue of Family Therapy Networker which describes the work being done to explore the effectiveness of four of the most popular alternative techniques. This, to my knowledge, is the first time these techniques have reached any of the mainstream professional journals. These techniques are EMDR, TIR, VKD, and TFT, described below.
Finally, I’d like to say that in my experience, there are many alternative techniques that are also ineffective, although they often hide this by calling their outcome ‘subtle’. Unfortunately, as the field is in such rapid flux, consumers have to evaluate providers in both the mainstream and alternative communities with some skepticism. But if you do choose to use a conventional therapist, be sure to choose one who knows some of the more common alternative therapies listed below.
1. Long term
2. Expensive, “paid friend”
3. No such thing as cure. Reduction in symptoms if fortunate.
4. Model is wrong, little attention to trauma
5. Poor tools - dreams, empathy, associations
6. No unusual spiritual or fetal material considered acceptable
7. Talk only - can’t touch
8. Requires trained therapist
9. May resort to drugs with side effects
10. No legal confidentiality
11. Often can’t recall origin of the problem
1. Usually fast, 1-3 sessions
2. Usually cheap
3. Cure as in common usage
4. Trauma origin of most problems
5. Variety of tools and techniques: Applied kinesiology, GSR meters, EMDR, TAT, etc.
6. Unusual phenomena recognized and used
7. Includes body awareness as well as bodywork approaches
8. Often self help techniques with occasional assistance
9. No drugs, no side effects
10 Generally therapist does not need to know clients ‘story’
11. Some techniques don’t require memory of trauma. Others get them quickly and easily
EMDR ( www.emdr.org)
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) developed by Francine Shapiro is an effective technique that to conventional therapists gets results that are too fast to be believed. See EMDR: The Breakthrough Therapy for Overcoming Anxiety, Stress, and Trauma, 1997 , or phone 408-327-3900. Shapiro had great difficulty getting it even partially accepted into the field of psychology, but it is catching on now, and it is probably the dominant alternative technique being used by the mainstream therapeutic community. No currently accepted model explains it, but at least it doesn’t contradict any western cultural prejudices, and so is gaining acceptance on that basis. She restricts training to licensed psychologists, but it is so simple that individuals often do it for each other after experiencing it. It is also moving into the alternative culture under the label of Rapid Eye Movement therapy and similar names. The technique involves watching a hand or other focus object like a moving light move repetitively left and right while the client thinks about the trauma or problem they want to heal. Interestingly, you can get the same results using sound, tapping, or patty cake games with right left alteration - eye movements are not necessary.
Beyond typical emotional healing, this technique works well for Multiple Personality Disorder, learning disabilities, and mental content that does not apparently come from a trauma, as in dream imagery. It does not work for obsessive/compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, and depression. It also may evoke some spiritual experiences after a healing experience is finished, as described by Laurel Parnell in “EMDR and Spiritual Unfoldment” in the Spring 1995 issue of the Association for Transpersonal Psychology Newsletter, but no effort is made to pursue this connection that I know of.
How does this compare to WHH? Fairly similarly, although I think in general my technique is faster. However, because they lack a transpersonal theoretical model, they don’t understand how trauma is related to schizophrenia, depression, etc. I have a few cases where people using both techniques have had either better and more complete experiences with WHH, or they’ve healed something by themselves with WHH that EMDR was unable to help them with. This may be an artifact of the sample size, but I tend to think it’s more because with WHH people realize internally what they’re trying to accomplish. It just makes more sense, so they stick it out even though it can be painful.
TIR - Traumatic Incident Reduction ( www.tir.org)
TIR was created by Frank Gerbode M.D., and is now taught through the Traumatic Incident Reduction Association (certified trainers cam be contacted at www.TIR.org). It’s a stripped down version of the methods used by the Scientology Church, without the cult trappings and involvement. Briefly, using a set formula they have clients relive trauma over and over again until healing occurs. This technique is very effective and fast, usually one or two hours per topic, and has the added benefit that they use GSR meters to verify completion in a clients work, since to avoid pain we can sometimes trick ourselves into thinking we’ve healed completely when we have not. Fortunately, the metering system can be used with any healing technique once it;s learned. For rather difficult reading, see Gerbode’s Beyond Psychology. I recommend the newer and much easier to read book by Gerald French and Chrys Harris, Traumatic Incident Reduction. To help public acceptance, they do not mention the unusual spiritual and shamanic phenomena that can also result from healing trauma with their technique, but they do deal with it on a client basis.
Oddly, this very effective technique has not had general acceptance, even though it works well, they’ve derived models of how trauma’s connect together, and it does not step on any cultural assumptions. Too, their metering technique, which has been around since the early 1900’s and which I feel should be standard practice in every psychological training is also ignored. I speculate that the association with Scientology has created a climate of fear in professionals who would normally embrace this technique.
I teach a combination of TIR and WHH for occasions when the client cannot feel the emotional content around a trauma, or to check for traumatic material that may have been missed due to WHH’s focus on single moment’s in time. I highly recommend the metering system, especially used as a ‘lie detector’ to search out material we’re hiding from ourselves. Interestingly, the one time I used WHH while being monitored by one of their teachers using a meter, I got a far deeper (and unusually quick) healing experience as measured by the absolute level of a characteristic called meter ‘fall’.
VKD - Visual Kinesthetic Dissociation
This technique is based on the Neuro Linguistic Programming model. I’ve had no personal experience with it, but apparently it works well. It is somewhat the opposite of WHH in that the client is encouraged to dissociate from the trauma and remain out of the body to heal. In my work with clients, I’ve had a couple who may have been accidentally using the VKD approach, as they apparently felt no emotional or physical pain while healing, the experience of which is one of the major drawbacks to WHH.
After reading about the technique from one of the inventors, I got the impression that the technique created a substitution of a pleasant feeling for a painful one. Obviously, this is theoretically the opposite to my approach, as I want to get completely rid of as much material as possible. However, for the average person suffering from a painful trauma, their criteria is pain relief, and for that it appears to work well.
TFT - Thought Field Therapy (www.tftrx.com)
Invented by Dr. Roger Callahan in the 1980’s, this technique involves tapping accupressure points to heal emotional material (Callahan 619-345-9216). I haven’t had a chance to use this technique yet, but I find it one of the most fascinating of all the current effective techniques. The client thinks about their problem, and taps various points on their body in a certain sequence, along with some eye motions and humming. The process usually takes 4 to 10 minutes, and is amazingly effective. Complex tapping patterns may be needed for some clients, but a standard pattern is effective for most difficulties. It is an ideal self help process, and works on phobias, depression, addictive urges, anxiety, trauma, guilt, loss of a loved one, and other problems. [Note 1999: I recommend the simpler version developed by Gray Craig called EFT now available. See www.emofree.com.]
I talked this over with Gerald French of the TIR Institute, and he suspects the technique eliminates the triggers to accessing traumatic material, based on what he saw during the training, rather than eliminating the trauma itself. This would make sense to me, as in my own work I discovered that even though the heart sorts and accesses traumatic material, it is the body that triggers the overall access process. Thus, for the vast majority of clients who simply want to stop suffering and get on with their current life, this treatment would be ideal. But for people like myself who want access to deeper levels of conscious awareness and understanding, this technique would not be as useful, I suspect. However, take my comments with a large grain of salt since I haven’t had a chance to experiment with it yet. [Note 1999: An experiment we ran in 1999 looks like it verifies Gerald French’s hypothesis about how TFT works.]
TAT - The Tapas Acupressure Technique (www.tat-intl.com)
Invented by Tapas Flemming, to treat allergies, she discovered that allergies were due to trauma, something transmitted through the generations. Thus her method actually has a much wider application in healing trauma in general. It involves using Applied Kinesiology (dowsing with the body) to ask the body certain types of questions, in combination with holding the head and touching certain accupressure points around the eyes while going through a four step process. the technique typically takes 4 minutes. It is also ideal as a self help technique, as it doesn’t require outside help once it’s learned.
I’ve had her training, and saw unbelievable successes with it. For example, one involved a baby boy who had gone into allergic shock, and his mother did the treatment on herself as a substitute for the boy, since he couldn’t do the process. That baby boy was completely back to normal in around 4 minutes, with the heat and body swelling completely gone! A number of therapists I’ve met use the process with very high success rate, in the 80% - 90% range.
However, the technique has several drawbacks. First, approximately 30% of the general population can’t communicate with their bodies to dowse, and so would require someone who could get answers for them, either by dowsing for them, or using Applied Kinesiology (AK) tests like the one involving pushing down on the arm. (In my own case, none of these techniques work on me, but fortunately I think I’m in a tiny minority.) The next major problem has to do with the facilitator. I’ve found that I can’t make the process work for me, and that it often will not work for anyone else I’ve tried it on either. This leads me to believe there is an element to the process that isn’t explicitly defined, and so isn't’ passed on to the client unless the facilitator is unconsciously modeling it. It may involve moving the body viewpoint to a particular location either inside or just outside the upper back of the skull, a technique with has dramatic results for dyslexia, as described in The Gift of Dyslexia by Ronald Davis.
One of the drawbacks to WHH in physical issues is noticing the trigger sensation or emotion around a symptom. TAT bypasses that and uses the body complaint directly, for a very rapid, painless, and easy cure, often not even involving a conscious awareness of the originating trauma. I would recommend this method to anyone who wanted another very successful and simple technique in their toolkit.
Hendricks Body Centered Therapy (www.hendricks.com)
This was the first therapy that I found that quickly and repeatable healed people. Drs. Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks give an excellent description of their work in At The Speed Of Life: A New Approach to Personal Change Through Body-Centered Therapy (800-688-0772). In addition, they’ve also applied their techniques to relationship therapy, going beyond the my more limited approach of just dealing with trauma in interpersonal situations. Their versatile approach has also been well adapted by Caroline Braddock to the treatment of sexual abuse. Essentially, they’ve developed techniques to provoke and heal issues by looking at clues in the body, and put a lot of attention on healing people’s personas and interpersonal relationships.
I like their work, but rarely use it. At the time I got their training, I could not understand why it worked, so their principles were simple rote learning and I couldn’t extend them into new situations. It’s only been recently that I’ve come to realize the primary nature of the body, and the importance of joyfully supporting oneself in the present in order to face old material more easily, approaches that they stress in their process.
So, how does their work compare to WHH? One problem I’ve had with it is that it tends to require outside trained assistance to help spot stuff that we don’t see in ourselves. On the plus side, they believe that any particular problem should take at most a few sessions, and that rapid healing is actually the norm. Beyond this, I suspect their clients can get at issues that are harder to become aware of with WHH, and also have considerably more encounters with a positive uplifting bodily experience they call ‘essence’.
A number of related techniques all use hyperventilation in various ways to heal and access spiritual experiences. Holotropic Breathwork™ (www.breathwork.com, 415-383-8779) was developed by Stanislav Grof, MD as a substitute for his technique that used hallucinogenic substances. It employs up to two hours of deep breathing and loud, often disturbing music. I like this technique, not only because it saved my life. Using the breathwork to break through resistances and open new areas of the psyche, then following through with WHH has been a very effective combination for me. It has five flaws in my view - the experience one has may or may not be what you’ve chosen to work on; they don’t suggest scanning the past for symptoms that arise in a session; it tends to require someone else to handle music and assist, at least at first; they don’t recognize the importance of the out of body experience, and so trauma’s may need to be experienced again after the session to be healed; and lastly, they do not recognize the triune nature of the brain, so that the significance of some experiences are lost. On the plus side, this technique is heavily oriented towards unusual spiritual and transpersonal experiences, which are expected and encouraged. It also encourages encounters with birth trauma, something most other approaches tend to minimize. Again, I highly recommend it, especially in combination with something like WHH. A variety of books have been written by Grof, such as LSD Psychotherapy or The Adventure of Self Discovery.
Radiance Breathwork was developed by Gay Hendricks, mentioned above. The hyperventilation is limited to under an hour, and only essentially soothing music is used. It tends to be gentler, making it more appropriate for typical therapy clients. Similar to holotropic, it suffers from the same drawbacks.
Rebirthing is the technique pioneered by Leonard Orr. A relaxed release breath characterize this technique, and no music, but it suffers from a fundamental theoretical flaw in my view. They don’t feel that painful, negative emotions are necessary to healing, and if by some chance they arise, they can be healed gently and easily, and so in my opinion they tend to block the chance to face and heal that sort of material. Of course, they would disagree with my assessment...
The Motherwave Awakening process by Kathryn Masters uses a wavelike internal body motion during the breath process (415-389-6122). She feels that this makes releasing traumatic material virtually pain free and gentle. This may be so, but I suspect that the process enhances fusion states, rather than healing trauma. Of course, if that is so then it’s probably worthwhile for just that alone. Although it promises exactly what we all want, in terms of union with God, and advanced spiritual states, an end to money and relationship problems, and so on, I’m not drawn to it for some reason. Check it out for yourself if you’ve inclined to pay it’s steep price.
Arthur Janov is the most well known so called primal therapist, and the author of many books, most recently Primal Therapy 20 Years On. He has refused to describe his techniques in his books, but the results he gets are very interesting. He too focuses on trauma, and is aware of the triune nature of the brain. However, his early work was flawed by a refusal to believe in the existence of birth and womb trauma. Eventually he came around under pressure from his clients, but he never gave up his refusal to accept any transpersonal phenomena, a serious flaw in my view. He also rejected Dr. Grof’s approach and results, apparently a personality conflict on his part. I’ve never worked with his group, but Alice Miller in her book Banished Knowledge gave a very clear description of why she felt the group had serious problems, including disturbing cult sort of behaviors. Instead, she found a primal therapist, J. Konrad Stettbacher (Making Sense of Suffering) she felt was on the right track, and practiced his technique successfully on a variety of trauma. I personally find Stettbacher’s technique difficult to follow or see how it would be effective, but apparently it is.
I recently had exposure to both Janov’s Primal Therapy and the similar therapy used by members of the Primal Association. I was struck by two disturbing observations. First, the length and cost of the work, relying as it does on a trained facilitator. Much worse in my view was the lack of definite and finished cures - their model apparently predicts people only will get reduction in symptoms, rather than complete cures on any given issue. As you might imagine, I find this attitude unacceptable. However, on a personal level, I enjoyed the primal facilitators I met.
For more information on the Primal Association, they publish a journal called Primal Renaissance: The Journal of Primal Psychology, and can be reached at 707-792-9851.
This technique that’s been around since the seventies. See Eugene Gendlin’s Focusing for more information. This technique was popular for a while, but by the time I got to my doctoral program it had faded out of use and popularity. Unlike the previous techniques, it does not heal old trauma for it’s effectiveness. Instead, the current stuck material being held by the body consciousness is brought to awareness, and released. I suspect that it lost it’s popularity because no academic model of the brain that could explain what was going on was available, and so became ignored as being some sort of fringe technique. Too, I suspect that because the originating trauma’s are not dealt with, the results are not as satisfying as one could wish over the long term.
I tried it, with surprisingly successful results. However, I think that it might be most useful in dealing with stuff in the present, and that other techniques need to be used for permanent healing. I suspect that practice in it would make the WHH technique more effective. I don’t know if any changes using this approach are permanent, but they may be as the body consciousness is the primary brain, and the other brains knowingly or unknowingly tend to act in reaction to it, so the technique probably has more of an impact than might be expected. It probably promotes fusion which makes the healing process much easier and quicker. At a minimum it helps releasing the body sensation part of past trauma, and in getting the ‘phrase’ portion of the WHH technique. (Note 2006: The Focusing Institute has added regression as part of their process with good success.)
Hanbleceya Therapeutic Community System
This virtually unknown treatment center in California has the unusual distinction of routinely curing schizophrenia. It usually takes quite a while, sometimes years, and is a live in facility so somewhat costly, but a real bargain if you’ve got this problem. They also work with bipolar patients and psychosis patients. They primarily use the body therapies of Bio-cellular Integration which involves breath and movement, bioenergetic analysis, tragering, massage, acupressure, and dance. Call 619-466-0547 for more information. Incidentally, their work is not published in journals because they can never get past peer review - the reviewers cannot believe schizophrenia is curable, so reject the submitted articles. I’ve had the same sort of problem with my work.
Their cure for schizophrenia goes in two steps. First, the patient comes to realize it’s something he is doing to himself. Sometime later, the patient decides to choose not to be schizophrenic. This approach makes perfect sense to me, as they use touch to reassure the body consciousness that it will survive even if it doesn’t continue to pull in foreign soul pieces. (See my work on healing schizophrenia) This is a great way to work with someone that can’t or won’t do the more direct way of using trauma healing techniques to break the link between survival and outside emotions due to birth and womb trauma. And their technique has the advantage that it doesn’t involve any concepts outside of accepted western biases.
However, before pursuing this program, I would start by getting treatment by a competent shamanic practitioner. (See the section below.) This might eliminate the problem in a day, which would certainly be cost effective. [Note 1999: Or use one of our Institute graduates specializing in healing schizophrenia.]
One of the most innovative and amazing techniques I know of is described by Dr. Raymond Moody in Coming Back. This technique he calls apparition work involves resolving issues around the deaths of people close to an individual. Amazingly enough, in around 80% of the clients, the ‘spirits’ of the dead come to the client and communicate with them to get resolution on whatever issue is up.
Describing this technique might be damaging my credibility, but I’m into whatever works, regardless of my beliefs around the subject. I don’t understand it, but I’m not rejecting it on that basis.
Past Life and other Regression Techniques
Several good authors do work in this area. Dr Weiss is a man I’ve met and liked, so I recommend him on that basis. See his book Many Lives, Many Masters. He also gives workshops on mastering regression techniques. For more information on this fascinating work, see Regression Therapy: A Handbook for Professionals, Volume 1 and 2 by Winafred Blake Lucas.
However, I have come across a problem with regression techniques in general. Especially with past life material, recalling the trauma is usually enough to give the client a tremendous sense of relief that there is a reason for the problem they are having in their current life. However, I’ve found that the therapist will often stop at this point, and not help heal the incident in question to eliminate the behavior in the present. This is a vital step, but one of the techniques mentioned above needs to be applied at this point to heal the trauma.
These techniques generally require a trained therapist, but many of them are quick and cost effective, so exploring this area is not too much of a burden. In my experience, however, I found that the techniques used on me were too mild to be effective for me. Thus, the expertise of the therapist, and the tools he’s using are probably critical elements in successful work. My WHH technique does bring up this sort of material, but it’s not my primary focus - most of a person’s day to day problems have nothing to do with past lives. [Note 1999: I’ve discovered since then that accessing past lives is due to avoiding a trauma in this life with a similar feel to it. Thus, the core problem will not be removed unless the situation in this life is healed also.]
Shamanism and Soul Retrieval (www.shamanism.org)
Michael Harner has been the dominant force in preserving and promoting ancient shamanic healing techniques in the last 20 years, through his organization The Foundation for Shamanic Studies at 415-380-8282, and with his book The Way of the Shaman. His assistant Sandra Ingerman has done a wonderful job of expanding and illustrating one of the primary shamanic techniques in her book Soul Retrieval and through trainings world wide (www.shamanicvisions.com/ingerman.html).
The technique involves healing an aspect of trauma that is not acceptable or understandable in current western world views. Yet, it’s very fast, typically 30 minutes or so, and often amazingly effective, and does not involve any effort from the client. Two types of work are the dominant focus; soul loss, which occurs during very serious trauma and causes severe problems to the client; and soul stealing, which results in afflictions like schizophrenia.
I’ve personally seen dramatic healing of severe mental illness in minutes using these techniques, which are quick and inexpensive. I would recommend that anyone give shamanic healing a try on principle, even if you believe that you don’t have any problems. However, it does depend on the abilities of the practitioner, and so the difficulty of knowing if you’ve gotten a competent one is a problem. This sort of work really can’t easily be done on oneself, but training in the techniques is readily available through Harner’s organization. I’d guess about 70% of the people attending his workshops have some sort of aptitude for their techniques.
Issues of soul loss and soul stealing come up in WHH. If one is willing, soul stealing can be healed by dealing with certain types of womb and birth experiences, but soul loss is only dealt with on a case by case basis, at least so far, and not all at once as in shamanic work. Too, someone who can’t or won’t use basic WHH can’t be helped, as in cases of severe mental illness, while this is not a problem to the shamanic practitioner.
Vibrational Healing Massage Therapy (www.worldschoolmassage.com)
Based on the prenatal and perinatal work of William Emerson, this technique was developed by Patricia Cramer, the founder of the World School of Massage in San Francisco (425-221-2533). She works with newborn babies as well as adults to relive and heal birth and other bodily trauma, in very short amounts of time. This technique is one of the only ones that I know of that a newborn could use to heal those sorts of issues (not including massage and other bodywork to help the baby to realign skull bones, etc.)
It requires a trained facilitator, which is a drawback, but on the positive side a treatment sequence is not excessively long. And anything that addresses birth injuries is in my view one of the best values on the market. I can’t say how completely healed these injuries become, but certainly enough so behavior is often radically changed for the better - even in newborns!
Quantum Release (www.ichbin.de)
A variety of other approaches to healing are available in workshop format, among which is Quantum Release Work by Dr. Andrew Terker. I recommend his work because he is aware of the triune nature of the brain, and because in conversation one day with him he mentioned a very effective technique I’d never heard of which works based on insights into spirit which took me years to understand afterwards (it’s described in my paper on basic Whole Hearted Healing, but how it works is based on material described in my ‘Spiritual Emergency and the Triune Brain’.) Definitely, a workshop to check out.
This paper is definitely a work in progress, representing as it does my knowledge and awareness of effective alternative therapies as of the present time (as of 1997). I’ll try and update this material sometime in the future, so if you have comments or other approaches please let me know. I want to emphasize that there are probably a variety of techniques I’ve never heard of which are still effective, so it it isn’t mentioned here that doesn’t mean that I have rejected it.
Copyright Grant McFetridge 1997
1.0 December 6, 1999. First draft.