Know anyone who uses EFT tapping to help fight depression or anxiety? Wondering what “Emotional Freedom Technique” (or EFT) is all about, and how it works to manage tension in the body and worry in the mind?
EFT tapping therapy was first introduced in the 1990s by a man named Gary Craig, who considered his approach to be an effective combination of mind-body medicine and acupressure techniques. The underlying principle of EFT is that all emotions and thoughts are forms of energy; this energy, whether positive or negative, has very real physical manifestations that affect all functions of the body.
While the human body possesses a natural healing potential, stress and emotional problems can stand in the way, which is where EFT comes in. People who experience benefits from practicing tapping techniques find that it helps clear their mind, focus their attention on the present moment (much like meditation does), and improve their attitude so they have a better chance of overcoming challenges they may face.
What Is EFT Tapping Therapy?
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is a self-help technique that involves tapping near the end points of “energy meridians” located around the body in order to reduce tension and promote a deeper mind-body connection. This technique goes by a few different names, including Emotional Freedom Technique, EFT Tapping or simply Tapping. According to the EFT Universe website, “EFT has been researched in more than 10 countries, by more than 60 investigators, whose results have been published in more than 20 different peer-reviewed journals”, which include the Journal of Clinical Psychology, the APA journals Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training and Review of General Psychology. (1)
One of the best things about EFT is that it can be done anywhere, at any time, quickly and without the use of any equipment, medications or supplements. What types of symptoms can EFT help to manage or prevent? People use EFT tapping techniques for:
- Reducing short-term or chronic stress
- Reducing muscular tension and joint pain
- Decreasing fatigue and boosting energy levels
- Decreasing tension headaches
- Coping with emotional problems such as low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety
- Improving athletic performance, focus and coordination
- Helping to improve sleep quality
EFT was introduced around 1995, following another mind-body method called Thought Field Therapy, or TFT. In the 1980s, TFT was developed by Dr. Roger Callahan, a clinical psychologist, who found that it helped people naturally manage symptoms of anxiety, phobias and physical problems related to stress. (2)
Gary Craig, one the lead creators of Emotional Freedom Technique, was one of Dr. Callahan’s students who further researched and refined TFT techniques in order to establish his own unique approach. Since 1995, a variety of EFT courses have been available to the public, focusing on teaching people how to easily use tapping techniques to overcome obstacles like fear, anger and feeling overwhelmed.
How EFT Tapping Works
How and why does EFT work? Emotional Freedom Technique has certain things in common with Traditional Chinese Medicine practices like acupressure or acupuncture because it focuses on energy circuits that run throughout the body. These energy circuits are referred to as meridians, and although they cannot be seen or measured, many believe that they exist and have powerful effects.
- Mind-body healing techniques are believed to help direct the flow of energy in the body in a way that promotes well-being.
- With EFT, you tap near the end points of specific energy meridians in your body to promote physical and emotional healing.
- Something that makes EFT different from acupressure or other Eastern approaches is that it focuses on more than physical ailments and energy systems; it also brings attention to thought processes that contribute to stress and emotional problems.
- The EFT process combines tapping of the energy meridians with voicing of positive affirmations. In this way, EFT tapping combines an Eastern medicine approach with more traditional Western psychotherapies.
How to Perform Basic EFT Tapping:
What are the actual EFT tapping techniques that you’ll need to learn in order to reap the associated benefits? Some EFT practitioners teach that there are seven basic EFT tapping steps, according to the EFT “recipe” created by Gary Craig (some people summarize the process in five steps). The basic EFT tapping steps are: (3)
- Identifying the Issue — Naming the specific problem or emotion you want to target with EFT. The goal is to focus on only one issue at a time for the most effects.
- Creating a Reminder Phrase — You create a short phrase which helps you to refer to the problem or memory in a specific way by giving it a title. This helps you to stay focused on the memory or current problem during the rest of the process.
- Rating the Issue — Determine on an “intensity scale” ranging from 1–10 how significant the problem is to you (1 in the least significant and 10 the most).
- Setting Up Your Affirmation — Come up with a self-affirming phrase that helps you feel powerful against the issue. The basic structure of positive affirmations is “Even though I feel X (fill in the problem or emotion you’re dealing with), I deeply and completely accept myself.” While you repeat your affirmation you start by tapping on your hand, specifically on the fleshy part on the outer side of your palm under your pinky finger.
- Performing the Tapping Sequence — During a tapping sequence you will tap your finger over eight key meridian points. Use two fingers, usually the middle and index finger, and apply constant gentle yet firm taps. Keep speaking out loud while you’re tapping, repeating positive phrases to keep your attention focused. The meridian points to tap include (in this order): top of the eyebrows, side of the eyes, under the eyes, under the nose, under the chin, under the collarbone, under the arm and top of the head.
- Tuning In for Re-Rating — Tune in to how you are feeling about the tapping session, rating the problem once again on a scale from 0–10.
- Repeating the Process — If you still feel stuck, find a new positive affirmation and repeat the process.
Again, what is EFT training? If you’d like to know much more about the origins of Emotional Freedom Technique, how it works and how it can be applied to different situations then you might be interested in taking an online EFT training course. You may also be able to find a trained EFT practitioner in your area who can introduce you the practice. To find out more information about EFT training either online or in your area try visiting the: EFT Universe website or the EFT Certification website or the Online EFT website.
5 Benefits of EFT Tapping
1. May Help Reduce Stress, Depression & Anxiety
EFT has been proven to help in the process of overcoming stress and related symptoms like trouble sleeping, fatigue and panic. What do scientific studies say about the effectiveness of EFT for reducing stress and anxiety? Over the past several decades many studies have been conducted in an attempt to validate the significance of EFT tapping and similar techniques and to determine how they might work.
A 2016 meta-analysis published in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease found that among 14 different studies emotional freedom technique treatment led to a significant decrease in anxiety scores among adults experiencing psychological distress. (4) There’s some evidence that EFT may work by helping to decrease cortisol levels, one of the primary “stress hormones” that can contribute to many ailments when it stays chronically elevated.
According to a 2014 review published in Medical Acupuncture, “Clinical EFT has been shown to regulate stress hormones and limbic function and to improve various neurologic markers of general health. The epigenetic effects of EFT include upregulation of immunity genes and downregulation of inflammation genes.” (5) Researchers concluded that at least six well-controlled studies have indicated that EFT works differently than placebo.
2. May Help Improve “Stress Biochemistry” by Lowering Cortisol Levels
Another 2012 study also published in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease found that when subjects were randomly assigned to either an Emotional Freedom Technique group, a psychotherapy group, or a no-treatment group, the group receiving EFT treatments decreases in cortisol levels and a number of improvements in psychological distress markers.
EFT treatment lasted 30 minutes, and salivary cortisol was measured before and again 30 minutes after the intervention. Results showed that the EFT group experienced significant improvements in not only cortisol levels but also scores for anxiety, depression and overall severity of symptoms. (6)
3. May Help Veterans Experiencing Psychological Trauma & PTSD
In studies, EFT has shown efficacy in treating post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and related symptoms. Because it uses positive affirmations, EFT may work similarly to traditional “talk therapy” to some extent, but be more effective for certain people because it engages both the mind and body.
A 2013 longitudinal analysis that tested the effects of EFT training on veterans dealing with PTSD found that after three treatment sessions 60 percent of the participants no longer met the PTSD clinical criteria, and after six sessions this number went up to 86 percent. The majority of these improvements lasted for at least 3 to 6 months. (7)
4. Can Help Reduce Chronic Joint or Muscle Pains and Headaches
A number of studies have found that EFT can help manage symptoms in sufferers of tension headaches, those with fibromyalgia, people dealing with chronic injuries, and many others suffering from pain. One 2013 randomized controlled trial found that EFT training helped reduce frequency and severity of headaches while also improving other lifestyle parameters. (8)
A study of 86 women with fibromyalgia found that after completion of an 8-week EFT training program, statistically significant improvements were observed in the group assigned to EFT training compared to those assigned to a waiting list group. Researchers found improvements associated with EFT in variables including pain, anxiety, depression, vitality, social function, mental health, performance problems involving work or other activities, and psychological processes like frequent rumination, magnification and helplessness. The EFT group also showed significant increases in activity level. (9)
5. Can Help Improve Athletic Performance
A 2009 study published in Open Sports Sciences that investigated the effects of Emotional Freedom Techniques as part of a psychophysiological intervention for male and female basketball players found that EFT treatment helped to improve athletic performance. (10) The group of athletes receiving EFT treatment for 15 minutes were compared to a performance-matched control group received that received a placebo intervention.
Researchers measured performance by observing free throw success and vertical jump heights. Following treatment they found a statistically significant difference between the two groups in terms of free throw performance. There was no difference observed between treatment groups in jump height. The difference between groups was attributed to EFT helping with concentration and possibly performance anxiety/stress.
Another study found similar results in soccer players, who showed significant improvements in goal scoring abilities following intervention with EFT. (11) Other research has also shown that EFT tapping may help improve mental conditioning related to sports performance, including boosting confidence and reducing performance anxiety. (12)
Precautions When Using EFT Tapping Therapy
Even though findings regarding the positive effects of EFT are promising, researchers point out that EFT should not be considered “standard treatment” for people with mental disorders and should not take the place of approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy. Emotional Freedom Technique should best be thought of as a adjunct therapy, used in combination with things like a healthy lifestyle (eating a nutrient-dense diet and getting enough exercise), traditional therapy, stress-relieving practices like meditation or prayer, and possibly medications.
Final Thoughts on EFT Tapping
- Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is a self-help technique that involves tapping near the end points of “energy meridians” located around the body. People use EFT in order to reduce tension, promote a deeper mind-body connection, and manage symptoms of anxiety, depression or stress.
- Tapping focuses on resolving physical ailments by altering energy systems in the body, while also bringing attention to thought processes that contribute to stress and emotional problems.
- EFT may work by lowering cortisol level and the body’s stress response because it helps to promote relaxation.