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Fears And Phobias


Being creative about a stubborn dental phobia

Important Note: This article was written prior to 2010 and is now outdated. Please use my newest advancement, Optimal EFT. It is more efficient, more powerful and clearly explained in my free e-book, The Unseen Therapist™.  Best wishes, Gary

Hi Everyone,

On her popular EFT discussion list, Betty Moore-Hafter recently reported a 3 hour marathon session regarding "Susan's" intense dental phobia. Since it contained many creative approaches to a stubborn problem, I asked for her permission to recreate it here. Please note the various angles and languaging that Betty uses...they are very professional and highly transferable to many types of cases.

This is one of those cases where good progress is made but there is still more left to do. At the end, Betty's client is much improved and is able to go to the dentist without panic. There is still some trepidation left, however, and so I offer a few thoughts within Betty's message that might be helpful in the future. They are offered, of course, with the benefit of hindsight.

Hugs, Gary

by Betty Moore-Hafter

"Susan", a woman in her late 20's, was referred to hypnotherapy by her dentist because her severe dental phobia made it impossible for her to have dental work done. She had only had dental cleanings in the past, never needing fillings. But now she had some cavities, and the first time the dentist tried to work on them, she had gone into such panic, literally screaming and flailing in the dental chair, that no work could be done.

She didn't know where the fear had come from -- only that she was terrified of dental work and couldn't control her panic. I suggested that she sit in my recliner (which might feel like a dentist's chair!) and close her eyes and tune into the feelings. I asked Susan to describe how she felt. Then we started with EFT, as I tapped for her using her words.


Even though I'm terrified of the dentist... and I feel like I want to cry... I don't want to be there... I don't want to go through with this... I still love and accept myself.

(Tapping the points for "terrified...feel like I want to cry... don't want to go through with this")


Even though my whole body doesn't want to do this... my whole body wants to get out of there... I forgive myself for feeling this way... and I honor myself for having the courage to face this fear...

(Tapping the points for, my whole body doesn't want to do this... I want to get out of there... I feel it in my body...)

Susan felt a little better. The feeling of wanting to cry had subsided. I asked her to describe what she anticipated about the whole procedure step-by-step and we would tap for every detail.

Even though I don't want them to put that swab in my mouth... with the local anesthetic... I hate that cotton in my mouth... I hate the taste... I'm still a good person... and I accept myself completely...

Even though I'm terrified of the needle that will inject the novacaine... I can't stand to have that injection in my gum... I love and accept myself...

I asked her more about how she felt physically to think of these things that would have to be done in her mouth. She said, "My mouth is really tight. My mouth wants to close up and keep all this out. My mouth doesn't want to open."

So we tapped for, Even though my mouth is all tight...doesn't want to open... wants to stay tightly closed and keep those things out... I love and accept my body... I love and accept my mouth.... I know my mouth is doing the best it can to protect me....and spare me pain... but I want my body to know... I want my mouth to know... that the dental work is to help my teeth and protect my teeth and spare me real pain in the future... We tapped the points for, "This tight mouth...doesn't want to open..."

Susan reported that her mouth still felt tight, so I said, "Tell me more about what you're feeling inside." She said it felt like they were violating her privacy and forcing her to do something she didn't want to do, and that really bothered her. So we tapped for those words: Even though it feels like this is violating my privacy... forcing me against my will... forcing me to do something I don't want to do... I deeply and completely accept myself...

This seemed like a good emotional theme to pursue, so I asked her if this feeling reminded her of anything else. First, she thought of some relationship issues where she had felt pressured to do some things she didn't want to do... so we tapped for those and added some choice statements: "Even though others may pressure me... to do what I don't want....I know I have the right to walk away... I choose to be powerful... I choose to walk away." Then I asked if she could let her mind drift back in time and see if there was anything in the deeper past, perhaps in childhood, that this reminded her of. "Maybe being forced to eat things I didn't want sometimes," she said. I asked her, "Can you think of a specific incident?" "Yes," she said. "I'm remembering a time when I was about 9 and my mother made a special stew for dinner. A small bowl was enough for me and I didn't want seconds, but my mother really wanted me to have more. I wanted to say no, but I didn't wan! t to disappoint my mom... so I forced it down...but I got sick afterwards."

GC COMMENT: Two items for possible future use....

1. In my experience, dental fears are sometimes linked to an aversion to oral sex. However, the client doesn't always want to bring this up (and is sometimes unaware of it) and so an opportunity for core issue work is thus delayed. Betty's interrogation about what the dental work reminded Susan of was an important piece in this case. It led to the "special stew" issue which, of course, was helpful. If there was, indeed, an oral sex issue this would have been the environment for Susan to bring it up.

We all have different styles and, if my intuition truly suggested an oral sex issue, I might have asked bluntly....

"Does the dental probing remind you of oral sex?"

To some, this may seem crude but, to me, it is often essential to be direct. With this question I am efficiently probing for a core issue. If I get a negative reaction then I have found an important cause. That's good.....mission accomplished. If I politely tip-toe around it, however, I may find myself playing eternal ping pong with surface issues.

The bottom line here is that we owe the client our best detective work and we need to drill down to the core issues as efficiently as possible. We have the tool to collapse the emotional intensity of almost anything and thus it is our responsibility to probe until we find the true issue(s).

2. To the extent possible, I like to recreate the problem during the session. That way the subtle aspects are more likely to show up. Betty's creative use of her chair (as a dentist's chair) helped to recreate the problem.

I might have gone a step further and asked Susan to open her mouth while I played dentist and placed a ball point pen (a would be "drill") in her mouth. This way you can tap for any intensities that show up as the ball point pen is gradually inserted into her mouth. This should be done in steps, stopping to tap each time the client gets intense about the insertion of "the drill." Assuming success, you should eventually be able to probe around the client's mouth with no reaction whatsoever.

BETTY CONTINUES: I said, "Just be 9 9 in your mind... just be that girl... and we'll tap for her"

It went like this...

Even though I don't want any more stew... I've had enough... I want to say no... I still accept myself... and even though I couldn't say no and walk away... and I ate the stew ... because I really wanted to please her... didn't want to disappoint her... even though I was forced to eat something I didn't want... and I got sick... wish I could have just said no.... I was doing the best I could... didn't want to disappoint my mom.... Now I will say no and walk away... if it's something I don't want... wish I could say no and walk away from the dentist...

Susan felt more peaceful about the childhood incident after that, but it was unclear if we'd made any progress on the dentist issue. So I had her go back and replay in her mind the entire procedure... the local anesthesia... the needle... she reported quite a difference. She said that she still felt anxious but, even though she didn't like it, she could imagine herself going through with it.

We continued for every part of the procedure, the drilling, the noise, the fingers in her mouth, the water squirting in, having to keep her mouth open, afraid her mouth was too small and would be painfully stretched -- there were dozens of aspects! We tapped for them all. Finally, we tapped using her desire to "be powerful" to reframe the whole situation. "Even though I don't enjoy this dental work, I choose to face my fear and be powerful and do what needs to be done... I can be powerful and choose to face my fear... I'm the one choosing this."

It was a marathon session, nearly 3 hours. And Susan still felt pretty anxious about the dentist when she left. We would see......

So I was relieved when her phone message several days later said, "The techniques really, really worked! I was still trembling, but I could tap, and was totally relaxed, so we were able to get the dental work done. My dentist was very pleased -- he said it was like night and day."


Love, Betty

Betty Moore-Hafter, MA, CHt


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