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What Is EFT Tapping?

Humans are always looking for better ways to relieve stress. Medications may work, but they have side effects. Many people seek alternative solutions, such as EFT tapping. EFT stands for Emotional Freedom Techniques, and users say that this simple technique helps them feel better quickly.

EFT tapping has roots in the 1970s when several doctors began stimulating acupressure points to help their patients deal with stress, fear, and phobias. One of them, patented by Dr. Roger Callahan, is called Thought Field Therapy. Later Gary Craig simplified the process and made it available to the public under the EFT name.

The Philosophy Behind Tapping

Disciplines such as yoga, massage, tai chi, and acupuncture rely on a body-mind connection, and evidence shows that these interventions can relieve stress, depression, anxiety, and other psychological disorders. EFT tapping falls into the category of body-centered therapies.

Tapping draws on the ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture, which teaches that the body's energy travels along specific pathways. Certain points on these pathways are stimulated to improve the flow of energy. The stimulation is done by inserting very thin needles (acupuncture) or by applying pressure ( acupressure).

Studies show that acupuncture is effective for some conditions. Some scientists believe that it works because it stimulates the central nervous system and causes the body to release helpful chemicals. EFT tapping stimulates acupoints by touch rather than by the use of needles, making it similar to acupressure.

How Is EFT Tapping Performed?

If you want to use EFT tapping, you can perform your own tapping sequences or you can work with a practitioner. EFT tapping is easy to use as a self-help technique because you can do it any time you feel the need. A practitioner can provide in-depth help if needed.

EFT tapping sessions follow a set sequence:

  • Begin by stating what is on your mind and rating your distress on a scale of 0 to 10
  • Speak your "set-up statement," which identifies the issue and includes a statement of self-acceptance
  • Begin the tapping sequence, using your fingers to tap on the specified sites
  • As you tap, use a reminder phrase to stay focused on your problem area
  • At the end of the sequence, rate your distress
  • Continue the process until your distress rating is very low

Tapping procedures can differ slightly, but most use these locations: the heel of the hand, three locations around the eye, the area below the nose, the area below the lips, the collarbone, the underarm, and the top of the head. From seven to nine taps are delivered on each spot.

Does EFT Tapping Work?

Studies show that EFT tapping can improve psychological disorders. Further research is needed to compare EFT techniques with standard treatments such as talk therapy. 

Most EFT studies rely on feedback from participants, but at least one study found that EFT tapping had measurable results on the body. Participants had lower heart rates and blood pressure after tapping. They also had lower levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress.

Some say that improvement in symptoms could be because of a placebo effect. When subjects want to believe that a certain treatment will work, their feedback may not be reliable. Another possibility is that EFT tapping works because of other techniques embedded in the process, such as a special way of breathing.

Some researchers have tested the effectiveness of tapping by setting up "sham" studies in which subjects performed tasks similar to but not identical to EFT tapping. One analysis of these studies supported the effectiveness of EFT by showing that sham actions were not as effective as EFT tapping.

Using EFT Tapping to Treat Mental Health

Tapping has been used to treat a variety of psychological conditions, including:

Depression. One survey of 20 studies found that EFT techniques reduced symptoms of depression just as well as conventional treatments. The improvement in symptoms lasted over time.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): An analysis of seven studies showed that a series of EFT sessions is effective for a variety of populations with PTSD. No adverse effects occurred, and EFT techniques were effective both as a primary treatment and as a self-help technique.

Phobias. Fewer studies address the use of EFT tapping to treat phobias. One study used EFT techniques on subjects who had small animal phobias. Phobias improved after a single session.

Advantages of EFT Tapping

As a self-help strategy, EFT tapping has advantages over more conventional treatment. It is:

  • Painless
  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to do
  • Less time-consuming than other types of therapy

In addition, many who use EFT tapping like being in control of their treatment.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

EFT International: "What Is EFT Tapping?"

Explore: "The Effectiveness of Emotional Freedom Techniques in the Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Meta-Analysis," "A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized and Nonrandomized Trials of Clinical Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) for the Treatment of Depression."

Frontiers in Psychology: "Body-Centered Interventions for Psychopathological Conditions: A Review."

Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Acupuncture." 

Journal of Clinical Psychology: "Evaluation of a meridian-based intervention, Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), for reducing specific phobias of small animals."

Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine: "Clinical EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) Improves Multiple Physiological Markers of Health."

Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease:  "Emotional Freedom Techniques for Anxiety: A Systematic Review with Meta-analysis," "Is Tapping on Acupuncture Points an Active Ingredient in Emotional Freedom Techniques? A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Comparative Studies."

The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice: "Assessment of the Emotional Freedom Technique."

The Tapping Solution Foundation: "What Is Tapping and How Does It Work?"

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