Havening Therapy for reducing anxiety & stress
with Stephen Travers, Director of UK & International Havening
& John Donnelly from Your Holistic Academy interview.
In this video interview you will learn how Havening is used
to help gain freedom from anxiety based issues & boost resilience!
The interview also includes a Self Havening Demo for reducing anxiety & stress
that you can use now & follow along with.
A full transcript of the interview is included below the video.
JD: Good afternoon everyone, John Donnelly from Your Holistic Academy.
And today I have a very special guest with me, Stephen Travers, how
are you doing today Stephen?
ST: I’m keeping very well John.
JD: Good, good to see. We wanted to talk about Havening today, you’re a
Director of U.K and International Havening, and maybe some people
who are listening haven’t come across Havening therapy before, so can you
give us a little bit of background to the Havening technique?
ST: So Havening therapy is a ground-breaking psycho-sensory approach for
gaining freedom from anxiety based disorders, trauma and creating
emotional resiliency. When we say psycho-sensory, what we mean is
in the techniques or the treatments we use, we apply sensory touch
very gently on the arms, on the palms of the hands and also very
gently around the face, we use various psychological visualisation and
JD: Okay. So the focus here is on identifying traumas or anxieties and
trying to disconnect those if you like?
ST: Yes, so I’ll just give you a bit of the background about Havening. It was
developed by an American medical doctor called Doctor Ronald Ruden
and his brother Doctor Steven Ruden, so there’s a lot of neuroscience
behind Havening therapy. And what we’ve discovered from the ground-
breaking work of the doctors is how trauma becomes encoded in the
limbic system in the amygdala, and how that then produces anxiety
based symptoms such as panic attacks, post-traumatic stress, fears,
phobias, those pathological emotions people can’t shift sometimes,
those feelings of feeling unresolved anger, shame, guilt, some people
have abandonment issues etc, or that feeling of not feeling good
enough. So we now know how to actually pinpoint and identify the
roots of what causes those symptoms, and with the Havening
techniques–and it does sound a little bit unbelievable, but we can
resolve say for example traumatic memories within minutes, we can
completely resolve the emotional trauma from them and free the
person from it.
JD: Yeah, so it makes sense that those emotions are stored in the body if
ST: Yeah they’re stored in the part of the brain called the amygdala which
is part of your limbic system, the reptilian brain that controls that fight,
flight or freeze response or reaction that we feel when we feel
threatened, anxious or uncomfortable.
JD: So then the Havening therapy is about reprogramming if you like is it,
reprogramming the cells?
ST: Yeah it’s about changing the landscape of the brain, the electrical
chemical landscape of your brain. Your brain and body are electrical
chemical organs, and when you’re feeling very stressed or anxious
there’s a lot of cortisol and adrenaline being activated in the brain and in
the body. And when we apply the sensory touch–because Havening therapy is
really about the neuro-biology of sensory touch and how it changes
what’s happening in the brain and the body. So when we apply the
touch it’s actually increasing positive calming neurotransmitters such
as serotonin, oxytocin and GABA, and it’s calming your whole
autonomic nervous system down as well. So it reduces your heart rate,
your blood pressure, and just calms the whole body down, and this
happens within minutes because of what’s happening in the brain when
we apply sensory touch.
JD: So the brain frequencies are changing Stephen as you go through the
Havening therapy, is that right?
ST: Absolutely right. What makes Havening therapy special is that when we apply
the sensory touch it’s producing something called delta waves in the
brain, delta waves occur in slow wave sleep, and it brings the brain
waves right down to 0.5 to two hertz per cycle per second. For example,
when you’re very stressed and anxious your brainwaves can be up
really high up to 70, 80, 90, up to even 100 hertz GAMMA wave. And
when you apply this touch and as it produces these delta waves it
simultaneously changes the chemistry as well in the brain and the
body, it actually activates the serotonin, the oxytocin, the GABA, those
feel good chemicals.
JD: And this is all science based, obviously there’s a whole body of
research Stephen that supports this Havening therapy.
ST: Yes, there’s lots of research and studies done around sensory touch
and how it changes what’s happening in the brain and the body. The
Havening therapy techniques are really based on the latest discoveries and
research into neuroscience, in terms of how touch changes what’s
happening in the brain and the body. And Havening therapy is a very
specialized approach specifically for anxiety based disorders, trauma,
and creating resiliency. So when we work with clients who come to us
with anxiety based issues we know now how to pinpoint and identify
what’s actually causing the problem. In regards to the research, Doctor
Ruden did over 10 years research into how trauma becomes encoded
in the brain and the body, how sensory touch is actually changing
what’s happening in the limbic system, the body. And we literally have
over 50,000 cases done, and there’s just been studies done in King
College London with Professor Neil Greenberg on Havening, and on
the extraordinary impact it has even in one session on anxiety based
JD: Brilliant. So you’re combining the touch with the visualizations if you
like that are part of the Havening therapy, is it?
How Havening is used on anxiety issues
ST: Yes. So to give you an example if I was working with someone maybe
with a panic attack or panic attacks, or they’re suffering with post-
traumatic stress and they’re having a lot of anxiety symptoms, weren’t
sleeping, they were feeling hyper vigilant, they were depressed or
down, they may have been having other physiological symptoms, heart
palpitations, feeling quite physically tense. What we do is we pinpoint
and identify hurdles, symptoms that were produced, and you’re always
going to find there’s going to be at least one distressing event that has
caused the symptoms, so when we find that event we’d get the person
to close their eyes and go back into the memory. Now when a
traumatic event occurs there’s something called AMPA receptors that
get encoded in the neurons in the amygdala, and these receptors
download all the stress that you’re sensing, perceiving and feeling at
the time of the trauma.
So if your heart’s palpating, you have a knot in your stomach,
everything that you’re seeing and hearing associated with those
feelings at that moment in that event all that gets encoded into those
receptors. So the event’s over, you’re okay and you’re going through
your life, and something reminds you of that event consciously or
subconsciously. And what that does it reactivates the amygdala and it
fires off those AMPA receptors, and they release cortisol and
adrenaline into the body which then produce the symptoms. But what
we do is we get the person to think of a memory or the event, when the
AMPA receptors fire there’s something called a phosphate molecule
that’s holding them there, that phosphate molecule is now exposed for
about ten minutes. Then we ask the person to think about something
else like walking on a beach or through a park or hum a song, the
distraction, that’s a distraction, the visualization part displaces the
traumatic memory out of the working memory, because it’s very difficult
to think of two things at the exact same time.
Then we start applying the Havening therapy touch, by producing those delta
waves–the word Havening by the way means bringing you to a safe
place, to a safe haven, so that’s a summary of how we begin. And to
give you one other brief summary, what’s actually happening in the
brain when we’re Havening someone is when those AMPA receptors
are fired and we’re actually Havening someone, those delta waves are
going into the neurons with these AMPA receptors. And as they enter
the delta waves create a chemical called calcineurin inside the
neurons, and that calcineurin unglues, or removes that phosphate
molecule and the AMPA receptors then disappear. And what that
means, the emotional and physiological components of the trauma,
those distressing feelings are now removed and de-linked. So it’s
actually removing and clearing the anxiety from the memory, and then
these triggers or stimulus that was triggering off the anxiety, the panic
attacks or the trauma can’t trigger that anymore, because we’ve
actually changed what’s happening in the brain and those AMPA
receptors are now gone.
JD: So Stephen, if somebody comes in for a treatment they’re walking out
feeling completely different, and they’re probably wondering what’s
happened to them [Chuckles].
ST: Yes they are, people are amazed; they’re genuinely so pleasantly
surprised. Because we have done–we know from over 20,000
Havening therapy sessions from the doctors and myself, and even more from
the other clinicians and practitioners we have around the world, it takes
on average just seven minutes to clear a major traumatic memory.
ST: Just under seven minutes. And I’ve worked with clients who have been
doing therapy for months, even years, and then they can come in, we
can pinpoint and identify it and actually shift it really quickly.
JD: Wow. And so I know from my healing journey if you like, I would keep
going back to therapists for acupuncture and for kinesiology and for all
different treatments. And I guess I’d keep on going back over and over
again, I’d feel better but then I’d slip back into old habits or something,
but this is sort of different you know.
ST: Yeah, a lot of those approaches are very good for general well being,
promoting a sense of calmness, even for helping develop a resiliency.
The big difference with the neuroscience behind Havening therapy is that we
understand now how to pinpoint as I mentioned and identify what’s
causing the symptoms. And most importantly the treatment itself, the
Havening techniques actually produces the result, because it’s actually
changing what’s happening in the brain in regards to where the trauma
got encoded and we’re de-encoding it. It’s like the light switch was
turned on, we’re switching the light switch off on the anxiety.
JD: So typically do you find Stephen that people don’t come back to you?
They’re so happy with the results that they don’t actually come back to
you for a second session?
ST: Well I’m doing Havening therapy now, I was one of the very first practitioners to
be trained in the world going back eight years ago, I’ve done over
5,000 Havening’s in the last eight years, and I’ve run multiple training’s
here in Ireland and even abroad. And the way I work with clients is I do
a four session program, and we teach that to people in our training’s as
well. And in the first session or two we’re really going in on working on
the past, in regards to how it’s affecting them in the present and
clearing up the trauma and the issues. By the time we get to session
three and four, we’re working more on developing and building and
boosting that emotional resiliency, that sense of self confidence, the
ability to regulate your emotions even better, be more focused on
where you’re going in your life. So it’s not just about clearing trauma,
it’s also about developing that resiliency, and also teaching people how
to use the techniques to help prevent future traumatization and to keep
their emotional resiliency levels high. And we probably need that more
than ever before with everything that’s going on in the world at the
JD: So then the whole concept of Self-Havening therapy if you like where people
learn the technique from you and then they can apply it themselves, so
they don’t need to come back to you afterwards.
ST: Yes, yeah. Mostly what we teach therapists to do is to obviously
resolve the anxiety based issue as best as possible if not completely
for the client, but also to empower the client. We’re teaching the client
how to use the techniques to keep if you like their mental health in a
positive place. What we can actually do for the people watching as well
is we can do a little demo and everyone can follow along and
experience what it’s like to do some Havening therapy, if you’re happy to do
JD: Okay, absolutely I’d love to Stephen. So you just guide me through it.
Self Havening Therapy Technique Demo
ST: Okay. So we’ll all do it together, and for anyone watching you can
follow along with us. First of all don’t take anything too traumatic or
distressing, obviously this is a demo that we’re doing live on Facebook.
But what I will ask you to think about is maybe think of something that’s
already stressing in your life, it could be just the lock down itself, maybe
it’s affecting you in some way, maybe you’re feeling anxious, worried
upset about it, or just anything that you’re feeling uncomfortable about
in your life at the moment. And what I’m going to do in a moment is I’m
going to ask you to close your eyes and just think about that thing
that’s causing you stress and scale it on a scale of zero to ten, ten’s
very uncomfortable, zero is calm and relaxed. So we’re just going to
activate the amygdala a little bit, then I’ll say to you open up your eyes,
clear your mind, and we’ll start doing some arm Havening, then we’ll do
some palm Havening.
Make sure your hands are clean by the way as well because we’re
going to do some face Havening, but simultaneously I’ll also be doing
some pleasant distraction with you. So I will ask you to imagine walking
on a beach, through a park, and we’ll do a bit of humming as well like
Jingle Bells, Happy Birthday. If you dislike those songs for some
reason change the visualization, so if you don’t like walking along a
beach imagine maybe walking through a park or through some
beautiful scenery where there’s some mountains. And then I’m going to
ask you on the scale of ten to zero how you’re feeling, so we’re going
to do this for about five to six minutes. So I’d like everyone to sit back
and make yourselves comfortable and just close your eyes. And with
your eyes closed and as you hear my voice here and my voice there,
I’d like you to think about that thing that’s stressing you out, that makes
you feel uncomfortable, that’s causing you some sort of anxiety or
Really focus on it and think about why you’re feeling so uncomfortable
or how uncomfortable do you feel, and scale it on a scale of zero to
ten, what number comes to mind, ten is very uncomfortable at the
highest, zero is calm. Just notice what feelings are coming up before
you sense it in your body, then open up your eyes, look at me and
clear your mind everyone, and put one hand on your shoulder and one
hand on the other shoulder across your body, and begin stroking very
gently from the top of your shoulders all the way down to your elbows.
Think if you were comforting a child or even petting a cat or a dog in a
gentle positive way. Just keep stroking, you can look at me until you
find the right rhythm, nice gentle strokes, only do it from the top of your
shoulder all the way down to your elbows. Now close your eyes and
imagine walking out onto a beautiful beach on a bright summers day,
imagine a beautiful blue sky, yellow sand, the sound of the waves
lapping in against the shore, even the heat of the sunshine and the
smell of the fresh sea air.
It’s like you’re on a lovely holiday, just walking along the beach and
maybe it’s about 20 degrees Celsius so it’s lovely and warm. With
every step you imagine taking count out loud from one to 20 with me
with every step you imagine taking. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12.
- 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. You can imagine a few seagulls flying by
in the sky drifting by. Then for the fun of it I’d like everyone to sing
Happy Birthday to me, just a couple of bars, I know it seems strange
but the distraction of the song works really well. And if you can start
smiling or laughing a bit that’s a good thing that increases your
serotonin too, so let’s sing Happy Birthday. ‘Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday dear Stephen, Happy Birthday
to you, Happy
Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday
dear Stephen, Happy Birthday to you’. Good, keep stroking, taking in a
slow gentle breath as you do, just focusing on that gentle sensory
touch, very good.
Now open up your eyes and look at me and let’s do some palm
Havening together. So there’s all these nerve fibre’s in your skin and
what you’re doing is you’re stimulating those nerve fibre’s which are
producing delta waves in your brain. So just think of gently washing
your palms, gently massaging your palms together, that’s it just nice
and gentle, gently caressing the palms. Then close your eyes and let’s
count backwards together now from 30 down to zero in twos out loud
starting at thirty. 30. 28. 26. 24. 22. Relaxing with every number. 20.
- 16. 14. 12. 10. 8. 6. 4. 2. 0, that’s it, keep stroking the palms of your
hands, focusing on that soft sensory touch. Then I’d like you to sing
Row Your Boat with me, ‘row, row, row your boat gently down the
stream, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream. Row, row,
row your boat gently down the stream, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
life is but a dream. Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream,
merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream’.
Good keep stroking, taking in a slow gentle breath, relaxing with every
breath, relaxing with every gentle stroke and touch. And as you keep
stroking your hands, the palms of your hands, it’s called palm
Havening, just notice on a scale of ten to zero what number comes to
mind now, first number that comes to mind just notice what it is. Then
open up your eyes and look at me, and begin very gently massaging
around your forehead and your face, once again think if you were
comforting a child or you’re petting an animal, do it with a healing
positive intention, you’re gently washing your face, gently caressing
your face. Then I’d like you to close your eyes and I’d like you to
imagine a beautiful staircase in front of you, it could be a staircase in a
beautiful five star hotel or a castle or a palace, or it could just be a very
plain simple staircase. Then we’ll imagine just 20 steps on this beautiful
staircase, and as you walk up the staircase with every step you take
count out loud from one to twenty with me as you imagine walking up
each step, and every step causes you to relax a little bit more.
Starting at 1, keep stroking your face. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12.
- 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. Very good, keep stroking. Then I’d like
you to sing the song Twinkle Star with me, ‘twinkle, twinkle little star,
how I wonder what you are, up above the world so high, like a diamond
in the sky, twinkle, twinkle little star how I wonder what you are, up
above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky, twinkle, twinkle little
star how I wonder what you are’. Good, keep stroking around your
forehead and the cheeks, once again creating and producing those
lovely delta waves, taking in a slow gentle breath with your eyes
closed, very good. And just notice on a scale of ten to zero what
number comes to mind now, whatever number pops into your mind,
and then open up your eyes, look at me and we’re going to do just one
more round. So we’ll finish up on the arm Havening stroking from the
top of your shoulders all the way down to your elbows. That’s very
good the way you’re doing that John, and then we’ll do a wee bit more
So everyone again I’d like you to close your eyes, I’d just like you to
imagine walking in your favourite place, it could be a park, it could be
up the mountains, it could be by the beach, it could even be through a
beautiful city or street. Just think of your favourite place that you love to
go to, a special place for you or a place that you enjoy walking in. And
as you begin to imagine within your mind imagine being there walking
in that landscape seeing what you see, hearing the sounds, and with
every step you imagine taking count out loud from one to twenty with
- Starting at 1, 2. 3. 4. 5. Relaxing with every step. 6. Keep stroking
your arms. 7. 8. 9. Really visualizing what you’re seeing as you walk
along there, the beautiful sights, sounds, smells. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15.
- 17. 18. 19. 20. That’s it, keep stroking, and I’m just going to go
back again and we’re going to sing a few bars of Happy Birthday for
the fun of it starting again with ‘Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday
to you, Happy Birthday dear Stephen, Happy Birthday to you, Happy
Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday dear Stephen,
Happy Birthday to you’.
Gently keep stroking, taking in a slow gentle breath as you do, relaxing
with every breath, just enjoying the gentle lightness of letting go, that’s
it, stroking from the top of your shoulders all the way down to your
elbows. Then you can gently open up your eyes and if you wish you
can take a little stretch, maybe a drink of water, now just take a
moment to relax and take it easy. And just notice how you’re feeling in
your head, in your body, you may notice you feel a little bit lighter,
sometimes people feel a bit tired or sleepy, sometimes they’re
physically more relaxed, sometimes people can feel even a bit heavier,
lighter, calmer, more at ease, just notice how you’re feeling. How are
you feeling John?
Post Havening Outcome – Debrief
JD: I’ll tell you what I feel amazing; I didn’t know where I was there
[Chuckles] I really got into that, what were we talking about?
ST: Yeah, and you know it’s great talking about all the neuroscience behind
it and how it works, but there’s nothing like giving people an experience
of doing this where you really–
JD: Oh no it’s lovely, that was lovely, really lovely, and I just feel really
relaxed and really really enjoyed it. And you can sort of lose track of
time there for a minute, I don’t even know how long we were doing that
ST: We were probably doing that for–yeah it’s now actually 1:30pm, we
were probably doing that for about seven, eight minutes, but that’s like
a little taster of what Havening therapy can do.
JD: I feel like taking the rest of the day off Stephen. My daughter lives in
Perth so I was actually on the beach in Perth there while I had my eyes
closed and it felt great you know [Chuckles].
ST: Yeah, yeah, that’s a really good type of distraction.
JD: I think I’ll take the rest of the day off now [Chuckles].
ST: Yeah, I would really like everyone to do just one final thing, just think
back for a moment on the thing that was stressing you out and making
you feel a bit uncomfortable. Just take a moment, and you can close
your eyes if you want, think about what’s making you feel
uncomfortable, and just notice what the difference is or what has
JD: It’s completely gone.
ST: Right. And by the way if you know you want to do a bit more Havening therapy
on this as well I have a You Tube channel, just type in Stephen Travers
Havening therapy into YouTube and I have some videos there that you can
follow along with as well. If anyone does have a serious anxiety based
disorder or issue obviously they’re more than welcome to contact me
JD: Well I loved that. And you’re doing some training coming up at the end
of February isn’t it?
ST: Yes, we have the Certified Havening Techniques Training happening on
the 27th and 28th of February live online on Zoom. So that’s two days, a
lot of therapists do it, coaches, people into professional development,
also people who are working with anxiety based disorders, they have a
client. So that’s jam packed two days of live demos where I work with
the students, they’re working on real issues. After the demos you break
out into groups of three in the Zoom rooms, we also have a certified
Havening therapy facilitator that goes into that room with you and you actually
practice the techniques on each other. And then we obviously go into
much more detail about the neuroscience, how to pinpoint and identify
trauma, and all the different types of Havening therapy techniques.
JD: Brilliant Stephen. And you’re also going to come and do a chat for us
next Tuesday night at 6:00pm in the Your Holistic Academy group
ST: I am, yes absolutely. And for anyone watching or who’s attending, if
they do have a specific issue they want to work on like a traumatic
memory or something distressing them that happened to them recently
or in the past, I’ll be happy to do a live demo with them on that
JD: And what we’re going to do Stephen, we’re actually going to advertise
that and we’re going to invite people outside of the Holistic Academy
group as well, we’re going to invite people to come to that because I
think it’s fabulous. And anybody who wants to come to that we’re going
to advertise that event and invite people to come along to it as well, so
it’s 6:00pm next Tuesday night. And if anybody has questions or are
interested in the training then they can ask you as well on the night
ST: Yeah we’ll do some Q&A as well, and we’ll also do a bit more group
Havening therapy and I’ll have a bit of a PowerPoint slide, just a few slides to
give you from the training itself, just to give people more in depth
insight about what Havening is and how it actually works, plus they can
go to my website as well, there’s lots of information there.
JD: That’s brilliant Stephen. So as I say we’ll advertise that and invite
people to come to that event next Tuesday night at 6:00pm, and that’s
on the Your Holistic Academy Facebook page, you’ll be able to find the
details of that event. And also we’ll advertise it in the comments with
this video how to get in touch with you and how to access your training
Stephen. And that was really fantastic, I really enjoyed that, I mean that
was just a brilliant feeling, feeling great after–
ST: Great, great, and that’s just a taster, that’s the tip of the iceberg.
JD: And I’m so much looking forward to another session Stephen, so I’ll
definitely see you again Tuesday night anyway.
ST: Okay that’s great John, thank you for that. I hope everyone enjoyed our
talk today, and as I said feel free to check out the website, and if you
can come along on Tuesday that’d be brilliant.
JD: Brilliant Stephen, thank you so much, and listen I’ll talk to you Tuesday.
ST: John thank you very much, bye now.
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