The Butterfly Hug was originated and developed by Lucina Artigas during her work performed with the survivors of Hurricane Pauline in Acapulco, Mexico, 1998 (Artigas et al, 2000; Boel, 1999; Artigas, Jarero, Mauer, López Cano, & Alcalá, 2000; Jarero, Artigas, & Montero, 2008). The Butterfly Hug had become standard practice for clinicians in the field while working with survivors of man-made and natural catastrophes.
The Butterfly Hug Script
“Please watch me and do what I am doing. Cross your arms over your chest, so that the tip of the middle fingers from each hand is just below the clavicle or collarbones and the other fingers and hands cover the area that is located under them. Hands and fingers should be as vertical as possible so that the fingers point toward the neck. Interlock the thumbs to form the Butterfly’s body and the extension of your other fingers outward will form the Butterfly’s wings
Your eyes can be closed, or partially closed. Next, you alternate the movement of your hands, like the flapping wings of a butterfly. Let your hands move freely. You can breathe slowly and deeply (rhythmic breathing), while you observe what is going through your mind and body such as thoughts, images, sounds, odors, feelings, and physical sensation without changing, pushing your thoughts away, or judging. You can pretend as though what you are observing is like clouds passing by.”
For reprocessing purposes this exercise can be done from 1 to 3 minutes. Watch to make sure that the participants are following along with you. If not, check to find out what is going on and then return to teaching The Butterfly Hug.
To install the Safe/Calm Place:
“Close your eyes and use your imagination to go to a place you feel safe and calm. Notice the sensations, feelings, images, colors, shapes and sounds in your safe calm place. [Wait for a positive response]. Now, do the Butterfly Hug 6-8 times while you concentrate on your safe or calm place.”
The following is optional and useful for children:
“Please take out your paper and draw the safe calm place that you imagined. When you have finished, do the Butterfly Hug 6 to 8 times while looking at your drawing. You can take it home and look at it with the Butterfly Hug whenever you need to feel better.”
Once the patients or clients (children or adults) have learned the Butterfly Hug, they can be instructed to take this method with them to reground with their safe or calm place or simply to help them get to sleep more easily.
“Now you have learned the Butterfly Hug you can use it anytime that you are having disturbing feelings and you want to go back to your Safe Place. You can also use it to get to sleep more easily. Do you have any questions?”
Other uses for the Butterfly Hug:
- To anchor positive affect, cognitions, and physical sensations associated with resources or imagery
- During the EMDR Standard Protocol to facilitate processing of a traumatic memory. Instead of the clinicians being in charge of the bilateral stimulation, the client is asked to do the Butterfly Hug for 1 to 3 minutes during the Reprocessing Phases
- During in vivo behavioral exposure, use the Butterfly Hug to process the experience and maintain relaxation
- In the EMDR Integrative Group Treatment Protocol (EMDR-IGTP) the Butterfly Hug is used to work with children and adults who have survived traumatic events, to process primary traumatic memory or memories including the death of family members
- The Butterfly Hug can be used by the therapist for a self-soothing experience and to prevent secondary traumatization.