Resolution, Not Conflict

The guide to problem-solving.

Can Energy Therapies Help the PTSD from Senseless Killings?

Survivors sometimes need more than talk therapy to heal the emotional residues.

Soldiers and survivors of disasters can be helped by energy psychology treatment

Energy therapies can help soldiers with ptsd.

PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder, is akin to choking. When food gets stuck during the process of swallowing we call it choking.  When the emotions that are raised by an intensely negative experience do not get digested by the mind's usual means (talking about it, dreaming about it, coming to a way of understanding it that makes it digestible) the negative emotions continue to emerge through quickness to anger, anxiety, marriage problems, flashbacks and other means for a very long time after the triggering incident.

Fortunately, while ptsd symptoms can be long-lasting, new energy psychology treatments can be short to administer and thorough in the relief they bring.

How did an innovative but basically conventional therapist like myself learn about energy therapies?

A year ago I received a phone-call from a retired therapist, Dale Petterson.  Dale's description of himself as a therapist who had worked for over twenty years using both traditional counseling and newer energy techniques piqued my curiosity. 

I had seen a live demonstration of one of these techniques, EFT, some years back and had been favorably impressed, so I was open to learning more. 

In addition, Dale was a former Navy man who sounded, on the phone at least, quite sensible and grounded..   I tend to trust former military personnel (i.e., solid and reliable), and the idea of a Navy man who was an energy therapist (i.e., flakey, or at least that's what I thought) sounded especially intriguing. So I invited him to come to my office to tell me about the techniques he uses.

At that first meeting Dale and I talked about our various treatment methods.  He then did a demo of his techniques with me as the client. I was beyond favorably impressed. Stunned by the rapidity of the intervention methods, I invited Dale to set up shop amongst the multiple independent therapy professionals who work in my Denver office suite.  I have a long-established reputation to uphold, but the potential opportunity to observe these unconventional new therapy methods on a regular basis tempted me to risk inviting him to share the office suite address where I work. 

Would Dale's energy techniques really help people overcome emotionally distress more rapidly and deeply than traditional therapy techniques?

The gamble of inviting someone with unorthodox emotional healing techniques to work in my office suite paid off.  By now, over a year since his phone call to me, Dale and I have worked together as co-therapists on multiple cases per week.  We have worked together in both individual (two therapists with one client) and couple (two therapists and two clients) therapy formats,   I've been stunned by the efficacy of these weird but remarkable techniques. 

I invite Dale to add his interventions to mine when my cases involve intense or chronic anxiety, frequent anger, persistent depression, or lingering reactions to traumas.  I especially bring him on board when negative emotions such as depression, anxiety, sadness or anger persist in spite of my generally effective therapy methods. 

 A significant number of Dale's treatment methods are based on the insights and techniques of Bradley Nelson

Nelson posits that disproportionate or stuck emotional responses generally indicate what he refers to as trapped emotions.  Trapped emotions are negative emotional reactions that have been stored in subconscious memory instead of digested through talking with others or released in some other form of emotional letting go.  These stored negative emotions create a template for intense reactions to subsequent experiences which share a point in common with the original painful situation. 

The idea of trapped emotions dovetails with what I learned about transference years ago in my psychologist training.  The phenomenon of transference from prior emotional experiences is conventional wisdom for most therapists. 

At the same time, in observing Dale Peterson's work I have been repeatedly impressed by three factors that differ from classical psychotherapies:

1. Location of the triggering event.  Contrary to much psychological theory, the trapped emotions that launch long-lasting negative impacts often have taken place outside of the family of origin.  

Brief negative interactions with childhood teachers or peers, and with bosses and work associates in adult life can have far more potent impact than most psychological theory assumes.  At the same time, adult traumas, including war-related trauma, often have earlier roots that compound the triggering incidents in the war situation.

2.  Ability to access subconscious memories unreachable by traditional techniques. Muscle kinesiology plus the Emotion Code of Bradley Nelson (as well as other technqiues like NET) enable laser-like rapidity of access to the specific memory that launched the template for the target symptom.

Often the conscious mind wants nothing to do with painful memories.  To access them, purely talking about memories doesn't get there.  Muscle testing techniques by  contrast can bypass the screens that limit conscious awareness and zap straight to the subconsciously remembered specific initialting event. 

Sometimes these initial events occrred in pre-verbal years, or even as inherited emotions.  Events that occurred in prior generations, in the fetal months, in infancy or in toddlerhood pose no barriers to access with these techniques. 

3. Ability to totally remove the negative emotional residue.  Treatment to defuse the emotional memory often takes only a few minutes. After treatment, memory of the event remains minus the negative emotional component.

Then when similar situations come up subsequently in the person's life, the old emotional template no longer is operative.  For example, a sound that resembles the loud throbbing of the helicopter that crashed and killed a soldier's buddies will, after treatment, just sound like a helicopter without re-arousing panic, anger or a fight impulse. 

Trapped emotions function like emotional landmines, and can do significant later body damage.

They cause an emotional explosion when you touch something in everyday life that has some element in common with the original potent emotional situation.  

These landmines are often stored in specific body organs such as stomach, chest, a shoulder, a knee, or the heart. 

The energy therapies literature posits that an organ where painful negative memories are stored becomes vulnerable to eventual physical problems. Negative emotional memories can become sources of discomfort like "a pain in the neck" or can develop into the locus of serious medical syndromes such as irritable bowel syndrome or cancer.  Many of our clients have reported that after the trapped emotions have been released, their physical manifestations, such as stomach difficulties, go away as well. 

What are the downsides of these treatment methods?

Fortunately, unlike the negative side effects I have often seen from psychotropic medications, I have heard of zero downsides to any of the energy therapy interventions beyond that a) clients sometimes feel tired after a session, and 2) sometimes the client feels the same symptom or even worse for a day or two until it suddenly clears.

Some clients are uwilling to participate in these treatment strategies.  They say the treatment methods sound too odd and therefore do not want to try engaging in them. With regard to these clients, however, my sense is that they see quickly how powerfully the techniques access the truth. If they are hiding something that they are not ready to talk about, the techniques look quite threatening.

What I have seen time and time again are quite remarkable cures, especially of ptsd, sexual inhibitions, anger issues, anxiety, and depression. 

For marital issues where we treat spouses' interlocking emotional sensitivities, couples report that treatment enables them both to feel significantly more relaxed and affectionate, and that in that more positive emotional state they are more able to utilize the communication skill upgrades they have worked on in their conventional treatment with me.

Psychological reversal needs to be treated to assure successful outcomes.

Psychologist Roger Callahan, the originator of TFT, one of the first energy therapy treatment methods, first clarified an important factor to keep in mind when using energy, or for that matter any psychotherapy, treatments. The phenomenon of psychological reversal has to be treated as a pre-op procedure for these treatments to work. 

Reversal is an orientation toward self-sabotage.  People who are reversed subconsciously pursue courses of action that create misery instead of happiness

Dale Petterson has developed a unique way to eliminate psychological reversal.  He uses muscle kinesiology and Bradley Nelson's Emotion Code to identify the trapped emotion that first caused the reversed state.  Once this initial trapped emotion has been neutralized, the psychological reversal does not return.  Dale's method of eliminating reversal has held solid in every case I have worked on with him over our year thus far of working together.

Military personnel and disaster survivors need ptsd help.

Soldiers and other ptsd survivors can benefit quickly from energy treatments.

The Bottom Line

Energy psychotherapies are to traditional psychotherapy as the alternative physical therapies like acupuncture are to medical treatment. We do not really know how or why they work, but the potency of their healing impacts are clearly evident.

I have written this posting in hopes that all who work with people who have suffered trauma from disasters, including vets and prisoners of war, or who suffer with chronic feelings of anxiety, anger or other negative emotions, will take these new energy psychology healing methods seriously.   


Susan Heitler, PhD, a Denver Clinical psychologist, is author of multiple publications including From Conflict to Resolution and The Power of Two.  A graduate of Harvard and NYU, Dr. Heitler's most recent project is a marriage skills website,


Susan Heitler, Ph.D., is the author of many books, including From Conflict to Resolution and The Power of Two. She is a graduate of Harvard University and New York University.


Subscribe to Resolution, Not Conflict

Current Issue

Dreams of Glory

Daydreaming: How the best ideas emerge from the ether.