Care / Mindfulness

What Is the Havening Technique? + 9 Steps To Practice It For Your Mental Health

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Written by Mona Freund
Reviewed by Jennifer Paulino, MPH

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Many of us could use a mental safe place. If you’re looking for a place to start, you could try something called the havening method. The method has been embraced by a growing swath of people (including Justin Bieber!) as a budding solution to physical and emotional ailments. But what is it, exactly?

Short answer: It’s a self-soothing technique that promises quick, effective relief from stress and anxiety. In theory, it creates a “haven” away from traumatic events or emotions after one short (90- to 120-minute) session. In this article, we’ll cover what the havening technique is, steps to practice it, and why people use the method. We even cover additional stress management tactics to use in conjunction with havening to create a balanced wellness routine.

What Is the Havening Technique?

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The havening technique is an alternative psycho-sensory therapy. Practitioners claim it it helps boost production of serotonin icon-trusted-source Henry Ford Health “How To Boost Feel-Good Hormones Naturally” View Source , or the “happy hormone.”

The havening technique involves light touching on the collarbones or upper arms by yourself or from another person, memory distractions, and choreographed eye movement. These actions may work together to help individuals reduce unwanted emotions and detach from negative memories. In a typical session, people recall emotional memories, then distract their mind with positive memory recall and physical touch. (It has some similarity to another practice called the Emotional Freedom Technique icon-trusted-source Kaiser Permanante “The Emotional Freedom Technique” View Source , or EFT, which also involves tapping and physical touch.)

Many people seek out this therapy to help reduce physical and psychological ailments icon-trusted-source Havening Technique “Havening FAQs” View Source . These can include overcoming fears, moving forward from grief, healing from trauma, and reducing pain. The havening technique can be done on yourself, with a licensed therapist, or a certified havening coach. For your first session, it’s best to try it with a mental health professional who’s certified in the technique.

When Should You Use the Havening Technique?

The havening technique aims to improve overall wellbeing through soothing movement and thought. The creators of the havening technique icon-trusted-source Havening Technique “About Havening” View Source believe the method can help target specific areas in challenging areas in their lives that stand in the way of achieving goals.

According to its creators, the havening technique may help you:

  • Overcome irrational fears
  • Improve athletic performance
  • Lower chronic pain
  • Subdue memories or painful events
  • Move forward from grief and sadness
  • Ward off constant feelings of anxiety 
  • Improve focus
  • Find relief from post-traumatic stress

One benefit of this alternative therapy is its speed and flexibility. This means people can perform it almost anywhere. Some people claim to feel relief from their symptoms after one session icon-trusted-source Health Science Journal “Impact of a Single-Session of Havening” View Source .

Does the Havening Method Work?

There isn’t much research on the havening technique. Small studies show that the method can be effective in lessening anxiety and depression symptoms. That said, there aren’t any highly controlled and long-term studies on the subject—so any claims made about it should be taken with a grain of salt. In general, the method is fine for most people to try, but don’t use it as a replacement for other forms of therapy or medication.  

  • A study conducted in 2015 evaluated 27 people who reported having anxiety or depression levels affecting them in the workplace. Participants in the study reported a decrease in these symptoms icon-trusted-source Health Science Journal “Impact of a Single-Session of Havening” View Source after two weeks and up to two months after one havening technique session. 
  • Another study from 2018 used a pool of 41 participants to test the effectiveness of havening icon-trusted-source Orthopedics “The Effect of Psychosensory Therapy on Short-term Outcomes of Total Joint Arthroplasty: A Randomized Controlled Trial” View Source on pain management following surgery. This randomized controlled trial didn’t find that psychosensory therapy had a huge impact on pain tolerance following their procedures.

9 Steps to Practice the Havening Technique

Thinking of trying the havening technique, but don’t know what to expect? There are nine steps you can anticipate from a havening session with a licensed professional.

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Step 1

The practice starts with thinking a bad memory. When you think of it, rate your current emotional state on a scale from 1–10. The lower end of this scale represents feeling calm or happy, while the higher numbers represent feeling irritable or upset.

Step 2

Next, think of a positive memory to distract your mind from the incident you just thought of.

Step 3

Close your eyes and begin lightly tapping your collarbone or rubbing your arms as you count down from 20. 

Step 4

During this movement, visualize yourself walking through a safe and peaceful environment. With each second you count down, imagine yourself taking a step forward.

Step 5

Once you’ve completed the countdown, perform a series of eye movement exercises with your eyes open. This could be moving your eyes counterclockwise and clockwise, left and right, or many different directional combinations.

Step 6

After these exercises, you may close your eyes again and hum a simple song. This could be a simple nursery rhyme such as “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” As you sing this song, you (or the trained professional you’re working with) will gently stroke your arms or forehead.

Step 7

Once you’re done with the song, rate your current emotional state once more.

Step 8

Repeat all previous steps.  This time, however, the practitioner will repeat a mantra or encourage deep breaths throughout the process.

Step 9

Rate your emotional state again. The process repeats until your mood becomes relaxed or your state remains constant for three sessions in a row. 

Are There Risks to Trying the Havening Technique?

Serious side effects are unlikely when trying the havening technique, but some people report these symptoms icon-trusted-source Havening Technique “Havening FAQs” View Source :

  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Experiencing emotional numbness
  • Increased rage or irritability
  • Feeling physical tenseness 
  • Increased negative feelings about the experience

Seek medical attention from a licensed professional if you experience symptoms while practicing the havening technique.

Keep in mind, too, that navigating through emotional trauma or psychological disorders can be difficult. If you’re dealing with either of these, it’s essential to always practice havening—or another form of therapy—with a licensed professional.

Additional Stress Management Techniques

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There isn’t a one-size-fits-all method to combat stress. Consider trying several alternative methods together to see what combination works best for you. 

Here are some additional stress management techniques you can add to your havening routine.

  • Yoga Flow: Yoga can help moderate your nervous system and reduce stress icon-trusted-source International Journal of Preventative Medicine “The Effect of Yoga on Stress, Anxiety, and Depression in Women” View Source by combining physical activity, meditation, and breathing techniques.
  • Diaphragmatic Breathing: Diaphragmatic breathing icon-trusted-source Frontiers in Psychology “The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults” View Source activates the vagus nerve (the part of the brain that triggers a relaxation response in the body) to lower stress hormones when anxiety starts to creep in.
  • Aromatherapy: Ylang Ylang, lavender, and frankincense aromatherapy oils icon-trusted-source Alternative and Integrative Medicine “Aromatherapy in the Control of Stress and Anxiety” View Source may trigger the olfactory nerve in the brain to create a relaxing effect. There’s limited evidence on the effectiveness of aromatherapy for stress relief, but the ritual of using it icon-trusted-source Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes “Don’t stop believing: Rituals improve performance by decreasing anxiety” View Source could also have a soothing effect. 
  • Mindfulness Meditation: Incorporating mindful meditation icon-trusted-source Brain, Behavior, and Immunity “A comparison of mindfulness-based stress reduction and an active control in modulation of neurogenic inflammation” View Source into your routine may reduce cortisol levels and make you less reactive to stressful situations. (Though it can also have a negative effect on people with psychotic disorders, extreme anxiety, or PTSD.)

Remember that if psychological symptoms persist, it’s best to seek professional help.

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