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Key Takeaways:

  • Emotional freedom technique tapping, also known as psychological acupressure, is an alternative form of treatment for pain and emotional distress.
  • Similar to acupuncture, tapping focuses on the energy flow through pathways called meridians. Disruptions to this energy flow are thought to cause diseases.
  • EFT can be combined with other therapeutic techniques such as CBT and mindfulness-based approaches.

We all experience anxiety and stress in life, and managing these feelings can sometimes be difficult. Fortunately, there are effective and easy ways to support your well-being, such as meditation and breathing exercises. However, if these exercises haven’t worked for you, other methods, such as emotional freedom technique (EFT) tapping, may be more effective. This practice is rooted in the principles of ancient medicine and is becoming increasingly popular due to its simplicity and effectiveness.

What is EFT Tapping?

The emotional freedom technique (EFT), also called tapping or psychological acupressure, is an alternative treatment for emotional distress and physical pain. It was developed by Gary Craig, who believes that pain and negative emotions are caused by disruptions in energy. This technique is based on the same energy and meridian system as acupuncture, which has been in use for thousands of years in Eastern medicine.

Individuals who use this technique believe that tapping the body in certain areas can create balance in the body’s energy system, which helps to alleviate pain. EFT tapping is still being researched, but it is already being used as a supplementary treatment for people with anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

How Does EFT Tapping Work?

EFT tapping works by using defined acupoints, much like acupuncture. Acupuncturists believe the human body has more than 2,000 acupoints connected by pathways called meridians. It is through these pathways that energy, called “chi,” flows [*]. This energy flow is thought to be responsible for overall health, with any disruptions causing diseases. By stimulating the specific acupoints through tapping motions, energy flow is thought to improve and, by extension, overall health.

Some research suggests a physiological basis for stimulating specific acupoints [*]. These points were examined under a microscope and found to have a high density of nerve endings, nerve fibers, and white blood cells.

Other studies have found that stimulating these acupoints produces several chemicals from the brain, including those that alleviate pain, gamma-aminobutyric acid (which produces a calming effect, and serotonin (which regulates mood, sleep, and memory) [*].

Application of EFT Tapping

The EFT tapping technique can be applied to aid in treating various psychological conditions, including the following:

  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Anxiety
  • Phobias

Benefits of EFT Tapping

Several benefits of EFT tapping are worth considering if you are looking at alternative modes of treatment.

  • Relief from general stress and anxiety
  • Regulation of the nervous system
  • Relief from depression and physical pain
  • Helpful in treating clinical PTSD and trauma
  • Weight loss
  • Improved focus and performance

EFT Tapping Steps

To do the EFT tapping method, follow these steps:

1. Identifying the issue

Start by pinpointing a specific physical or emotional problem you want to address. Focus on one issue at a time to get the most out of the tapping process.

2. Setup statement

Before tapping, have a setup statement or phrase that expresses the issue you are trying to address.

Usually, individuals who do EFT tapping will say something like, “Even though I have this [fear or problem], I accept myself completely.” You can change the phrase so that it fits your specific issue. Make sure that it does not address someone else’s problem but, rather, focus on how your problem makes you feel so that you can relieve the distress it is causing.

3. Tapping sequence

Proceed with the tapping sequence. Lightly tap on the nine key meridian points, and do so in the following order:

  • Side of the hand
  • Beginning of the eyebrows
  • Side of the eyes
  • Under the eyes
  • Under the nose
  • Chin
  • Beginning of the collarbone
  • Under the arms
  • Top of the head

While you tap each point, focus on the issue you are trying to resolve and the emotions associated with it. This is thought to release trapped energy and create emotional relief.

4. Check-in and reassessment

At the end of your tapping sequence, rate the intensity of your issue on a scale of 0 to 10. If you have not reached 0, repeat the process until you do.

EFT Tapping Variations and Modifications

There are also tapping variations and modifications that can be used during EFT tapping.

Different tapping points

There are other tapping points that can be added to the nine main meridian points outlined above.

  • Thumb point. This is located on the side of your thumb. More specifically, it is where the nail and the pad of your thumb meet.
  • Index finger point. This point is located where your nail and finger pad meet on the side of your index finger facing your thumb.
  • Middle finger point. This point is where the finger pad and nail meet on the side of your middle finger.
  • Little finger point. This point is where the nail and finger pad meet on the side of your little finger facing your ring finger.

Combining EFT with other techniques

Healthcare professionals can address issues like pain or mental illness by using an integrated approach. Combining EFT with complementary therapies and treatments allows therapists to address a wider range of client needs and tailor treatment to individual contexts.

Some integrations include the following:

  • Mindfulness-Based Approaches. Integrating mindfulness-based approaches, such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), with EFT techniques can improve emotional awareness. This helps individuals develop a better sense of self-compassion.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Combining CBT with EFT techniques can provide individuals with a more comprehensive approach to address both the cognitive and emotional aspects of their experiences. This can be especially useful for people with depression or anxiety.
  • Trauma-Focused Therapies. Trauma-focused therapies like Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) can be used alongside EFT tapping to address unresolved trauma and promote healing.

Group tapping sessions

Emotional freedom technique tapping can also be done in group sessions. Here, people take turns focusing on a specific issue they want to work on. They find where they feel it in their bodies and are asked to give it an intensity number from 0 to 10, with 0 being no emotional charge and 10 being a high emotional charge. Then, the tapping sequence is done.

EFT Tapping Research and Evidence

Daily stressors and causes of anxiety are common reasons why people try EFT tapping. This method can have a calming effect on the amygdala, or the brain's stress center.

Some studies have shown that EFT can help regulate the nervous system and calm the mind. This occurs through the reconstruction of the brain’s neural circuits responsible for maintaining negative thoughts and emotions, fears, and phobias [*].

Tapping may also help with pain and depression. Several studies published in 2016 found that clinical EFT was effective in reducing depressive symptoms [*].

Weight loss is another area where EFT tapping shows some effectiveness. Research suggests that tapping could change the part of the brain that triggers cravings [*].

This method is also effective in clinical settings, particularly for PTSD and trauma. A study found that military veterans who performed tapping saw a significant difference in their PTSD score, while those who received conventional treatment saw no significant changes [*].

Tips for Practicing EFT Tapping

Practicing EFT tapping is a new experience for many people, so it can initially feel strange or uncomfortable. Here are some tips you can use to start EFT tapping:

  • Just start tapping. It can be easy to become self-conscious when trying something like EFT tapping, but the best thing to do is just give it a go. Try following a YouTube video or someone else.
  • Use EFT tapping in the moment. You’ll feel the emotional release and relief of tapping most after a high-intensity experience. Use tapping during or immediately following high-energy situations and you’ll reap more benefits from the technique.
  • Add EFT to your daily routine. You are more likely to do tapping if you incorporate it into your daily routine. Try doing it along with something that you already do regularly, such as your skincare routine or while you wait for the kettle to boil.

The Bottom Line

EFT tapping still has some ways to go in terms of support from research and studies. However, alternative therapies can be helpful in improving the experience of individuals suffering from pain or other illnesses. You can also use other tools like self-care worksheets to care for yourself in times of stress and anxiety.

Ultimately, EFT tapping can be helpful but there is some advice on why tapping should be avoided. Remember that these are best combined with traditional treatment options, and it is advisable to consult with your doctor to reduce the likelihood of worsening symptoms.

References:

  1. John Hopkins Medicine. Acupuncture.
  2. Li F, He T, Xu Q, et al. What is the Acupoint? A preliminary review of Acupoints. 12 October 2015.
  3. Benor D. Energy Psychology-Practices and Theories of New Combinations of Psychotherapy. 18 January 2014.
  4. Feinstein D. Energy psychology: Efficacy, speed, mechanisms. 2018.
  5. Nelms J & Castel L. A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized and Nonrandomized Trials of Clinical Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) for the Treatment of Depression. 18 August 2016.
  6. Stapleton P, Buchan C, Mitchel I, et al. An Initial Investigation of Neural Changes in Overweight Adults with Food Cravings after Emotional Freedom Techniques. December 2018.
  7. Geronilla L, Minewiser L, Mollon P. EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) Remediates PTSD and Psychological Symptoms in Veterans: A Randomized Controlled Replication Trial. November 2016.

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