Case Studies: Expanding our tool kit:  A new technique that compliments TFT and EMDR


In recent years, increasing numbers of therapists have discovered the effectiveness of neurologically based therapy techniques, such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Thought Field Therapy (TFT), not only for trauma, but for a wide range of problems, including anxiety, anger, grief and phobias. Like most therapeutic approaches, however, they provide remarkable results for one client and little or no results for another, no matter how skilled the therapist. Even more mysterious, they can significantly help a client with one problem, but not with a different problem. For instance, Sarah, age 40, had been suffering from depression for five years. The depression was triggered by the death of her father, loss of a good-paying job due to downsizing and her fiance's breaking off their engagement--all within a one-year period. After six months of increasing anxiety and worsening depression (accompanied by low energy, disinterest in life and withdrawal from social situations), Sarah entered therapy. Biweekly sessions for the next three years, which frequently included EMDR, significantly reduced her anxiety, but did not alleviate the depression. Nor did antidepressants. Years before, I had had a similar experience. EMDR had sharply reduced my obsessive-compulsive symptoms, but didn't help my depression. TFT eliminated recurring anger, but also didn't help my depression.

In the course of five years of research into neurologically based approaches, I happened upon a working hypothesis that explains such inconsistent results. The side-to-side eye movements of EMDR that activate the left and right hemispheres of the brain seem to help people resolve problems based on a lack of communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. The tapping, or front/back stimulation of acupuncture points, in TFT is effective when there is a lack of communication between the front and back of the nervous system (controlled by the energy center, well known to acupuncturists and martial artists, that lies below the navel). And since we are three-dimensional creatures, I hypothesized that some problems stem from a lack of communication between the top and bottom of the nervous system as well, which I correlate with the brain and the enteric nervous system of the digestive tract (the source of gut feelings). Working from this hypothesis, I have also developed processes to reintegrate the top/bottom dimension.

I have found that although certain emotions tend to be based within a given neurological dimension (indecisiveness is often in left/right, anxiety in front/back and depression in top/bottom, for example), a client may experience any emotion as a block within any dimension or combination of dimensions. As a result, depending upon both the client and the specific problem being addressed, a therapist might need to use techniques that facilitate integration of the left/right, front/back and/or top/bottom dimensions of the nervous system. When a client is blocked within two or three dimensions of the nervous system, working within just one dimension will sometimes activate healing across the entire nervous system. If this does not happen, it is then necessary to work in the remaining dimensions.

From these hypotheses I developed a system called Shifting Consciousness through Dimensions (SCtD), which provides therapists ways to assess the dimension(s) the client is blocked in, processes to identify, if necessary, which dimension to start with and specific integrating techniques for each dimension.






Lee Cartwright

Original Work Citation

Cartwright, L. (2000, September-October). Case Studies: Expanding our tool kit: A new technique that compliments TFT and EMDR. Family Therapy Networker, 24(5), 71-82



“Case Studies: Expanding our tool kit:  A new technique that compliments TFT and EMDR,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed August 8, 2020,

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