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When Healing Community Trauma, Start with Regulation

Healing Community Trauma: The Traditional Approach

In 2017, a gunman opened fire during a music festival, killing 59 people and injuring 500 more. Many people in attendance at this concert were from southern Utah. As the regional coordinator for EMDRIA (EMDR International Association), I took the lead in guiding traumatized people through a group therapy protocol. This protocol was developed for healing community trauma. In addition, I also conducted several individual therapy sessions. I fully endorse that EMDR therapy is a much better therapy than traditional talk therapies. However, I saw many people continue to struggle with insomnia, focus, and being triggered in between sessions.

In an effort to help people manage better in between our appointments, I provided them with Bi-Tapp tappers. Bi-Tapp uses bilateral tapping to calm the fight/flight response in the brain. This part of the brain is often overactive after a traumatic event.  For everyone who received tappers, their feedback was overwhelmingly positive. They all reported feeling significantly less overwhelmed and anxious. In addition, they slept better and their daily functioning improved. They also reported recovering more quickly from triggers when using the tappers.

As a result of their feedback, I began to wonder about the thousands of people who had attended the Route 91 festival but hadn’t sought out therapy. How were they coping? Could tappers benefit them? In his book, The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel Van der Kolk cites a post-9/11 study revealing that few people actually seek formal help following a trauma. (1) As a result of this knowledge, we need to provide communities with options beyond therapy.

Starting the Healing with Nervous System Regulation

When another tragedy struck in Enoch, Utah, in January 2023, we took a new approach to healing community trauma. Partnering with the Friends of Iron County Sheriff, we provided Bi-Tapp tappers to traumatized individuals. Additionally, we conducted the EMDR group protocol and provided individual therapy sessions. Tappers were handed out to those in greatest need. This included law enforcement officers, local schools, and friends and neighbors of the family. People were able to use the tappers whenever they felt overwhelmed, unable to concentrate, anxious or triggered.

The tappers gave everyone, regardless of age or treatment attendance, a simple way to regulate their nervous systems and regain calm. 

A teacher at Enoch Elementary described the impact:

“My classroom received Bi-Tapp tappers through generous donations. One of my students, a close friend of the Haight family, used to miss school frequently due to extreme anxiety. Since we received the tappers, she has worn them nearly every day and can now attend class calmly, learn, and participate without overwhelming anxiety. She visits the ‘Paws room’ less often and focuses better in class. The tappers have improved her ability to calmly attend and learn at school.”

When Triggered, It’s Difficult to Remember Calming Strategies You’ve Been Taught

If you’ve experienced a crisis, trauma, or tragedy, you know it’s hard to remember what people say or follow suggestions. This is because the activated fight/flight response takes over, flooding your body with cortisol and impairing mental and physical functioning.

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroanatomist, states, “Until we pause to calm down and feel safe again, we can’t think clearly. Test anxiety, for example, leads to poor performance, regardless of preparation, because the triggered limbic anxiety circuitry cuts off access to higher cortical thinking centers, where learned knowledge resides.” (2)

Her statement is about test anxiety, but applies to any situation where our fight/flight system is activated. Because of this therapists teach their clients calming strategies, but people often forget to use those strategies when they’re upset or triggered. To solve this issue, the calming resource of choice has to be simple and effective. The tappers make regulation automatic, calming the fight/flight response without the triggered person needing to do anything besides hold the tappers. (3)

Tappers Regulate the Nervous System Automatically

By holding tappers, a person immediately benefits from the regulating effect of bilateral tapping. The tappers pulse back and forth, this simple action helps your nervous system begin to calm down.

As a result of my experience, I now recommend Bi-Tapp as the initial intervention after a traumatic event. Once nervous systems are regulated and people feel calmer, they can engage in treatment other learned support strategies.


  1. Van Der Kolk, B. (2014) The Body Keeps the Score. New York, New York. Penguin Group.
  2. Taylor, J. Bolte (2021) Whole Brain Living. Hayhouse, Inc. United States.
  3. De Voogd, L. et al. (2018) Eye-Movement Intervention Enhances Extinction via Amygdala Deactivation. The Journal of Neuroscience, October 3, 2018.

Want to read more about healing community trauma with Bi-Tapp tappers? Read these articles.