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NOVEMBER 2nd & 3rd, 2019


Chapter 6 of Fifteen Minutes to Freedom

Interview with Tam Johnston

Tam Johnston is director at Fresh Insight coaching, based in London, UK

Harry: Tam, how did you first discover Havening?


Tam: I heard about it via the Web, from a few UK practitioners. Then I went to a conference and saw a presentation, but I was still a bit skeptical. I have a medical background, so I’m generally skeptical about things until I know enough about them and see some evidence. But I was interested enough to look into it a little bit more. Then I tried it on a client of mine, and had remarkable results, and that’s what absolutely made me take a step back and realize I really need to go and learn this thoroughly.


H: So, the experience with the client, this was after just reading the book or going to the conference?


T: Both. So, I’d heard enough about it and I’d done a lot of my own research. There wasn’t very much available at the time, and I think that’s a good thing, because practitioners shouldn’t necessarily just be doing it off their own bat without training. But I had enough where I’d looked into it and heard enough at the conference and been taught how to do it in a very basic way.


And actually, the client who came in was having a huge abreaction. He knew he was going to work with me and explore some really deep issues that he’d never told anyone about. He came in with a full-blown panic attack that, even with my nursing experience and my experience with every other modality that I’ve learned, I would have struggled to help him resolve.


So I just started Havening him, and within about 20 minutes, he was able to sit there for the first time in his life and tell me about some exceptionally traumatic things that had happened to him. But he’s sitting there in a very objective, healthily detached way, because he’d come in already, as I now understand, completely and utterly activated. So, the Havening did its work within 20 minutes of us meeting each other. I just kind of took a step back and went, wow!


H: There’s something here.


T: Absolutely, yes. Something that, you know, even with all the other kind of tools that I’ve got in my kit, and even with my medical background, he was having such a severe reaction and nothing else was working.


H: Absolutely. Who are your typical clients, currently?                  


T: They tend to be struggling with anxiety, self-esteem, trauma. Self-confidence, anger issues.

H: How has Havening transformed your practice?


T: In a lot of ways. Phenomenally. Even if I’m not using the technique, that kind of archeological digging, as we call it, of tracking back and finding the prime those seed events really helps. Then working on that, where it then has a domino effect on everything else.


I’m trained in hypnotherapy, as well, although I don’t do it in the traditional sense; I do it more conversationally. A lot of my clients seek me out because they don’t want hypnotherapy. They may have issues around control. And Havening is phenomenal, I have found, to help the client access a beautiful, hypnotic, freely-associating state, the difference being that the client feels—and are—completely and utterly in control.  So, it’s phenomenal for that with clients, that you can do the work, but they’re finding their own way with it, as you do Havening with them.


H: Yes. I’ve really enjoyed that, as well. A Havening session, sometimes to the outsider, can simply look like you’re stroking somebody’s arms and palms and having a conversation, because once you access that particular state, that altered state that gets activated by the touch, if you understand the science and you understand how to navigate the distractions and transpirations and so forth, then it does begin to feel like a very natural, lovely conversation. And during the conversation, healing happens.



T: Absolutely.  I’m very committed to not imposing content onto clients unless necessary. I’d much rather they come up with what they need and where their mind naturally takes them, and that’s what I find useful with Havening.


H: That brings up a very interesting point. I once studied with a woman who is really an innovator in energy healing approaches. And she asks the client this question: “If your problem was a place in time and space, what would it be?” And that instantly evokes an imaginal scenario for the client. It might present as an arid desert, or a dark cave. And then, as you do the work, whatever process you are working with to help the client shift, that landscape transforms spontaneously. So, the problem gets expressed as this metaphorical representation, and as the metaphor changes, the problem goes away.


T: That’s what I found, and it’s beautiful. In my work, I incorporate clean language. It’s purposely ambiguous language and questions for your client where you’re not using any content imposition or installation (as much as humanly possible). The concept of clean language comes from psychotherapist David Grove, who was very much against imposing content onto the client’s experience.


He realized that when you work with what the client is giving out, in terms of their metaphors and symbolism, and allow them to explore that territory, the symbolism changes as the healing process takes place, and that’s very much what I try and do with my clients, as well.


If their mind is throwing up symbolism and metaphors or analogies, then I absolutely reckon that’s so much more powerful than doing it consciously. You know you’ve got the full package there with whatever they’re bringing up in that moment, and it changes as you’re doing work with Havening.


H: Yes, exactly. So, speaking about metaphors brings me to the next question for you. Something that I believe is one of your enduring contributions to the Havening community is a YouTube video that you created within the last year which uses the metaphor of cultivating a garden to describe and explain the neurobiological process by which Havening works.


Would you tell me a little bit more about how that idea came to you and what it was like creating that video, which I think now has been viewed by many thousands of people and has become a go-to? I send it to every Havening client, everyone who’s interested in Havening, everyone who is in the orbit of my Havening work in general, and they universally appreciate it.


T: Wow. I have a very educational approach to what I do, and I think the more clients understand what’s going on for them and where things come from, the more they feel back in control and actually can start working solutions out for themselves. I also like to give my clients stuff in between sessions to work with. And I tend to work with people who are very often in their head and quite analytical, so I think they really appreciate having that scientific understanding.


I started the project solely with the intention of creating a video that would help them understand what Havening is all about, and I got a bit carried away with it. [Laughs] It started off quite simply, and as I was going along, it became more and more detailed.


H: Yes. Now, did you do the animation, all of it yourself, or did you have a team help you with that?


T: I worked with a software program. I had to do an awful lot of work finding images to convey what I thought was going on, in terms of the neuroscience aspect of it. I had to track down the images and put all of that together as I went.


H: What feedback have you gotten about the video thus far, from your clients as well as from the larger community?


T: It really seems to help them understand, and they say they love it. The feedback has been brilliant and humbling. The Havening community has been wonderful about it. They really seem to have loved it, which I’m so pleased about.


H: Wonderful. As I mentioned, I believe it’ll be a truly enduring contribution to the world of Havening and the whole global movement that is emerging. Ten or twenty years from now, when everybody is using and understanding these tools, your video will have played a major role in getting this message out. So, thank you for that.


T: Pleasure.


H: Do you have any client stories that you’d be comfortable sharing about interesting experiences you’ve had as you’ve used Havening with your clients?


T: The feedback from clients never ceases to amaze me. You only get the slightest bit of an inkling of what their experience is when you’re doing Havening. It’s a very personal experience, and although you’re in it with them, obviously you don’t fully know where their brain is going with it, or how deep they are going.


I’ve used it an awful lot to help clients with anger. I have one client that went back to her husband afterwards and said, “I feel like I’ve just had an exorcism.” All of the anger simply let her; she just felt like a completely different person afterwards.


I’ve used it often with people who have experienced abuse and had remarkable experiences with that in a very short space of time. One client who I saw felt, after abuse in her past, felt utterly disconnected to her sexuality. She literally felt disconnected from the lower half of her body. We worked with the event itself first, and then deepened the work using metaphor and symbol, and a bit of parts work, as well, to reconnect her. The result was remarkable. She suddenly felt feelings again. She felt temperature and felt this was absolutely part of her, and genuinely, she could not actually feel it before, and afterwards she did. It was a beautiful, beautiful piece of work with her.


I’ve had a young lady that had a very rare condition; I won’t say the medical name of it because it’s very long and tedious, but she was having extreme pain, and she had been seeing doctors for years, was on all sorts of medication, and the last-ditch attempt was that she was going to go and have surgery. I saw her for one session with Havening and worked a little bit with her anticipatory anxiety, as well. The pain completely went away. I couldn’t believe it, after all of that time and seeing goodness knows how many specialist doctors. So, I seem to be angling a little bit more towards the medical stuff as I work with Havening more and more, I think just naturally, because I’ve got that background.


H: Of course. And it’s truly remarkable to reflect on how this simple synthesis of touch, attention, and imagination could actually have such a significant impact on our physiology, that chronic pain that’s sometimes been held for decades can dissolve in minutes or hours without medication, without you as the therapist having to know the story.


T: Yes.


H: How do you see Havening impacting the future of therapy, coaching, medicine, mental health practice, and so forth, ten, twenty years down the road?


T: Well, I genuinely and sincerely hope that it has a significant impact. Having come from a medical background, I know how solid the skepticism can be, in terms of needing an evidence base and so on. Obviously within the community of Havening, people are doing a remarkable job of getting the evidence base together.


I would hope that it becomes commonplace to address issues of chronic pain and physical manifestations that don’t have any particular mechanical cause for them. I think what needs to go hand-in-hand with this is more of an education within the medical world that connects mind and body.


If you can’t find anything mechanically, then absolutely think what is going on in the mind and make sure that that is covered, that you’re referring the patient to someone who can help them in this area.


You have chest pain or stomach pain or knee problems or back pain that an orthopedic surgeon can’t do anything with. And these doctors at the moment and nurses—all medical professionals—are not educated to be thinking, okay, the mind and the body are as one. It’s a system. So, who’s looking after the mind? Who’s exploring that? You know, they’re brilliant at the backtracking of physical symptoms and taking a history in that respect, but they are not taking a history in terms of experiences, events, traumas, and things that go with it. So, that’s what I would like to see, that that is more commonplace, that it’s just the automatic way of thinking. So many clients who I’ve seen have got all this physical pain, and it’s often gone within one session of Havening.


H: Yes. I think it’s also really significant that more and more people, like you, who have both a medical background as well as a skill in the psychological therapeutic coaching arena, embrace tools like Havening because I believe it’s the synthesis of backgrounds that allows for the new possibilities to really emerge and take root.


T: Yes.


H: One more question. What advice would you give somebody who might be looking into the possibility of adding Havening techniques to their toolkit?


T: Do it.


H: Why? Why should they do it, Tam?


T: Because I think a lot of practitioners think, as I did, that although I’ve been curious with other stuff, I’m doing a really good job. I’ve got enough in my toolkit. And then Havening came along, and now I  think , “Wow, what on earth did I do without it?”


And it’s not that I wasn’t doing a good job before; it’s just that this makes it so much easier, safer, gentler, and really develops the skills of the practitioner at the same time. Also learning how to  do the archeology, kind of digging with intake and history.


So, it develops those skills phenomenally and is the most flexible process.  It can be used with anything. I don’t want to diminish it by calling it a tool, but just for the sake of explaining what I’m trying to explain here, which is it’s the perfect bolt-on tool to supplement every modality that’s out there. It celebrates everything else.


H: Yes, I agree with that as well. I was talking with Tony Burgess and he really clarified something for me. He said Havening’s a tool, not a therapy. The idea is the neurobiology underlying Havening and the synthesis of touch, attention, and imagination can radically transform the effectiveness of any modality on the planet.


T: Exactly.


H: It doesn’t matter whether it’s primarily linguistic or medical or imaginative or whatever. The understanding of the neurobiology and the synthesis of these components can impact it all.


T: I agree, and I think having this knowledge changed my practice phenomenally, really understanding what’s going on. It was the thing that I think I needed, and therefore I would suggest that other practitioners could benefit from as well.


For a lot of the modalities that I’d studied, there wasn’t an evidence base,  and there wasn’t really a scientific explanation. And I’m quite the science geek, so I love to have that, and I think there’s an awful lot of people out there that are looking for that credibility and that understanding, and that’s what Havening provides.


It can also alter the relationship between the client and the therapist in a really positive way. It creates a rapport and a sense of trust that, in my experience, helps the client heal in a very different way than conversation or other modalities.


H: Thank you so much.

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