Using EFT for Preoperative Patients

Operating room with surgery table - Using EFT for preoperative patients by Dr. Patricia Carrington“Marie” (her actual name is disguised to protect patient confidentiality) is a nurse in a large hospital where she has been increasingly able to use Emotional Freedom Techniques with patients. Her experience with the pre-operative use of EFT hopefully foreshadows many similar interventions in the future. I can envision a day when EFT is an accepted procedure in hospitals and a part of standard preoperative protocol. This seems to be a vision worth holding for all of us.

Marie is well-known among the nursing staff in her particular hospital because she heads an inpatient service. Also, she has helped many hospital staff members with their own problems by using EFT –– not only a helpful gesture for the recipients, but a means of allowing EFT to become known and accepted within the hospital (See Introducing EFT to Hospital Personnel).

Recently, Marie was summoned to a floor where a woman patient was terrified of an impending operation that was necessary and imminent. She was nearly hysterical due to her fear of the surgery. The nurses were at a loss as to what to do about this. Remembering Marie’s helpful EFT interventions under other circumstances, the clinical nurse specialist called Marie to come to the floor.

When she arrived, she found the patient distraught and terrified. Marie asked the woman if she would like to try “a simple technique to help you with your fear that involves light tapping on your face and upper body.”

The woman agreed and the set up phrase they formulated went as follows: “Even though I’m terrified of surgery…”

In the middle of the second round of tapping the patient stopped abruptly when she had reached the under- nose spot and exclaimed, “Oh! It’s gone!” She would have stopped EFT at that point had not the nurse specialist (the person who had called Marie to the room) insisted that she complete the round.

This patient’s panic was completely gone. She consented to surgery without a problem and the operation went smoothly, although there were delays. The staff was impressed. Word was spreading that EFT could be helpful.

Marie visited this woman the next day and while this patient did have some anger issues around the several delays before her procedure, she said she did not want to work on her anger. She felt the anger was justified and seemed to fear that EFT would take away her right to be angry — a frequent misconception about EFT. Actually, the fact is that while using EFT might have lessened the emotion of anger here, it might also have made Marie more effective in promoting EFT’s benefits to the hospital staff by showing how it can be used effectively to defuse emotionally upset patients.

Marie describes the following types of distress that patients are apt to experience preoperatively. These are well-known to nursing personnel. Here are some of them, not necessarily in order of severity or frequency:

Fear of Anesthesia

This is a very common pre-op fear. It often involves a fear of saying or doing something inappropriate while under anesthesia. In addressing such a concern, one useful EFT statement might be: “Even though I’m afraid I will lose control and act inappropriately (under anesthesia), I choose to be appropriate and calm during the procedure.” This way of applying EFT uses the Choices Method which calls for constructing a statement reflecting the specific goals of the individual.

Fear of  Dying

To target this major fear, if the patient’s belief system is consistent with this notion, one might suggest the set-up phrase, “Even though I’m afraid of dying during the operation, I know that God will be with me at every moment.” For a patient who may not have such a spiritual perspective, one might suggest the phrase, “Even though I’m afraid of dying during the operation, I choose to handle whatever happens, beautifully,” or, “I choose to be calm and confident that everything will go smoothly.” The first of these phrases reflects the fact that not being able to HANDLE a crisis, or ultimately not being able to HANDLE the experience of dying, is often the most powerful and compelling fear of all.

Fear of Pain

 A possible EFT Choice for this might be, “Even though I am afraid of pain after the surgery, I choose to be relaxed and have my pain fully under control.”

Fear of Surgery Going Bad

A possible EFT Choice for this might be, “Even though I’m afraid the surgery will go badly, I choose to have it go exceptionally well and peacefully“.

Frustration with hospital routines or mistakes can often result in severe pre- or postoperative anxiety. Some of the distress may involve disruptive or upsetting roommates or frequent, disturbing night awakenings. EFT statements to target such distress might go, “Even though they woke me repeatedly last night when I needed sleep so badly, I choose to have my body feel deeply rested now and able to cope well with the surgery.”

Marie has observed that the patients who have received EFT tend to think more clearly, make better decisions and cope better with whatever comes up. A beneficial spin-off of this is reduced problems for the hospital staff.

Another area in which she had used EFT very successfully is for those who are waiting anxiously in the OR waiting room for news of their loved ones. It can be of great help to such people during this tense period and she envisions the day when someone will be present in the Operating Room waiting area to help these people to use EFT.

She also notes that EFT can be used in preparation for surgery even when the patient does not exhibit anxiety. EFT produces a highly suggestible state very rapidly and specific requests to one’s own body to handle the surgery and postoperative condition can be extremely effective if embedded within the EFT procedure. These requests should be as specific as possible to get the best effect. For example, a non-anxious preoperative patient might tap on the positive reminder phrase ONLY (without using the negative phrase, “Even though..”) as follows:

I ask my body to send pain-relieving chemicals to me throughout this operation and afterwards“. Specific directives to the body may be honored exactly if made during EFT tapping.

Or, such a patient might say:

I ask my body to heal as quickly as possible.” — with this positive phrase repeated at each tapping point.

An observation that Marie and I share is that many patients do not seem to want to go to the zero point on the intensity scale for their issue. This is particularly true for pain. My speculation is that the zero point is outside of these people’s belief systems and therefore is rejected. They are used to a familiar level of discomfort and when they get to a tolerable level (say when their pain has come down from a 10 or an 8 to a 4 on the Intensity Scale) they tend to stop. Few people are used to going for what they really want in any situation. They have been trained to settle for “better” and for “bearable,” so for many people that is the point where the nurse practitioner or medical assistant trained in EFT will have to let them stop. When EFT is used as a strategic intervention, such compromises are acceptable. However, should the patient want to follow up with more information about EFT, this could be provided to them.

EFT Master, Dr. Patricia Carrington

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