This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD
EFT tapping is an alternative to acupuncture. Tapping can help to restore energy as well as relieve stress and anxiety. Learn more about this promising new technique in our latest post.
EFT Tapping For Anxiety
Also known as EFT, the Emotional Freedom Technique is a form of therapy designed to remove emotional blockages trapped in the body’s energy system. Tapping can relieve stress, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Many therapists recommend tapping as part of a treatment protocol for PTSD. Proponents of “psychological acupressure” believe the body contains energy channels that we need to clear for the body to maintain good health.
What Is EFT Tapping?
EFT was created by Gary Craig in 1995 and introduced to the world in his book EFT Handbook. EFT sessions are often categorized as “energy psychology” and consist of tapping on the “endpoints of the body’s energy meridians.” During the tapping process, short phrases are recited to target the emotional aspects of a symptom or specific physical ailment.
Ancient healers believed that the body could heal itself naturally from the inside. EFT aims to improve emotional health, which, if neglected, could impede the natural healing process.
How Does EFT Tapping Work?
The treatment of energy meridians is not new: the Chinese discovered the meridians over 5000 years ago and used acupuncture to treat these areas. However, instead of using needles to reach the meridians, EFT uses a 2-step process:
- Focus attention by concentrating on specific health issues that are giving cause for concern;
- Stimulate those areas by tapping the meridian points with the fingers.
EFT practitioners believe the treatment helps resolve negative feelings, bringing the body back into a balanced, healthier state. When tapping on these meridian areas and simultaneously acknowledging (and accepting) the health issue, signals are sent directly to the brain’s stress centers to begin the healing process.
How to do EFT Tapping
EFT Tapping consists of a 5-step process for each problem or issue. For best results, perform each step in order.
Step 1. Identify the Issue. The first step is identifying the fear or stress you wish to overcome. This fear is where you focus. It’s essential to concentrate on just one specific issue or event. For example, in one session, the focus may be on a stiff back, and another session may deal with something troubling that happened many years ago. All energies must be applied to that one specific problem during that treatment session to achieve maximum effectiveness.
Step 2. Benchmark the Intensity. After each round of treatment, a scale of 0-10 is applied to determine the EFT Tapping Basic Recipe progress. The scale slides from best to worst, with 0 meaning “no problems” with 10 signifying “the most severe.” Here are a few ways to gauge intensity:
- Physical issues: gauge pain levels with 0 being no discomfort and 10 measuring as most intense.
- Performance issues: Attempt the activity and note how close you come to accomplish the feat.
- Emotional issues: revisit the situations in your mind and rate the pain they caused.
Step 3: Establish Phrase. This step creates a phrase that acknowledges the issue that needs to be addressed (and treated). This phrase allows the mind to focus on that one problem and work to solve it. Here are the two steps:
- Recognize the problem;
- Accept and love yourself despite the situation.
An example phrase would be the following:
“Even though I ____________, I still love and care for myself.”
Instead of suppressing these feelings, EFT Tapping forces a person to openly discuss the challenge at hand. This direct approach allows the problem to be addressed and dealt with head-on.
Step 4. EFT Tapping Sequence. This step focuses on the nine meridian points:
- Under the Arm (UA)
- Under the Eye (UE)
- Under the Nose (UN)
- Top of the Head (TOH)
- Chin Point (CH)
- Beginning of the Collarbone (CB)
- Side of the Eye (SE)
- Beginning of the Eyebrow (EB)
- The Karate Chop point (KC)
It’s best to complete each step in the above order while saying a Reminder phrase simultaneously. This process allows the mind to remain focused and alert to the problem.
With each tap, the issue is identified as discussed in Step One:
- “This stiff back.”
- “That argument with my mother.”
Step 5. Test the Intensity Again. Once the session is complete, gauge the levels of intensity again on the same 0-10 scale:
- Disappeared completely. The goal has been accomplished.
- Reduced-intensity. Do more rounds of tapping. If necessary, adjust the wording to coincide with the change in intensity.
- The issue changed to something else. Do additional rounds of tapping, changing the wording as necessary.
- Increased in intensity. Complete more rounds of tapping and modify the phrasing to coincide with the new feelings.
Does EFT Tapping Actually Work?
Like many other forms of holistic treatments, modern medicine is hesitant to endorse EFT Tapping. However, preliminary studies on EFT Tapping indicate it might be a viable treatment option:
Fourteen studies on EFT Tapping that used criteria developed by the American Psychological Division 12 Task Force on Empirically Validated Treatments were analyzed. A review of the studies found that “emotional freedom technique treatment demonstrated a significant decrease in anxiety scores, even when accounting for the effect size of control treatment.” 1
In another study, veterans diagnosed with PTSD were given an “EFT intervention,” which consisted of 6-hour-long EFT coaching sessions. This treatment was concurrent with another group of veterans who were only provided standard care for one month. At the end of the individual sessions, the EFT subjects had “significantly reduced psychological distress symptom levels.” Also, 90% of the EFT group no longer met the PTSD clinical criteria, while only 4% of the veterans who received standard care met the criteria.2
Created by Gary Craig in 1995, EFT Tapping is being used as an alternative to acupuncture/acupressure. While it doesn’t use needles, EFT Tapping treats the same energy meridians as those in acupuncture. It also focuses on restoring the balance of one’s energy and overall health. While it has shown positive results in treating anxiety, depression, physical pain, and insomnia in veterans with PTSD, researchers are still testing its effectiveness and potential for widespread use.
Medical Disclaimer: This article is based on the opinions of The Cell Health team. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified healthcare professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended to share knowledge and information from the research and experience of the Cell Health team. This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD, for the accuracy of the information provided. Still, we encourage you to make your own healthcare decisions based on your research and in partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.
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- Morgan Clond. Emotional Freedom Techniques for Anxiety: A Systematic Review With Meta-analysis. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2016 May;204(5):388-95. doi: 10.1097/NMD.0000000000000483. [PMID: 26894319]. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26894319/
- Dawson Church 1, Crystal Hawk, Audrey J Brooks, (et al). Psychological Trauma Symptom Improvement In Veterans Using Emotional Freedom Techniques: A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2013 Feb;201(2):153-60. doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e31827f6351. [PMID: 23364126]. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23364126/