Veterans PTSD – How to Gain Rapport and Initiate a Conversation

Hi Ingrid,
I just finished listening to the pod cast you sent me on the intro to EFT and PTSD for Vets. I learned a great deal. I am a Vietnam Vet myself and a CERT-1 EFT person. I do not use EFT for income as I do not charge for my services. I have worked with civilian and Veteran clients. I have been doing so for 3 years.
I have a question. I was recently talking to an active duty reservist about 27 years old. He has served two duty deployments to Iraq. He commented that the previous night he had drank 3/4 of a fifth of whiskey. We were at the local VFW and he was already on his 3rd whiskey and Sprite in a tall glass. I felt certain he was avoiding war memories by his drinking. My question is this, how would I get to know more to see if EFT might help him? I did not know where to start and maybe it wasn’t the right place or my place to go there anyway at that time.
Thank you for your work and your sharing,
Bill Spiller

Dear Bill,
Thank you for your service and for your willingness to help others with EFT!
I deeply relate to the situation with the 27 year old veteran. I think that this is one of our biggest challenges, and the foundation of EFT4Vets:
EFT doesn’t work, as long as the Veteran doesn’t want to try it. Sound’s like a no-brainer, but it is the deepest problem we have.
This is why I teach about the warrior mindset, and the importance of acknowledgment without judgment.

I know that you as a Veteran do this naturally.
For “outside people”, it is often hard to understand: We need to acknowledge without judgment, condoning or excusing anything (ANYTHING!) that happened, and honor the warrior, welcome him back and take over responsibility for what happened in war.
If someone is drinking heavily – then this is the best he can do at the time. If he was looking for someone to help him, he would say so.
He feels that there is no way that anybody will ever understand or even more – be able too heal what happened.

I don’t have to tell you this, as you have been through more than most civilians yourself, and I respect and honor you very much for this.

I never ask straight forward, personal questions, or share my observations about how someone is doing, as this might feel either intrusive or trigger the “I’m OK” response that they are trained to have.
I’d simply sit with him, acknowledge that he is drinking and confirm that this sometimes is the best we can do.
When we get rapport, I might ask: How long have you been back? (as that’s more distant than “where have you been?) it’s a safer question.
Another question is: “How are your buddies doing?” It might be easier for him to talk about his buddies than about himself.

If the rapport is really good, I’d ask :”Everybody came back?”, and either share my relief or offer my regrets by simply saying “I’m sorry… .”

I then share that my father was a POW, and that I grew up seeing what this did to him. I’d share that he would never allow us to ask questions and he never spoke about it.
This opens another door.
I find that all Veteran honor POWs very much, so there is usually a response that might initiate a small conversation.
Sometimes they share that their father was in the Military, too, or something like that.

Then we have mutual ground.
I always keep language short and don’t intrude. For many Veterans, just talking about something is hard. They are afraid of judgment, afraid to be missunderstood. They don’t want to have to explain themselves.
So I just confirm and acknowledge what they are willing and able to share.

I have seen more than once that, once they understand that I am safe and reliable, they begin to talk. This by itself is powerful and healing, and I listen and confirm.

When the time is right, I share :”You know, there is a new relaxation technique that takes the charge out of nightmares and flashbacks, so Veterans can sleep better. There are no drugs involved, and you can learn how to do this yourself.” I don’t explain much about EFT – it would be too weird in the beginning. If they ask how it works, I tap first, and then explain, meaning I show them exactly how to tap, and after each point I make the comment. This way, they see that it is easy and become curious before they receive an answer.

If this works, then I might tell them to try it with a physical stress symptom. The reason is that I don’t want to open up a “can of worms” on a public area, and I want to demonstrate immediate results. Stay away from tinnitus in the beginning, as this has shown to come back (we don’t know, why yet), and from medical conditions, as they may or may not improve. Rather work with tension in the body, and, after it subsided, ask how he is feeling now. Then point out that feelings and physical symptoms are connected, and so are our thoughts.

Keep it as easy as possible, so that it is comfortable to digest.

With my veterans, I replace the “I deeply and completely accept myself” with “I honor and respect myself”. It is more suitable language for them – it simply makes more sense.

Then see what he wants to do next, and offer to work with him. Don’t wait for him to call you. He won’t, even if this worked for him. Instead try to offer calling him at a specific time (without pushing). Chances are he won’t be there when you call, but calling multiple times will help him understand that you mean what you said when you told him that you care and want to help. For you as a veteran this should be so much easier than for a civilian.
My guys have always told me that they will most likely not pick up the phone, but that I should please keep trying. It is a symptom of PTSD….avoidance…and they have to get over this in their own way.
Don’t push out the time too far, the sooner the better, otherwise their memories overcome them and the “window of opportunity” closes again. I have seen this, and it hurts when it happens.

I hope this helps and makes sense.
Thank you so much for all that you do Bill!
Please let me know how I can support you!
Ingrid

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6 Responses to “Veterans PTSD – How to Gain Rapport and Initiate a Conversation”

  1. Ingrid, bless you for sharing what you know. Everyone can ‘be reached’. These honorable men and women are certainly deserving of our efforts in learning how to help them.

    Thanks, Ingrid!

    Katie

  2. David, it is an honor and a privilege to know you and to call you a friend. Your work has changed so much more than you sill ever know and your determination to help the troops and create the shifts necessary to make EFT available to anyone who needs it is beyond words. Thank you for all that you do! I appreciate you. Ingrid

  3. Hello Ingrid.

    Thank you of this. I continually look to you and share what I learn from our talks and emails and very much from your posts here.

    The paradox is that while we trust more our families than we do some or most therapists, we don’t want to subject our families to our condition either. It’s a real puzzler for us and I’ve been ever grateful to those who honored us for doing the best we could do. We want to reach out but at the same time dont’ want to.

    Your ability and sensitivity to our situations in regards to PTSD is awesome and I thank you deeply for all that you do. You are a real gift to the Vets.

  4. Ingrid,
    Thanks for your article and insights about vets,PTSD and especially using alcohol or drugs to cope. As an addictionologist and EFT practitioner I am always glad when someone identifies and then treats the addiction. I find that many well meaning
    therapists treat the depression or anxiety and miss the underlying addiction.
    Thank You

  5. Ingrid, thanks for a terrific piece that is so informative and helpful.

    Lory

  6. Ingrid,

    This is excellent advice for helping us understand how to not only offer the possibility of help but to work with our veterans when that door is opened. The need is so great and your insights are invaluable. Thank you!

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