Over the last 35 years I have been striving passionately to find methods of psychotherapy which are quick, effective, and permanent. In the beginning I explored psychodynamic methods and found them too slow. Then I learned about Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT,) which I found limiting as it focused mainly on our “inner thoughts” and self-talk, and I felt did not give enough attention to emotion, which I believe is the real “driver” of our decisions and behaviors. I then deeply explored Neuro-Linguistic Programming for 25 years, and even taught numerous introductory seminars on this. The Internal Family Systems (IFS) approach has some benefits, and I studied and used that intensely for 12-18 months. However, approximately 18 months ago I learned about a new method, Emotional Transformation Therapy (ETT) and found that it adds efficacy and permanence to methods I have learned, and usually produces relatively fast, long-lasting results. This handout will describe ETT in detail, clarify who can benefit, describe the major modalities, and answer many questions you may have about this psychotherapy approach.
Most psychotherapies involve the patient discussing verbally what is currently upsetting and describing the beliefs, emotions, and behaviors which are associated with it. With the assistance of the psychotherapist; childhood and adolescent experiences are explored, as they are often important and frequently affect adult experiences. However, our inner functioning is designed to keep us safe (physically and psychologically.) Therefore, it's often difficult to discover/recall early traumas as they are "hidden" from our awareness. The more primitive areas of the brain store these memories. This is done unconsciously, and helps us to progress through life, and not be overwhelmed by the various slights, punishments, neglects, and traumas which occur as we are growing up
In 1991, a new type of psychotherapy was discovered. Stephen Vasquez, PhD, was in Europe traveling and he noticed a strange phenomenon while riding on the subway. Some subway stations were bathed in blue light, others were illuminated in red light and yet other subway stations were predominantly green in color. Dr. Vasquez noted that he would have different emotions under different colors, and he became curious about this. He discovered this process had been written about previously, and that a few individuals had developed light treatments (Martel, Anadi, 2018. Light Therapies.) Aware of what others had done, he developed the light device (Chromopulse,) in which various colors were used to promote progress from one emotion to another. For example, yellow helps to transition from feeling hopeless/helpless/powerless to feeling angry/aggressive to feeling calm, “in charge” and empowered. He found the color green to help transition from feeling despair/devastated/empty to feeling sad/lonely to feeling nurtured/joyous and that “life is meaningful.” By careful study of the effect of color on emotions he developed a method by which different colors would help people progress through various emotional states (Vasquez, Steven. 2013. Emotional Transformation Therapy.)
Dr. Vasquez was not the first individual to promote the use of colored light for treatment (chromotherapy.) Over 3,000 years ago, an ancient Hindu scripture discussed the healing power of the colored rays of the sun( Martel, Anadi, 2018. Light Therapies, p 7.) A more contemporary use of light therapy reveals a Nobel Prize given in 1903 to Dr. Finsen for his therapeutic use of light. Between 1876 and 1878, 3 books were published on the healing effects of various colors. Since then, numerous scientists have developed various ways to use colored light in treatment. My mentor, Steven Vasquez, PhD, published his ideas in 2014, after 23 years of research.
The influence of color is multidimensional. Not only does the visual optic pathway carry impulses away from the eye, but three other pathways leave the eye. The four pathways influence numerous brain processes: physiologic, emotional, and cognitive, both conscious and unconscious. (Martel, Anadi, 2018. Light Therapies, p 165.) Light is a very powerful modality, as vision is 80% of total sensory input (Martel, Anadi, 2018. Light Therapies, p 260.) A vast majority (99%) of psychotherapy is performed with the eyes of the patient open, but in other psychotherapies specific colors do not play such a central part as they do in ETT.
Dr. Vasquez found, as numerous others have, that different colors had different emotional impacts on individuals. In addition, he found that light input into the retina/eyes from the sides/periphery has a different impact than light input straight into the eyes. Fredric Schiffer from Harvard Department of Psychiatry was one of the first to use this therapeutically, (Schiffer, Fredric 1998. Of Two Minds.) However, Dr. Schiffer only considered peripheral input into two sides (right or left,) compared to Dr. Vasquez who utilized input into 12 different angles (as on a clock face.) (Vasquez, Steven. 2013. Emotional Transformation Therapy.) This peripheral eye stimulation (PES) was a major advance, and is other used during ETT treatment with the Light Device.
One of the strengths of ETT is it’s ability to help you recover memories which are hidden (implicit,) but which have an impact on your everyday functioning. These memories are “hidden away” to minimize the emotional pain we suffer, but this also impairs emotional growth and progress in psychotherapy, as it is hard to change what we do not recall. As an experienced psychotherapist, Dr. Vasquez knew that being able to access implicit memory would be an advantage for ETT. Often these hidden memories are core emotional experiences.
A core emotional memory (CEM) is a recollection of an event which was powerful in your past, and which is not easily remembered. (Vasquez, Steven. 2018 Training: Emotional Transformation Therapy, Level III.) These CEMs are often seen as “negative experiences,” but they can be a “positive” experience. These CEMs help develop core-beliefs, which may or may not be helpful, and have a major impact on personality. Frequently these CEMs affect us, but we do not consciously recall them (implicit memory.) Unresolved CEMs produces many of the symptoms which lead someone to contact a psychotherapist. These CEMS are subjective, emotionally powerful memories. Frequently CEMs in some individuals lead to successful self-talk, emotions and core-beliefs which allow them to be emotionally adept and successful in life and relationships. At other times, CEMs lead individuals to have depression, anxiety, and
conflicts which impair their ability to have happy and successful lives. These CEMs may affect a person forever unless treated.
These CEMs are held in specific neural networks, and “walled off” from awareness by psychological processes so you are not overwhelmed by them. Often accessing these memories may cause a flight-fight-freeze response. In addition, the anxiety or helplessness from these unconscious memories may lead to drug addictions (alcohol, marijuana, etc.,) behavioral addictions (excessive exercise, inappropriate spending, pursuit of high-risk sports, over-involvement in routine sports,) food addictions (bulimia, obesity,) self-injury (cutting) or relationship issues.
The goal of ETT is to access, process and neutralize the (detrimental) CEMs, so that they have minimal effect upon you. (Vasquez, Steven. 2018 Training: Emotional Transformation Therapy, Level III.) After successful treatment, you may recall the event, but it is recalled in a neutral manner. Many other psychotherapies (CBT, NLP, EMDR) have this same goal, but often take longer to access implicit memory, develop insight and produce behavior change.
Similar to other types of psychotherapy, this process is non-invasive and does not use medication or applied electrical current to the brain.
How do I know if I might benefit from ETT?
Issues which commonly would lead someone to a psychotherapist include anxiety, depression, phobias and relationship issues. ETT is not "skill – building," so specific skill training (i.e., interviewing skills, public speaking, improving communication skills,) would be done without the use of specific ETT techniques.
In addition, some people use alcohol, drugs, self-injury (cutting,) involvement in behavioral addictions (exercise, music, video games) as a way to deal with underlying issues. ETT methods are usually very helpful in accessing the “unbearable moment” before engaging in the detrimental behavior and dealing with the hidden CEM. (Vasquez, Steven. 2019. Training: ETT-Addictive Template.)
If you have chronic relationship issues, in which friends or family often trigger you into an unhappy, dysfunctional, emotional state and/or if you are unable to sustain long-term relationships; ETT likely can be helpful.
Physical states such as chronic pain, migraine headaches, chronic back pain, hypertension, asthma, and immune system dysfunction (rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, chronic fatigue syndrome;) all have psychological components and may benefit from ETT as an addition to traditional medical treatment. (Vasquez, S. 2019. Training: Somatic Psychotherapy.)
The treatment of personality disorders, brain injury, or obsessive-compulsive disorder take extensive time, and have been treated exclusively by ETT.
Components of ETT therapy
Psychotherapy- During the process, I am sitting beside you, and active in the psychotherapy process. Independent of the particular modality used, ETT is psychotherapy; assisted by a Light Device, New insights, different perspectives, additional memories, or new future plans are encouraged and frequently occur. This is because various neural networks are activated and integrated. Often memories are recalled from childhood, which were not previously able to be accessed. The use of flicker rate, discussed below, is very helpful for promoting memory recall. I focus on helping you put these learnings into practice in your life.
Attachment issues- Depending on how you relate to others and me, I will be supportive and encouraging as you explore sensitive issues in your quest to change your future. A vast majority of patients find that discussing difficult/ embarrassing issues is not as difficult as they expected and is “worth it.” Development and maintenance of a trusting relationship is very important to the outcome of psychotherapy, and is important in ETT, as it is in any psychotherapy with the “technical aspects” of ETT building on this.
Light device- This is the most commonly used modality, because of the many adjustments which can be made. The current Light Device is the 5th variation which Dr. Vasquez has developed. It has a LED which sits in a 30” by 30” black box to help limit outside light and distraction. This LED can deliver any color of the spectrum. As I sit beside you during the psychotherapy process and you consider and discuss an issue, I will be changing the color, depending on what emotion is predominate at that time. If your emotion changes significantly, then I will change the color. If emotions are relatively calm and somatic symptoms are problematic, then the color will be chosen which is predicted to have the most beneficial effect on reducing that somatic symptom.
Peripheral eye stimulation- It has also been discovered that many pathways lead from the eye to other parts of the brain, not just to the visual cortex. These other pathways involve emotions and memory, and this knowledge is utilized when I ask patients to sometimes look directly at the light, and sometimes to look at the periphery of the light; which helps recall additional memories, develop new perspectives, or plan future actions because peripheral visual input activates different neural networks. Dr. Vasquez added this to the Light Device treatment after developing and using specialized googles (see below.)
Brain wave alteration- During treatment with the Light Device, the flicker rate can be adjusted during the session, depending on your needs. This process works as consistent, flickering lights will cause brain wave entrainment (following) in many individuals after 5-15 seconds and help shift the brain waves to a more helpful frequency. It has been determined which frequencies help with memory recall, which help focus attention, and which help facilitate integration of the psychotherapy learnings into both the right and left brain. (Vasquez, Steven. 2019. Personal communication.) If someone has seizures which are caused by strobe-light or flickering lights
(approximately 3 in 1000 individuals) then the Light Device is used without this additional feature.
Other ETT Methodologies
Spectral resonance chart- This is a poster sized, color spectrum chart of highly saturated colors, which will activate different emotions, memories, and/or perspectives depending on which color is focused upon. This is both diagnostic and therapeutic, as it helps immediately identify and treat dissociation (spontaneous disengagement from unwanted emotions.) (Vasquez, S. 2013. Emotional Transformation Therapy, p115-147.) This is sometimes the modality used first, especially if dissociation is a possible issue.
Specialized Googles- These are custom-built, specialized goggles which only let in a very small beam of light, and which can be directed to peripheral parts of the retina. Data has shown that this peripheral eye stimulation activates different neural networks than central retinal activation and is especially helpful if one is overwhelmed, having migraine headaches, light sensitive, trouble recalling a past incident, or struggling with inner conflict (Vasquez, S. 2013. Emotional Transformation Therapy, p 149-176.) Although in theory, numerous angles could be used, for practical purposes 12 angles (as in a clock face) usually are sufficient.
Colored wands- These are small wooden rods which have painted ends, and the color and location of viewing is selected by the therapist. These multi-dimensional eye movements (MDEM) are specific for an individual, and unlike eye movements which are induced in EMDR. These are especially helpful for visually fixated trauma and are occasionally used.
Frequently asked questions
Medications: A majority of my patients are taking medication which has not resolved the particular issues which are of current concern. Almost all issues involving anxiety (except OCD) can be processed by ETT and the medications can be slowly tapered over months. Sometime antidepressant medication can be tapered. I do not usually recommend tapering medication for mood stability or psychosis, although Dr. Vasquez has treated these conditions successfully and has tapered medications in conjunction with the patient’s psychiatrist.
Length of sessions: ETT psychotherapy is provided during a 50 min. psychotherapy session. If you are taking medication, the discussion RE efficacy, side-effects, and dosage adjustment can usually be performed relatively quickly, early in the session, and will leave time for ETT psychotherapy. Additional visits to discuss medication issues are NOT needed.
Number of sessions: This is hard to generalize, as there are so many variables. However, usually one issue is resolved in a session or two. Approximately 30% of the time a patient wants to come back and work on the same issue again; but a majority of the time when an issue is resolved it does not need further attention. Sometimes other CEMs are recovered during
therapy which require additional sessions to process. The therapy is very “issue driven," with you and I selecting which issue needs to be worked on at each session. It is preferable to pursue therapy once per week, and rarely I may recommend therapy more than once per week. This is similar to music lessons or learning a sport; the more frequently one participates, the faster progress occurs. However, some patients cannot come weekly and come every 2 to 3 weeks. Coming less frequently than every 3 weeks initially is not recommended, as life events may occur which interfere with the permeance of the treatment. After 4-15 sessions, most individuals find lasting results and the sessions can be tapered and stopped. Some individuals, with complex, severe issues may benefit from prolonged treatment.
Any benefit in non-psychiatric conditions? As most illness and physical pain are stress-related, many “non-psychiatric” conditions are also helped by ETT. Chronic pain is often helped by ETT, as the neural circuits for physical pain are often shared by neural circuits for emotional processing. This is why some “anti-depressants” are indicated in non-depressed patients with pain. Diabetic peripheral neuropathy, fibromyalgia, and chronic musculoskeletal pain (chronic low back pain, osteoarthritis) have been shown by the FDA to respond to certain anti-depressants in non-depressed individuals, and these conditions also often respond to ETT. Other chronic pain states which have been treated by ETT are migraine headaches, rheumatoid arthritis, TMJ pain, Morton’s neuroma, and sciatica.
Chronic pain from automobile accidents and cancer have frequently improved following ETT treatment. Various types of insomnia have responded to ETT, as well as some types of involuntary movement disorders (hyperactive attention deficit disorder, essential tremor, Parkinson’s disease.)
Any spiritual elements to ETT?
A way to increase a sense of well-being and deal with spiritual issues has been developed. Dr. Vasquez noted that many patients entered a particularly pleasant/powerful state of well-being spontaneously at the end of the session. He developed a specific protocol to help promote this, called the Samadhi Process. (Vasquez, S. 2017. Spiritually Transformative Therapy.) This is especially helpful for high–level, global issues such as “becoming all I can be,” or “fulfilling God’s purpose” or “being at peace.” This is usually done toward the conclusion of a series of ETT treatments, although in rare circumstances it could be an early focus of treatment.
How does ETT compare to EMDR?
Both are experiential, as compared to cognitive, therapies. Both use eye movements to help access problem states and facilitate memory retrieval. Both are similar in that homework or preparation are not required. EMDR has been standardized and is considered “evidence based” for PTSD. The treatments were developed independently in the 1990s by Francine Shapiro (EMDR) and by Steven Vasquez, PhD ( ETT.)
ETT is more verbally interactive, and also uses color to facilitate emotional progression and may use flicker rate to help move brain waves to the most appropriate state (facilitating insight, focusing attention, helping integration of learnings into both hemispheres.) Many people report undergoing EMDR treatment for years, whereas most patients find 4-15 sessions of ETT sufficient, especially if undertaken once or twice per week. There are some patients with severe, chronic issues which benefit from more lengthy treatment. There are numerous patients who have been helped by EMDR or ETT, although it is easier to find psychotherapists who have been trained in EMDR. I will be glad to discuss this in more detail, and answer whatever questions you might have.
What to do before sessions?
As the sessions are “issue driven,” prior consideration to selecting an “issue,” may save time, although I will always discuss this with you and help to formulate the “issue” with you. In selecting an “issue,” chose one which, “if resolved, will make a significant difference in your life.” Common issues have been:
-distress over frequently recalling a loved one who suicided
-recalling a severe traumatic incident (accident; verbal , sexual, or physical aggression)
-experiencing distress in a particular situation (enclosed spaces, public speaking, etc.)
-inability to get over a past relationship
-being “stuck” and unable to move on from a traumatic incident or relationship
For lasting results, the relevant neural networks need to be accessed. Therefore, taking a substance/ medication to “calm down” (alcohol, benzodiazepines, candy, marijuana, nicotine) prior to the session is not helpful, and actually slows the improvement process.
If you are taking medication to deal with the “issue(s,)” it will need to be lowered enough so that you have access to some of the emotions during the session. After the issue is treated, we can discuss a slow reduction of your medication to see if it is still necessary.
What to do after sessions?
As your brain is in a “moldable, transitional” state for 3-4 hours after a session, taking psychoactive agents (alcohol, benzodiazepines, marijuana, nicotine) to “calm down” after a session is not recommended. It is also important to not discuss the session with someone who is very negative or pessimistic for 3-4 hours, (until the learnings have become more permanent.) It is highly recommended to review the session during the “reconsolidation period” of 3-4 hours post treatment. This would entail reviewing the issue(s,) additional memories, new insights, different perspectives, and future ways of coping differently with respect to the issue(s.) This could be done by journaling, “talking to yourself,” or by discussing this with a supportive and trusted friend or family member.
Any downsides to ETT?
As the various ETT methodologies all use “equipment” of one kind or another, phone sessions are difficult. If for some reason you are unable to come for a session, the issues can be discussed, but a particular ETT tool (chart, Light Device, etc.) could not be used.
Sometimes the changes are so profound and quick, that a person may be “dazed” or “doubtful” as change this quickly ad profoundly is rare in psychotherapy. If this occurs, discussion of this usually leads to a normalization/ acceptance fairly quickly. If these “transitional states” do develop, I can discuss ways to help move through them.
There are certainly people who say “I don’t like it” after a session. This is quite rare, but it does happen. Often people do not want to deal with an “issue” which has been uncovered. Other individuals are “used to” psychotherapies where they talk and the therapists “agrees and is supportive” and are not comfortable an in-depth, rapid progress. Of course, some people have unrealistic high expectations and are disappointed when one session is not curative. A majority of the time discussion, and clarification of concerns, will allow continuation of ETT treatment. Sometimes a perons insists on “no more ETT” for some reason, and of course I will be cooperative and utilize some other treatment modality. Since I started my training in 1970, I have learned many different types of psychotherapy.
ETT is a cutting-edge, color assisted psychotherapy which I have been utilizing since 2018. Approximately 2000 psychotherapists in numerous countries and the US have been trained in ETT methods, and find it exceedingly useful. I have been trained in and am competent in various psychotherapies, especially Neuro-Linguistic Therapy (NLP) and Internal Family Systems (IFS.) However, I have found that adding ETT methodologies (color, flicker rate, peripheral eye stimulation) produces quicker and longer lasting results, so I frequently utilize ETT methods during psychotherapy. The color serves as a catalyst to help facilitate insight, behavioral change, self-regulation and resilience. I will be glad to answer whatever questions you have regarding how this may help you to improve your life. If interested, call 210-994-6336 and set up an appointment with Linda.