By Herb Ayers, MA LMHC, TFT Dx
Whether you fall once or a hundred times, it is always an emotionally painful experience. When my wife fell during a walk, we just assumed it was a misstep or maybe she lost her balance. That was nine years ago when she was 71. More and more, her legs would just go out from under her and in an instant, she would be on the floor! It was frightening!
Frightening for her; frightening for me too! When these falls continued to happen, she sought help from a neurologist but unfortunately, he failed to diagnose the problem; worse yet, we failed to get another medical opinion!
So getting to a true diagnosis took another six years.
In the meantime, the falls continued, and she resorted to using a cane, then a walker. All of the falls were always a surprise. I might be in a different room and when I heard the crashing sound of Phyllis hitting the floor; my heart would jump inside my chest and fear invaded my stomach. As a licensed mental health counselor, I knew that each fall brought a certain amount of trauma with it that could eventually take its toll, possibly even leading to Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. In fact, I too was being traumatized each time she fell! We never knew when she would go down. When she did, we would do our normal first aid routine and check for vital issues and injuries. Aside from an occasional bruise, she suffered no serious physical injuries for which we thanked God.
One of the things that often happens to people when they have fallen is an increase in feelings of anxiety as to when the next fall might occur. Many times, older people who fall may just decide not to move around much or not to even get up from a chair or sofa if the traumatic fear takes over.
Along with the uncertainties, the person begins to lose self-confidence and their self-esteem lowers as they sense their loss of control. This can open the door to a depressive episode that further complicates the person’s life. So I knew we had to start doing something that could mitigate the emotional stress that results from falling.
I had a great deal of experience helping clients overcome trauma using a treatment called Thought Field Therapy or TFT. I had learned TFT from its founder, the late Roger Callahan,Ph.D., who pioneered the treatment when skeptics and naysayers worked hard to undermine its value. TFT has been used to treat numerous stress-related and emotional problems over the last 30 years and has a wonderful way of eliminating fear and negative emotions.
I used it with doctors, nurses, and medical staff following Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. The medical staff were deeply affected by the traumatic situations they faced in their hospital and community during the storm. As members of the Association For Thought field Therapy, our disaster volunteer team of 13 practitioners responded to Charity Hospital to help out. Our intervention was documented by the hospital administrator, Dwayne Thomas, MD, when he wrote “We have offered staff many different interventions, such as cognitive therapy through group decompression sessions with psychiatrists and with a faith-based organization. The TFT presentation and therapy was received extremely well by staff and the high attendance (87 people) and the overwhelmingly positive response to the therapy was a welcome and delightful surprise for us all.”
Over the years, I’ve also used this technique to help combat veterans in their efforts to heal their traumatic injuries. General James Mattis and I have discussed the advantages of TFT for veterans and active-duty personnel and he told me he has shared information about TFT with members of naval medicine and administrators in the VA as a treatment to look into further.
TFT is not the same as a “talk therapy,” so it does not require extensive problem analysis. It does require one to briefly focus on a distressing thought to be effective. The relief a person gets is generally fast and effective and helps restore a person to normal functioning. That doesn’t mean TFT works all the time in every case. If the relief is not forthcoming, there are simple adjustments that can be made to increase the probability of its effectiveness.
Thought Field Therapy has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Health as an evidenced-based practice for use in treating stress. TFT is the grandfather of energy psychology. After many years it was recently listed as an evidenced-based practice by the U. S. Department of Health in the registry for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
They found Thought Field Therapy to be effective in 6 different areas so far. Their review system is designed to provide the public with reliable information on mental health and substance abuse interventions. They have three outcome ratings: 1 is considered effective, 2 is considered promising, and 3 is ineffective.
Thought Field Therapy was found to be effective for: Trauma and Stressor- Related Disorders and Symptoms; Self-Regulation and Personal Resilience/Self-Concept. It was found to be promising for: Phobia, Panic, and Generalized Anxiety Disorders and Symptoms, along with Depression and Depressive Symptoms and General Functioning and Well-Being.
So how did the TFT technique help my wife and me cope with the falling spells?
I taught my wife how to treat herself each time she fell before she would get up off the floor. First, we would do a first aid check to ensure there were no physical injuries. Then she would begin by using the SUD scale, measuring her subjective units of distress where a 1 was no problem and a 10 was overwhelming distress. We would then use the TFT complex trauma algorithm. She would tap the corner of her eyebrow nearest the nose, then under her eye, under her arm, then move to her collarbone and tap; tap by the nail of her little finger, again to the collarbone, then tap by the nail of her index finger and again at the collarbone. It’s not necessary to tap more than ten times. She would continue by using a second tapping procedure called the 9 Gamut, then test her SUD level again to be sure she was overcoming the distress. She would then repeat the first sequence again before getting up. The step by step algorithm is available in Dr.
Callahan’s book, Tapping The Healer Within. While Phyllis tapped, I would do likewise because the falls always had an adverse effect on me as well. The falling accidents continued for more than 6 years, gradually becoming more frequent, and her ability to walk worsened. While she hated falling, she never developed any fear of falling and her self-esteem stayed intact. Moreover, I too was able to remain calm.
Eventually, Phyllis was finally, properly diagnosed, by Dr. Steven Allen Erlemeier, MD, a neurologist at Lourdes Medical Center. He found a non- malignant tumor in her upper spinal cord. It is four years now since Dr. Rod Oskouian, a noted neurosurgeon in Seattle, removed the tumor and Phyllis continues to heal from a paraplegic paralysis. She is now able to move her feet and legs, and is recovering core muscle strength, all with the goal of walking once again.
We have used TFT many times through this recovery process to overcome our distress related to the disability. Clearly, as she is ready to take her first steps once again, we know there will be more challenges. Each time, TFT has proved very helpful to us. We will continue to use Thought Field Therapy to help eliminate negative stressors as we proceed.
Our hope is that other seniors and disabled people who are suffering emotional pain from falls or other trauma may also profit from this self-treatment. Since TFT is non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical, easy to do, and helps us stay healthy, it is worth trying it to help overcome the emotional pain of falling and prevent unnecessary fear.
Oh, I might add, TFT is not only used to help avoid phobias from developing, it is highly effective in eliminating long-term fears that cause distress. One of my clients had PTSD flashbacks originating from World War II when he was captured by the Japanese. The flashbacks disappeared when we used the TFT procedure 55 years later.