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NOVEMBER 2nd & 3rd, 2019


Chapter 15 of Fifteen Minutes to Freedom

Interview with Louise McKay

Louise is the Head of UK and Europe for Havening, a Havening Trainer, and Person Centered/Integrative Counselor. (At the time of this interview, Louise was Deputy Head of UK and Europe for Havening.)

Harry: Louise, bow did you first discover Havening?


Louise: I found a DVD in the back of one of Paul McKenna’s books in early 2013. I didn’t take much notice of it until I had quite a bit of anxiety and needed relief. I did the process which would’ve been what we call Event Havening. My anxiety disappeared. I didn’t realize how amazing that was at the time.


A bit later, I was working with a client who had PTSD, looking for a state management tool that my client could use in between sessions. My mind went to this thing I’d seen called Havening, but I wanted to find out more about it rather than look at the DVD or tell him to watch it. And there wasn’t much available at that time.


I trolled the internet and found a video on YouTube of Dr. Steven Ruden introducing Havening to a group at a biofeedback conference. The quality of the video was not great. But what I heard was about these receptors, neurons, and other scientific stuff.


Once I heard that and saw the demo, like a flash, it just clicked and I completely got it. I realized this is something I have to pursue. I had to find out more. And, I was lucky that within three weeks there was a training available in the UK. Next, I bought the book When the Past is Always Present and read it twice by the time I got to the training. At that point, it felt like my path had suddenly been shown to me. I haven’t looked back since!


H: There is something compelling about the combination of the science and the simplicity of the technique.


L: Absolutely. And it was the science really that caught my attention. Interestingly, the amazing transformation I’d experienced earlier with Event Havening for my anxiety just didn’t click. When I saw the science underlying Havening, everything made sense. It spoke to me instantly and I had to learn more.


I was already thinking of clients who would benefit from this potentially, but I needed to go do the training, learn how to do it properly, go through the process and become a practitioner before I went any further. I was really lucky timing-wise.


H: When you see something as seemingly simple as Havening, it’s so easy to attribute its impact to a placebo effect of some kind.


L: I’ve heard people mention that before. It never occurred to me until people started bringing up that this might be happening. I can see how people might think that.


H: And of course, once you do understand the science it does make sense.


L: Yes, and it actually allows people to make sense of it. I find some people think that the science might be off putting, but on a whole, when I work with clients, I give a brief explanation and then go into it more deeply if they’re interested. Because Havening has a scientific background, it makes it, in my view, much more accessible to people because they have something to grasp.


H: That’s been my experience as well.


L: I had a client say to me, in a session just last week, that one of the things they really loved about Havening is that it has a scientific basis and that it had been clearly explained. And that made it make sense for them to understand that there’s a process happening during their sessions. That makes it accessible.


H: Yes. In one of my first Havening sessions I worked with a brilliant woman who is a healthcare practitioner. She had the experience of shifting what she wanted to shift very quickly and it was really powerful.


But once we were done, she had this quizzical look on her face. She asks me,  “Okay, exactly what happened?” As I explained the process to her, she responded, “ Good. Now I can accept this change because I understand how it happened.” The subjective change was significant but until she had a logical, cognitive explanation of it, it’s as though she couldn’t really settle into the reality of what happened.


L: Yes. It makes working with people so much easier and it makes it easier for them to get their head around what’s occurred.


H: You had a practice for years before you began using Havening. Who are your typical clients?


L: Yes, I had a private practice within a doctors’ office, and of course in the UK we have the national health service. So the doctors there were referring people to me for private work as a counselor. As a result, I had a very wide range of people with varying issues, from PTSD, relationship problems, panic attacks; anything and everything - whatever they come into the office with. Sometimes the doctor would refer to me and that’s continued, but now it’s for Havening, not counseling.


H: How has learning about Havening transformed your practice?


L: Hugely. I don’t work in the doctors’ office anymore. I now have a private practice at home. However, I get a lot of referrals from the doctor.


Generally, when somebody comes in now, they’re coming in for Havening. I very rarely see anyone for pure counseling sessions anymore. But I use all my skills as a counselor.


I’m person-centered. I prioritize safety and trust and simply being a human being with another human being, and allowing that person to simply be themselves. I use the knowledge of how trauma gets encoded that we learn with Havening, and this makes it much, much easier for me to get to the core of the problem and truly resolve it.


So the work is no longer focused on talking about things, finding out what the problem is and then putting the lid back on, or maybe trying to help the client accept it, understand, and see where things are coming from. It doesn’t stop there.


Now it’s actually about making positive, permanent change, which makes all the difference to that person when they walk out the door.


On top of that, it’s about being able to actually help that person learn how to help themselves going forward. And that, for me, is huge — to give someone access to a tool that they can use when and as they need it.


To give someone access to something that’s fairly simple, something that they can apply at any time when they feel distressed or stressed so they don’t need to be with me to be able to help themselves.


That was a huge draw for me when I really understood the potential of Havening for my clients and for me.


H: Yes. Not only can you use the tool in the session, but you can empower your client with things they can take away to work on their own.


L: Absolutely! To help somebody help themselves long-term, so that 10 to 20 years from now they can still be using this tool to help themselves when life throws challenges at them. Because Havening doesn’t stop life from happening.


I’ve used it when I’m in a public area, just using palm havening and distracting myself in my mind. It can be used anywhere, anytime. And it’s very empowering for people. I love that about it.


H: Yes, and of course as Dr. Ruden describes, every time you haven you’re building the resilience of your neurochemical landscape. So you’re building resilient capacity for the long-term every time you do the process.


L: Yes.


H: Louise, you have a wide array of different tools and techniques and practices, everything that you’ve learned over the years to help your clients heal and experience greater well-being. What place does Havening now occupy in that entire symphony of skills, in your whole toolkit?


L: It is my primary tool. I can’t emphasize enough how much my experience and development as a counselor helps me be a better Havening practitioner, clearly. But Havening is now my main tool.


Another important point is that being an effective practitioner is not just about the person you’re working with, it’s about looking after yourself. Self-care is so important to me as a therapist and Havening is available 24/7 to me, anytime I need it.


As counselors, we hear some terrible things. We work with a lot of situations wherein sometimes you hear things you don't want to hear. With Havening, you can actually work on yourself so that when your client’s in the room, it’s about your client, not about your stuff. Your experiences don’t get triggered and negatively affect the process. Havening is great for self-care and I’ve used it a lot in order to be much more present for my client in the session.


H: Thank you. Louise. When I met you last year in the October 2015 training Los Angeles, something that really struck me about you is you have an irrepressible joy that just seems to bubble up from within. To me, that is an indication that somebody has done their own work and is really taking care of themselves. Could you share a little bit more about how you have used Havening to build yourself up?


L: This is one of my favorite questions! They call me the Self-Havening Queen. When I did my first training back in 2013, I decided right off the bat that I was going to throw everything Havening could offer at myself first. I would be my own case study. So I experimented with every type of Havening that I could do by myself.


Over the last three years I have consistently used self-havening, partly as an experiment and partly because the results have been so amazing. Every time I clear something I learn more and more about the process, and my conviction becomes more and more solid. Trust me, I know it works because I have used Havening so extensively for myself with so many different types of issues.


Whatever comes up, I deal with it. And that was all I needed to understand that this is an amazing process that can help my clients. I also tell my students that self-havening is one of the best ways to learn about the process because it helps you understand even more about how trauma gets encoded. You might not get to the core of something straight away, but as you continue to work step-by-step you eventually get to the bottom of it!


And every time I work on something with myself I’m learning more. Every time I work with a client I’m learning more. So, I can’t advocate self-havening enough! Especially for people working within a therapeutic context because it’s just a great way to learn about every aspect of the process.


It’s been quite a journey. I’ve not only managed to clear a lot of my own stuff; I’ve also experienced the transition from my old self and the transformation into that person who is completely different from the person I was before I did the work.


I understand that it can be a bit strange when you get rid of something absolutely huge that you’ve had for very many years. And then you have to get to know yourself again without that thing. And because I’ve been through that process, and understand it’s perfectly natural, I can reassure my clients that they will get used to the new self.


I also teach them how to use tools to help with resilience, including Affirmational Havening, Outcome Havening and Hopeful Havening and the other variations that can help you develop as a person.


As I’ve let go more and more stuff, and experience more and more of my authentic self, I feel more and more like the me I came into the world to be with the benefit of the wisdom of life experience.


I now have 48 years of life experience but without a good deal of the old patterns based on things that have happened to me that have altered my behavior in negative ways. I see cognitively that something was not a good experience for me, but I’m no longer attached to it emotionally. Therefore, I can make a decision in the present free from the negative influence of the past.


H: It’s wonderful to hear your enthusiasm. I share that because my life has also transformed exponentially through self-havening over the past 18 months. And in regard to authenticity, it’s as though the real self and the most authentic true self can now express without being trapped behind the fog of the trauma or the past.


L: Yes, absolutely.


H: One of the things I’m sure you notice as well, as my resilience and my capacity to bounce back from things and my capacity not to be triggered by things increases, sometimes it astounds me. Something that a year or two would’ve just driven me off the rails and would’ve triggered upset for either an hour or a day or a week or whatever. It happens now, I haven, it’s gone, I move on.


L: Yes, and knowing that, when somebody comes in and they experience that kind of change, they realize more of their unlimited potential for change!


H: Yes.


L: About four months ago, I saw a video that upset me so greatly I honestly don’t know what would’ve happened to me without Havening. Seeing it put me into a very bad place very, very quickly. But I havened myself out of it. And in the middle of every second of that distress that I experienced, which included an abreaction, I knew I was going to be okay, as horrible as it was. It took me 45 minutes and afterwards I was fine. Absolutely fine.


I became very distressed very quickly, and my distress came as a complete surprise. I saw something in this video that I find very difficult to deal with. And at no point at all during that whole time while I was so powerfully triggered, did I think, ‘I’m never going to get over this. I knew I was just fine and I just needed to go through and trust the process, and I would come out the other side with no problem at all.


To have that in my life is an enormous gift. It’s so powerful and to know that that’s potentially available for my clients is amazing. I enjoyed working as a counselor but to be able to have this tool to work with my clients is so enjoyable. I feel very confident using it with myself and my clients.


H: That brings to mind Dr. Ruden’s idea that the sense of inescapability is one of the primary factors that contributes to traumatic encoding.


So many people are walking around holding such burdens from the past or from current situations. They feel that they’re trapped or that they’ll never get out or that they can’t get through it and this fear consumes them. And to have the experience that you’re describing, of now using the tool so often and in so many different contexts that almost no matter what happens, you know there is something on the other side, is truly remarkable. You know there’s peace on the other side. That’s a priceless gift.


L: Yes. Peace on the other side is exactly how I see it. You know you can get to where you need to be in order to be okay. I haven every day. I haven every single morning in the shower. I decided I would do Hopeful Havening every morning. I also do all sorts of affirmations.


If I don’t feel in a great place when I wake up in the morning, which is very rarely, I will clear whatever it is that needs clearing or I will address it. And it happens literally in minutes. I’m not talking about long sessions, I’m talking minutes.


While I’m soaping my face in the shower, I’m thinking about something positive, maybe tapping into some resources or some gratitude. In a couple of minutes, I’m done.


I never miss a day. It’s just part of my routine in the morning. I just tune into myself for a few minutes and I do my Havening and it’s a brilliant start to the day. I recommend that people to do this for themselves. It’s maintenance resilience and creates great brain chemistry first thing in the morning.


H: Yes, and it also builds on the fact that neurons that fire together wire together. The more you do it, the more you practice, the more you haven, the more resilient you become, the better you feel. I don’t think there’s an upward limit to how good you can feel when you incorporate this as a practice.


L: Yes.


H: Louise, many people are skeptical when they first hear about Havening. The possibilities just seem too good to be true. Even the conversation we’re having right now might evoke that response from people. Were you skeptical at first and if so, what changed your mind?


L: Skepticism was never really an issue for me. I didn’t acknowledge the power of Havening when I watched Paul’s video. I didn’t see it for what it was. I simply tried it because I was really anxious. As soon as I saw the video of Dr. Ruden speaking, it made perfect sense to me.


I do appreciate that when you’re talking to people, and I do a lot of intros, that naturally people may be skeptical because when you see a demonstration it does look too good to be true. And, the scientific background, the neuroscience and the research behind it really does make a difference and helps people to give it a second look. It’s almost like the intellectual understanding makes it okay for people. If somebody is just seeing a demonstration, I can understand thinking well that’s a bit odd, you’re just stroking someone’s arm and they feel better, that looks very strange.


But when you explain the science it suddenly makes perfect sense, especially when people acknowledge in fact that we do haven ourselves and each other in small quantities all the time. I mean we all naturally do this.


When people are talking about their distress they might rub their face while they are telling you or we might naturally comfort somebody with a hand on their shoulder or a gentle rub of the arm. We do this all the time. Helping people connect that natural, intuitive act with the delta wave activity and the shifts in brain chemistry and the neurological changes, it all of a sudden seems to make it easier for people to take in and they click. It makes perfect sense. And they want to try it.


H: What are some of the most remarkable things and shifts you’ve seen and discovered in your application of Havening with your clients?


L: I think one that sticks out the most was a person who came to me after a very violent attack. And this person had been practically house bound for six weeks. Life had essentially stopped for them because they were so terrified.


Within two hours of Havening they had that quizzical ‘what happened’ look on their face. And I booked them a follow-up appointment and they came back and said, “I don’t know why I’m here. The problem is gone’”


We needed to just check if there’s anything more, and there was one more thing that needed addressing. After our initial session, their life opened back up for them. They were bouncing, absolutely bouncing. And I was thinking to myself "What else is available to help this person who’d had such a traumatic event that practically made them house bound?”


To this person, their life seemed and felt finished, and within two hours and a little bit of a follow up session everything has changed. How might they have ended up without access to Havening? What’s most important is empowering them again to know that something as awful as that can happen and they can come out on the other side of it.


I’ve worked with clients who have experienced lots of horrendous situations. I sometimes wonder how people get out of bed and continue their lives considering what’s happened to them in the past.


I’ve worked with all the amygdala-based disorders. I’ve worked with panic attacks, pathological emotions, phobias, chronic pain, somatization. Everything that’s on that list has found a way into my client base.


I also find that it’s rare that on some level Havening cannot be beneficial to any client. A lot of the people who come in my office are people with long histories of trauma. The people who come across my threshold tend to be people who’ve not just got one event to address. Mostly it’s people with years and years and years of horrible stuff that’s happened involving many layers of trauma.


I explore three basic areas with my clients. We’re looking for the history of trauma. We’re looking to help with state management and we’re looking for tools to help them with their personal development and their resilience. It’s a formula that works with so many different issues.


In fact, another thing I love about it because as much as practitioners and trainers we absolutely need to know a huge amount about how trauma’s encoded, what’s happening in the brain and so on, as our clients start to understand those things it helps them in their healing journey. They learn how their mind works and how trauma affects them personally. They now have a tool and a fairly simple application to help them through difficult experiences.


H: How about the issue of touch. It hasn’t been standard practice, at least in the United States, to use touch in this way with clients and patients. How do you discuss this in the first place and how do your clients respond?


L: It’s interesting because as counselors, we are trained in the UK not to touch at all. A handshake is permissible only if the client offers you a hand first.


So for me, although I was really excited to use the process, it was a very odd transition for me to get over the fact that I’d be actually applying the touch.


Of course we know that we don’t have to apply the touch but my experience with clients coming for Havening, is that they might be expecting the application of touch.


And, my experience has been that, once I explain it to the person everybody has elected this option. I had one person in all the people I’ve worked with that didn’t want me to touch their face. Apart from that, everybody has been completely happy for me to apply the touch.


I always offer the option and tell the client you can apply the Havening yourself and I can guide you and we can do facilitated self-havening. The response I’ve had from most people is very, very positive. They feel nurtured. I feel that I’m looking after them.


H: I wonder if there’s something about it that's healing attachment issues. The whole theory of attachment is all about how we develop psychologically and emotionally based on our attachment or lack of attachment with our parents. Whether there’s real safety in that connection. And that connection includes everything from visual eye contact to physical touch to the sense of nurturing. And it occurs to me that when someone is Havening another person it evokes healthy safe attachment.


L: Yes. Absolutely. Yes. Because there’s a sense of complete acceptance in that. And it’s difficult to explain how precious it is actually and what a privilege it is to work with somebody during a Havening session. There’s a sense of complete acceptance, belonging, just being present with the person. You are just being in that moment. It gives the person a sense of belonging.


H: Yes, unconditional positive regard. And the caring presence of another.


L: That is it exactly. It's just being in that moment with that other person. There’s no expectation. There’s no demands, no judgement. It’s just you and that other person in a state of complete acceptance, total positive regard. It’s quite remarkable.


H: Speaking of this notion of connection, you and your partner, Ian, are both Havening practitioners. We talked last year when I met you about the use of Havening for couples. Would you speak to that a little bit?


L: Yeah, as a couple we haven each other. And for the couples I have worked with, it has been the most wonderful thing to see them working with each other. I’ve not worked particularly with couples who are having issues with each other. But I’ve worked with couples who have maybe an issue around some event that’s happening within their lives that they’re both struggling with.


Personally, for Ian and I, I’ve done a lot of my own work and he does a lot of his own work. Sometimes we request Havening from the other. Just to be able to say can you haven me I just need a little bit of Havening, connects you both in that special way we were just talking about. It’s a wonderful way for couples to be able to really connect with each other.


H: So I suppose they would build not only a sense of bonding with one another but also those positive neurochemicals, you know the serotonin and oxytocin and GABA, so that they become more resilient together and more connected together and more buoyant together.


L: It’s also wonderful to get that extra support from your partner in that moment where you need help. They understand how it can be helpful because they’ve been through the process themselves.  Not only are they supporting their partner in that moment, they’re getting some great shifts in brain chemistry for themselves.


H: I have used Havening to help couples learn how to be unconditionally present with one another as well as to build that resilient brain chemistry. I had one couple that had gone through some fairly difficult times and they really needed to build their resilience individually and collectively. So they would haven one another silently sometimes or haven one another and affirm their love and appreciation for one another. Over time they began to create a conditioned response so that when one touched the other instead of remembering the bad things they started to remember more of the positive things.


L: That’s wonderful.


H: How do you see Havening impacting mental health practice and counseling in general, particularly in terms of trauma, say 10 to 20 years down the road? What do you see as a possibility?


L: I’d like to see Havening being done in schools in 20 years’ time as part of the curriculum so kids can learn it. In that way, they can have the confidence of knowing they have a tool that can help them help themselves. That would be the ideal - Havening is simply a part of everyone’s education.


And from a health point of view in the UK it would be wonderful if it was available as part of our national health service, like EMDR and hypnotherapy. This would make Havening accessible to a really wide range of people.


I went to a trauma conference last year. A lot of top people were talking about new models of therapy and Havening was the first thing mentioned.

I recently attended another conference on trauma. As I was hearing the case studies and looking at some of the research I was thinking, “Wow. Havening would’ve been perfect for that one; Havening would’ve been perfect for this one.” These classic cases would’ve benefited from Havening.


They discussed one case study from a man who was mugged. Seven years down the line he experienced several suicide attempts, became addicted to his medication, and eventually improved because one of the organizations described in the case study got him to a much better place. I’m thinking, ”Wow. What if that guy had Havening right after he experienced the attack?" We’d potentially be looking at a completely different scenario seven years on.


So if our national health service can understand the impact of something as powerful and simple as this tool, that will be fantastic. Hopefully, one day that will happen.


H: I think it’s just a matter of time.


L: Yes, it could take a few years, but if we keep plugging on and keep sharing this wonderful tool with the world it will get there eventually.


H: One of the things I love about your being the Havening ‘self-care queen’ as you mentioned is that you demonstrate and communicate the fact that Havening can be learned and used effectively by lay people. People who are not counselors, therapists, psychologists or mental health professionals. Everybody can benefit from using this tool to take care of themselves.


Louise, you are the Havening Techniques Deputy Head of training for the UK. You go out and train all over the Europe and all over the world. What are you noticing and discovering as you’re spreading the word about Havening within this now international professional community? How are people responding and what are you seeing as you go to these different countries and continue to train people?


L: A lot of amazement. I just did a training recently, in my own area, and by the end of the two days we have covered everything including many different types of Havening. Participants have seen and experienced demonstrations. They have gone through the process themselves with their own issues.


By the time they get to the end of the second day, they’re completely blown away by the power of this tool. These are people, on the whole, who have many tools in their toolbox and lots and lots of experience and knowledge around their own client base and the work they do. And they’re still completely blown away by the end of the two days.


It’s a magical feeling. They feel like they’ve got this amazing tool in their hands. They can now go and complete their case studies as they work towards practitioner certification.


For practically all the trainings I’ve been to the response has been very positive, with a lot of amazement and excitement and real desire to put their new Havening skills into practice for their own clients and so on.


H: How many trainings have you participated in or led in these last three years?


L: 18 or 19.


I’ve been very fortunate to have been part of a lot of those trainings, meeting a lot of people, and seeing consistently a very positive response from folks who’ve been on those trainings.


H: Thank you. What advice would you give a person who who is considering the Havening training, looking into the possibility of adding Havening to their toolkit?


L: The potential to make positive life changes and experience life without the burden of the past is just within your reach. I have a tagline, “The future of mental health is in our hands.”


We are all capable with this model of therapy, of helping ourselves clear the past and start anew as we move into the future. We’ve got a tool to make positive permanent change biologically, and that’s the difference. It’s not just stirring the pot and putting the lid back on. This is about actually making positive permanent change biologically and being able to do that for yourself and help other people.


I urge people to get an experience of Havening, to work with a practitioner, to experience that transition from being emotionally linked to something and then delinked. To be able to do that for your clients and for yourself as and when necessary is empowering and amazing. I can’t recommend it highly enough.


And if you only use Havening as a therapist, you have a great tool to help you be a better therapist and live life more fully. Carl Rogers talks about being a fully functioning person and that is what I feel Havening supports. It helps you to become a fully functioning person because I have something to help myself as and when I need it.


Even though it may sound too good to be true, get out there and experience it! Have a Havening session. Pick something wherein you can tell the difference before and after so you can measure it.


Having that experience for myself blew me away. I can’t recommend Havening highly enough. It’s a win-win. It’s gentle. It’s like working with nature. We’re helping ourselves with something that comes naturally. Human touch is such an amazing thing. You watch TV and you watch people and you see how much people communicate with touch and how we soothe each other with touch. It just makes perfect sense that this is the right way to go. So my recommendation is go for it!


H: Thank you so much Louise McKay. It’s always a delight to be in your presence. To me, you are a model of a fully functioning human being who’s well on the way. I love your integrity in doing your own work and allowing that work to inform the wonderful work you do with your clients. So I can’t thank you enough and I look forward to connecting and seeing you another time really soon.

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