Living on a Knife-Edge


Trauma Therapy to rest the Body and Mind

“I need to feel the knife-edge on my skin

… I’m getting desperate! “

This was the first message I received through the Tapping Addicts Facebook page from Mandy. She had recently been released from prison after serving 18 months. While inside Mandy had been treated for heroin addiction but once again found life on the outside overwhelming.

Mandy was one of the 28% of women in prison today are who are self-harming. This compared with a 0.6% rate among the UK’s general population begs us to ask the question “Does distress of being in prison cause self harming or were these women already distressed on arrival?”

“Nothing anyone tells you or those silly TV shows can prepare you for the despair, the craziness and the sadness of being in there with all those sick women. Everyone is desperate and afraid. Some don’t know where their kids are. Self harming is an escape. A club. It’s the only time anyone ever took any notice of ME”.

28% IS an alarmingly high rate, however, this was even higher until very recently. The number of self harmers has actually fallen by 45% in the last two years due to new mental health reforms introduced after Baroness Corston’s groundbreaking review of the needs of women offenders in 2008 . Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) or Tapping as it is commonly known has been an important contributor to this significant drop in numbers.

Self harming is a deliberate attempt to create pain as a means of coping with some very severe emotions and situations which they believe cannot be changed, creating severe overwhelm. The pain caused by cutting, scratching, hair pulling or burning acts as a temporary distraction by bringing the person into their body and away from their distress.  This coping mechanism has often replaced another which was in place before incarceration such as drug and alcohol use as in Mandy’s case, gambling, sex and self abuse through violent relationships. Self harming is an effective (if rather extreme) way of taking these women away from their traumas, feelings and thoughts. A safe alternative is by substituting this self harming with EFT, with often dramatic results.

“When I feel an urge to use or to cut I have a little song that Tess have made up for me to sing while I tap around my meridian points on my face and body. I keep singing and tapping until the urge had completely gone. If I’m not alone I can tap my wrist and sing my song in my head and it still works.” Mandy.

EFT works in this case by replacing the self harm with the technique itself and also by releasing traumatic events and feelings of overwhelm as the triggers to an attack of self harm or the desire to use actually arise. The basic EFT Tapping process is easy to learn, can be done anywhere, and can produce amazing results in hours or minutes where more traditional therapies have often taken years.

What is EFT? Related to acupuncture, but working without needles, we lightly ‘tap’ on meridian points of energy on the head, hands and torso as we talk through the traumatic event either directly or indirectly depending on the severity of the trauma. This sends electrochemical signals directly to the brain. EFT actually shifts the brain’s response to the situation, which in turn can reduce and even remove the intensity of the associated emotion.

EFT is a growing form of trauma therapy that has been used internationally for over 30 years with excellent results..  By removing the traumatic ‘memory’ of the past and current situations the nervous system relaxes and the trauma responses of “fight, flight or frozen” switches off the constant release of adrenaline and cortisol which is exhausting the immune system, allowing the body and mind to rest. Sleep at last for many on the inside.

Prison Reform Trust report published Autumn 2013.

97% Experienced at least one stressful life event at some time.

46% of women in prison have attempted suicide at some point in their lifetime.

64% Confess to using a class A drug

22% Drank alcohol every day in the four weeks before custody

40% of women prisoners said they had received help or treatment for a mental health problem in the year before entering prison, and 28% said they had received such help or treatment since coming to prison. Seventeen per cent of prisoners reported that at some time they had been admitted to a mental hospital, and 7% had been admitted to a locked ward or secure unit.

80% of female prisoners serving Indeterminate Sentences for Public Protection (IPP) surveyed by the Prisons Inspectorate is often an indicator of serious mental illness or self-harm.

49% Identified as suffering from anxiety and depression

50% had a personality disorder (Personality disorder was assessed using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV (SCID-II). Among the women who had a clinical interview).

53% Reported having experienced emotional, physical or sexual abuse as a child

50% Observed violence in the home as a child

31% Taken in to care as a child

59% Regularly truant from school

32% Expelled from school

15% of women in prison are foreign nationals. Some of whom have been coerced or trafficked into offending

39% of women remand prisoners and 19% of the sentenced group reported a stressful life event within the past six months.

68% Unemployed before custody

54% Have children under 18

38% of women in prison did not have accommodation arranged on release.

8.4% of women leaving prison had a positive resettlement outcome on employment


Tess Hunnybell - EFT PractitionerTess Hunneybell –  EFT Practitioner

Tess is one of Positive Psychology’s new happiness experts who holds a certificate in Happiness Coaching from The Happiness Project UK, the longest running scientific study on happiness in the world. The Happiness Project was first set up by the NHS in the UK and has been featured in two BBC documentaries that have been view by over 30 million people worldwide. Tess is also a certified Success Intelligence Coach working with corporations and running courses along side individual personal coaching. She is also the founder of Make Love Your Goal, a teaching on love and a member of “The Ethical Team” setting new standards of ethics in UK corporations.