In February 2021, I was contacted by the founder of Frontline Assistance for Stress and Trauma (FAST), Wendy Power Stoten, to see whether I may be able to help with some research. FAST is a Community Interest Company that was formed in April 2020. The aim was to provide frontline professionals with some free Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) sessions to help them deal with the overwhelming stress and trauma brought about by Covid-19.
EFT is a relatively new self-help technique that involves either tapping lightly on or touching specific acupressure points on the body, whilst focussing on an event or an emotion (Adams & Davidson, 2011). Over the past two decades, growing numbers of clinicians have been utilizing EFT in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression. Randomised control trials have shown promising outcomes for all three conditions (Sebastian & Nelms, 2016).
In recent months, the FAST team have started to work with a UK Police Constabulary, delivering EFT sessions to the officers exposed to trauma, with the aim being to reduce the severity of their post-traumatic stress symptoms. Many studies have examined the psychological risks faced by response officers, and where programmes of assessment and surveillance have been undertaken, they have reported increased levels of stress, traumatic stress, compassion fatigue and burnout (College of Policing, 2020). It has also been found that for every 100 police officers or staff who have experienced traumatic events, 20 are likely to have a diagnosis of either PTSD, or complex PTSD. However, only five of these people will have been told and only one or two are likely to have been clinically diagnosed (Police Care UK, 2018).
Whilst working with the constabulary, FAST have recognised that the post-traumatic stress symptoms experienced by the officers are quite often the result of recurrent trauma, illustrated in the following experience: “There is no time after a stressful or traumatic incident to recover… it may be something as simple as being allowed to sit and have a proper meal break that will help, but there is not time to switch off” (Police Care UK, 2018, p.8). Not only are the officers unable to process the past experiences, but they are also continually encountering new traumatic experiences.
All the FAST practitioners are trauma-informed but much of their work has been around treating past-traumatic experiences. The recurrent trauma within the police force is presenting new challenges, meaning that the practitioners are having to work in different ways.
Enter the Conscious Community Project (CCP)
I personally found this extremely interesting, and together with FAST decided to start a project to learn more. At around the same time, I learned about the CCP funding – divine intervention! We felt that exploring how and what the practitioners were doing, as well as having open discussions, will give us a better understanding of working with recurrent trauma, data that we could use to develop and test a protocol.
Fast forward a couple of months and we found out our application had been successful! The aim of our project is to devise and test a Recurrent-Trauma EFT Protocol. The main questions driving this project are:
- How are the EFT practitioners applying EFT within sessions with officers experiencing recurrent trauma?
- What outcome will the protocol produce when tested with six frontline officers?
Should the project produce positive outcomes, more practitioners will be trained in the protocol, with the aim of helping more trauma-exposed police officers in other geographical locations. The project also has a wider implication, as it opens up the possibility of using the protocol to help other professionals who are experiencing recurrent trauma with resultant post-traumatic stress symptoms. For example, the intensive care unit medical staff that have worked tireless through the Covid-19 pandemic have also reported experiencing recurrent trauma. Whilst the protocol may need to be adjusted, it would still provide an excellent foundation to work with.
The project is now well and truly underway. All the practitioners have been interviewed and some really rich data has been collected! I think all of us involved are very curious to see how the protocol unfolds and what it yields.
Adams, A. & Davidson, K. (2011) EFT Level 1: Comprehensive Training Resource. CA: Energy Psychology Press.
College of Policing (2020) Responding to Trauma in Policing: A Practical Guide. OscarKilo.org.uk. https://oscarkilo.org.uk/app/uploads/2020/12/Hesketh_Tehrani_Responding-to-trauma-in-policing-a-practical-guide.pdf.
Police Care UK (2018) Policing: The Job and the Life Survey Summary Report. Policecare.org.uk. https://www.policecare.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/PoliceCareUK_TJTL-Report-.pdf