Normal approaches had failed, but this classic case opened the door to a whole new way of working with trauma.*
Dog Phobia, the after-effects of a traumatic experience
Some years ago when hypnosis was my main tool in helping people dispense with abnormal fears a new client arrived at my clinic suffering from a severe dog phobia.
The phobia put serious limits on her life. When walking or cycling she felt extremely anxious. She knew the location of and avoided every dog for miles around her home. Any journey that was not by car or bus was meticulously planned to avoid meeting dogs.
Dog Phobia - how it was caused
The phobia materialised about a year after an incident in which she was attacked by a pack of dogs in Africa. She had been out walking when they struck. They dragged her to the ground and began tearing at her. She would have been pulled to pieces and died except for the intervention of a man who came along and beat the animals away.
My client was hospitalised and made a full recovery, physically at least. However, although she had been very fit and physically active, on her return to Ireland she was so sensitive to dogs that almost all of her daily journeys were by car.
Dog Phobia - Finding a workable solution
When dealing with phobias it is always useful to know how they originated. As the cause of this one seemed obvious I believed it would be easy to resolve. However, much to my chagrin it was not possible to hypnotise her. (I pride myself on my ability to help clients into hypnosis and difficulties such as this are extremely rare). As she had already tried some mainstream therapies I saw no point in pursuing those particular paths. I was unsure how to proceed.
As it happened I had recently attended a training course on a newly emerging approach called Emotional Freedom Techniques or EFT. The technique involved resolving issues by tapping with a couple of fingers on certain points on the body while at the same time focusing on negative emotions or negative experiences related to the issue.
At the time the technique seemed quite counter-intuitive. It was difficult to comprehend how it could resolve anything let alone serious emotional trauma. However, the few volunteers who received demo treatments on the course reported feeling better. Despite this the technique was far outside my normal way of working and I did not foresee myself ever using it with clients. But as the saying goes: Man plans, God laughs.
With my usual method of working unavailable, and the fall-backs of mainstream psychotherapy also ineffective I decided to try out my recently learned EFT.
Dog Phobia - healing the trauma
Using the procedure recommended by my tutors I asked my client to talk me through the sequence of events involved in the attack. I requested that she stop at the first point in the story were she felt uncomfortable.
She described walking alone along a dirt road. There was no sign of distress when the first dog appeared in her vision. However as it began to follow her and other dogs began to appear she began to get nervous.
I had her stop at this point. I asked her to open up to and not hide from the feeling of anxiety. Once she did this I led her through the sequence of tapping on her body while she maintained awareness of the anxiety. After going through the sequence couple of times she reported that the anxiety had gone.
I then had her continue with the story until the next part where she felt anxious. Again we tapped away the anxious feelings and when they were gone we moved on.
We followed this procedure on every troubling element all the way through her ordeal - from her being dragged to the ground from behind by the first dog, to her screaming as the dogs began to tear at her, to her going quiet as she gave up hope, to the sound of her flesh being torn, to believing she was going to die, through her rescue, the journey to hospital, her surgery and physical recovery.
Eventually she was able to go through the whole story without feeling in any way anxious. According to the EFT protocol the job was now done. After a brief discussion as to how she was feeling we brought the session to an end.
Although she was quite happy leaving I was far from sure that the therapy had worked. I suggested that she ring me if she experienced any difficulties. As it happened she never contacted me.
Dog Trauma - the proof of the pudding
Eighteen months later I was attending a function and she came up to me singing my praises. Not alone was she no longer afraid of dogs but when she went out walking or cycling she never even noticed that there were dogs around – a sure sign that the issue had resolved. She had also taken in an old dog which had had an abusive owner.
I thanked her for her courage in facing her demons as without this things might have been more difficult. I also quietly thanked her for helping me to open the door to a whole new and wonderful way of working with anxiety.
EFT is just one of a large range of simple but very effective techniques and approaches that make up the revolutionary new discipline called Energy Psychology or EP. Energy Psychology brings a whole new understanding to the field of resolving trauma, emotional, mental and even physical difficulties. It is so effective that it is now beginning to find its way into mainstream psychology and medical schools.
If you are experiencing mental, emotional or even physical difficulty then give me a call. I would be delighted to help you.
You can contact James Jameson on 086 2835758 / 1800924864 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Please help to spread the word by liking and sharing on Facebook below. Page likes here are much appreciated also! . *this article reflects a real case and the client involved is very happy for her story to be told.
Experienced, caring and professional
Dun Laoghaire, Bray and Wicklow, email@example.com