Say no to counselling, kids, but yes to healing

13th November 2009 at 00:00
New technique claims 'less talk, more action' is the way to a better pupil

A build-up of excess negative energy may be all that stands between pupils and exam success. Poor classroom behaviour could be down to constricted energy flows; an emotional blockage the reason for problems with bullies. But by focusing attention on the affected area, these problems can be dissipated almost immediately.

This is the basic premise of EmoTrance, a new emotional health technique being piloted in a north London secondary. Nineteen pupils at Haydon School in Pinner took part in a three-week EmoTrance training project to enable them to help other pupils overcome emotional problems by focusing on the body's energy flow.

The invention of researcher and author Silvia Hartmann, EmoTrance aims to cure emotional ills by locating them firmly in the body. Conventional counselling, she says, spends far too much time talking about feelings, rather than actually feeling them.

"Emotion is a physical feeling that doesn't have a physical cause," Dr Hartmann said. "So we cut out the middleman of talk and go straight to the sensation. We found it was more effective to ask people to describe the physical feeling of a problem."

For example, a pupil stressed about an upcoming exam may feel a churning in the stomach or a constriction in the throat.

"Put your own hand in that place, breathe deeply and get that feeling to flow away," Dr Hartmann said. "That's it. It's extremely effective."

At Haydon, modern languages teacher Geraldine Daly decided to introduce the scheme after taking over the school's peer-mentoring programme. EmoTrance developed a specific youth training programme, which was then delivered to 19 peer mentors over three weeks.

The mentors will now run a drop-in centre for pupils facing emotional or practical difficulties. They will teach them basic EmoTrance techniques, which the pupils will be able to repeat whenever necessary.

"It's very non-intrusive," Ms Daly said. "You don't even have to say what the problem is, you just say where you feel it in your body. Basically, it's a visualisation technique. It's all about energy, releasing blockages, turning negatives into positives."

Recently, a girl approached Ms Daly, trembling with terror at the prospect of a forthcoming exam. The teacher asked the pupil to describe what she felt physically when she thought about the exam. They then concentrated on this sensation, imagining it as a blockage that gradually softened and was released. The girl went on to receive an A* grade.

Other pupils have used EmoTrance to ease strained relationships with particular teachers, focusing on the physical sensations they experienced in those teachers' classrooms. It has also been used to cope with bullies and to improve confidence.

"Anybody who remembers what it was like to be a teenager in school knows what the emotions are like," Dr Hartmann said. "The social and academic stress is tremendous.

"But with EmoTrance, you don't even have to know why you're upset. You don't have to talk about your problem. You just breathe deeply and relax. Then, next time someone says something bad to you, you can notice where it hurts in your body and put your hands there. It works for anything."


Standing for "emotional transformation", EmoTrance was developed by Silvia Hartmann between 1993 and 2002.

Dr Hartmann wanted to bypass the hours of talking involved in traditional counselling, and instead tackle emotional problems by focusing on the physical sensations that they generate.

"You notice where it hurts in the body, then put your hands there," she said. "It goes directly to the place where you have emotional pain. You don't have to be a psychiatrist or a brain surgeon: anybody can do it."

The system is based on ensuring the smooth flowing of "energy bodies", with no emotional blockages. "As far as science is concerned, we don't have an energy body," Dr Hartmann said. "But there are specific places where we carry stress. When someone is stressed, someone else comes and rubs their shoulders. It's perfectly simple."

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