When one therapy meeting is enough: the famous case of Sally and the single-session emotional freedom techniques EFT

When one therapy meeting is enough: the famous case of Sally and the single-session emotional freedom techniques EFT

In today ‘s article we report the description of a surprising clinical case described by the researcher and writer Dawson Church with the aim of illustrating how Single Session Therapy combined with a specific technique , in this case EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) , can constitute a single and effective intervention for the treatment of complex and often disabling problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) .

The case presented in Capturing the moment: single session therapy and walk-in services (2014) , a book written and edited by psychologists M. Hoyt and M. Talmon , represents in fact one of the most interesting contributions to the theoretical and practical study of single session therapy.

But who is Dawson Church?

Dawson Church is a researcher who has been involved in the study of epigenetics for several years, regarding which he has written many books including the most famous The Genie in Your Genes (2013) , considered a fundamental work for understanding the link between emotions and genetics .

Founder of the National Institute for Integrative Healthcare in California, Church is constantly studying new evidence-based psychological and medical techniques including Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) .


What is Emotional Freedom Techniques?

Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) is a technique that combines elements of cognitive therapy with the technique of acupressure. Many scientific studies have been carried out on this technique especially on war veterans which have demonstrated its effectiveness in the treatment of post traumatic stress disorder PTSD , phobias , anxiety , depression and pain .


How does the EFT “touch” work?

Similar to acupuncture, EFT during a single therapy session focuses on meridian points or energy hot spots to restore the body’s energy balance. The application of this technique assumes that the restoration of energy balance allows the person to alleviate the symptoms deriving from negative experiences or emotions.


The EFT technique can be broken down into five steps .

  1. Identify the problem

In order for the technique to be effective, you must first identify the problem or fear underlying the problem and you will focus on it through touch.

 Initial intensity test

After identifying the problem area, it is necessary to set a level of intensity of pain and emotional or physical discomfort related to the focused problem, referring to a scale from 0 to 10, with 10 being the worst level.

  1. The configuration

Before the touch, you need to establish a sentence that explains what you are trying to address. The initial sentence generally used is: “Even if I have this fear or problem, I deeply and completely accept myself”.

  1. EFT Intercept Sequence

The EFT sequence involves touching nine meridian points . There are 12 main meridians that mirror each side of the body and correspond to an internal organ. However, EFT focuses primarily on these nine points:

karate chop (KC): small intestine meridian

top of the head (TH): Government ship

eyebrow (EB): bladder meridian

side of the eye (SE): Gallbladder meridian

under the eye (EU): stomach meridian

under nose (UN): Government ship

chin (Ch): central vessel

beginning of the clavicle (CB): renal meridian

under the arm (AU): spleen meridian

While the sequence is being followed the person recites a phrase to keep attention on their problem area.

  1. Experience the ultimate intensity

At the end of the sequence, the person rates the intensity level on a scale of 0 to 10, comparing the results with the initial intensity level.


 But let’s get to the story of “Sally”

Sally was a former nurse diagnosed  with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) . The woman had begun to have frequent nightmares and flashbacks following a particular incident that had occurred during her service in Vietnam.

Sally had rescued some Vietnamese village children and elders and while she was treating them in the field hospital a US Army sergeant came to her, ordering her to send everyone away as space was needed to treat American service personnel. 

Sally did not obey and refused. At that point, the sergeant pulled his service revolver out of her holster and pointed it at her head telling her that one way or another she would kill the villagers and that she could only choose whether to die sooner or later than that. They.

Realizing the dire situation she was in, Sally knew she would have no choice and that saving the villagers would be a venture completely out of her control. She also knew that the only thing to do was to allow them to go in peace with dignity, without creating fear or panic and with respect for their culture. To protect them from the sergeant’s violence, she gathered the children around the elders for support and encouraged them to leave the hospital as a group. Once outside, they were shot by Sgt.

Sally never recovered emotionally from the experience. She blamed herself for being responsible for the murder, continuing to have nightmares about the accident for forty years.

Sally was able to work on this traumatic memory during a psychotherapy session in which the EFT technique was used. Thanks to this intervention she made peace with the event and her guilt was transformed into the knowledge that the villagers were indeed grateful to her. They had seen the gun pointed at her head and knew there was nothing more she could do. They didn’t blame her, but they appreciated what she had done. After the therapy session, the nightmares and flashbacks stopped.



The conclusion we can draw with respect to the topic addressed in today’s article is that to achieve significant change, even when this is linked to deeply traumatic events, it is not always necessary to go through a long course of therapy. What in certain circumstances turns out to be effective for everything to happen instead is rather the presence of a set of factors, including a therapist trained in Single Session Therapy and a client ready to change .



Angelica Giannetti
Team Psychotherapist of the Italian Center
for Single Session Therapy



Church, D. (2013). Sometimes Just One Session of Therapy Can Be Enough. Huffpost from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/sometimes-just-one-session-of-therapy-can-be-enough_b_57c122bfe4b00c54015dea64

Church, D. (2013). The EFT manual (3rd ed.). Santa Rosa, CA: Energy Psychology Press.

Church, D., Yount, G., & Brooks, AJ (2012). The effect of Emotional Freedom Techniques on stress biochemistry: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 200(10), 891–896.

Church, D. (2016). Personal Epigenetics: A New Era in Health and Medicine. Huffpost from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/personal-epigenetics-a-new-era-in-health-and medicine_b_57accc0ae4b03d06fe845285

Church, D., Yount, G., Rachlin, K., Fox, L., & Nelms, J. (2016). Epigenetic effects of PTSD remediation in veterans using clinical EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques): A randomized controlled pilot study. American Journal of Health Promotion (in press).

Hoyt, M.F., & Talmon, M. (2014). Capturing the Moment: Single Session Therapy and Walk-In Services . Crown House Pub.

Maharaj, ME (2016). Differential gene expression after Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) treatment: A novel pilot protocol for salivary mRNA assessment. Energy Psychology: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 8(1), 17–32.


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