EFT Tapping

Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, PhD, CRNP on December 1, 2017Written by Kiara Anthony

What is EFT tapping?

Emotional freedom technique (EFT) is an alternative treatment for physical pain and emotional distress. It’s also referred to as tapping or psychological acupressure.

People who use this technique believe tapping the body can create a balance in your energy system and treat pain. According to its developer, Gary Craig, a disruption in energy is the cause of all negative emotions and pain.

Though still being researched, EFT tapping has been used to treat people with anxiety and people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

How does EFT tapping work?

Similar to acupuncture, EFT focuses on the meridian points — or energy hot spots — to restore balance to your body’s energy. It’s believed that restoring this energy balance can relieve symptoms a negative experience or emotion may have caused.

Based on Chinese medicine, meridian points are thought of as areas of the body energy flows through. These pathways help balance energy flow to maintain your health. Any imbalance can influence disease or sickness.

Acupuncture uses needles to apply pressure to these energy points. EFT uses fingertip tapping to apply pressure.

Proponents say the tapping helps you access your body’s energy and send signals to the part of the brain that controls stress. They claim that stimulating the meridian points through EFT tapping can reduce the stress or negative emotion you feel from your issue, ultimately restoring balance to your disrupted energy.

EFT tapping in 5 steps

EFT tapping can be divided into five steps. If you have more than one issue or fear, you can repeat this sequence to address it and reduce or eliminate the intensity of your negative feeling.

1. Identify the issue

In order for this technique to be effective, you must first identify the issue or fear you have. This will be your focal point while you’re tapping. Focusing on only one problem at a time is purported to enhance your outcome.

2. Test the initial intensity

After you identify your problem area, you need to set a benchmark level of intensity. The intensity level is rated on a scale from 0 to 10, with 10 being the worst or most difficult. The scale assesses the emotional or physical pain and discomfort you feel from your focal issue.

Establishing a benchmark helps you monitor your progress after performing a complete EFT sequence. If your initial intensity was 10 prior to tapping and ended at 5, you’d have accomplished a 50 percent improvement level.

3. The setup

Prior to tapping, you need to establish a phrase that explains what you’re trying to address. It must focus on two main goals:

  • acknowledging the issues
  • accepting yourself despite the problem

The common setup phrase is: “Even though I have this [fear or problem], I deeply and completely accept myself.”

You can alter this phrase so that it fits your problem, but it must not address someone else’s. For example, you can’t say, “Even though my mother is sick, I deeply and completely accept myself.” You have to focus on how the problem makes you feel in order to relieve the distress it causes. It’s better to address this situation by saying, “Even though I’m sad my mother is sick, I deeply and completely accept myself.”

4. EFT tapping sequence

The EFT tapping sequence is the methodic tapping on the ends of nine meridian points.

There are 12 major meridians that mirror each side of the body and correspond to an internal organ. However, EFT mainly focuses on these nine:

  • karate chop (KC): small intestine meridian
  • top of head (TH): governing vessel
  • eyebrow (EB): bladder meridian
  • side of the eye (SE): gallbladder meridian
  • under the eye (UE): stomach meridian
  • under the nose (UN): governing vessel
  • chin (Ch): central vessel
  • beginning of the collarbone (CB): kidney meridian
  • under the arm (UA): spleen meridian

Begin by tapping the karate chop point while simultaneously reciting your setup phrase three times. Then, tap each following point seven times, moving down the body in this ascending order:

  • eyebrow
  • side of the eye
  • under the eye
  • under the nose
  • chin
  • beginning of the collarbone
  • under the arm

After tapping the underarm point, finish the sequence at the top of the head point.

While tapping the ascending points, recite a reminder phrase to maintain focus on your problem area. If your setup phrase is, “Even though I’m sad my mother is sick, I deeply and completely accept myself,” your reminder phrase can be, “The sadness I feel that my mother is sick.” Recite this phrase at each tapping point. Repeat this sequence two or three times.

5. Test the final intensity

At the end of your sequence, rate your intensity level on a scale from 0 to 10. Compare your results with your initial intensity level. If you haven’t reached 0, repeat this process until you do.

Does EFT tapping work?

EFT has been used to effectively treat war veterans and active military with PTSD. In a 2013 study, researchers studied the impact of EFT tapping on veterans with PTSD against those receiving standard care.

Within a month, participants receiving EFT coaching sessions had significantly reduced their psychological stress. In addition, more than half of the EFT test group no longer fit the criteria for PTSD.

There are also some success stories from people with anxiety using EFT tapping as an alternative treatment.

A 2016 review compared the effectiveness of using EFT tapping over standard care options for anxiety symptoms. The study concluded there was a significant decrease in anxiety scores compared to participants receiving other care. However, further research is needed to compare EFT treatment with other cognitive therapy techniques.

The bottom line

EFT tapping is an alternative acupressure therapy treatment used to restore balance to your disrupted energy. It’s been an authorized treatment for war veterans with PTSD, and it’s demonstrated some benefits as a treatment for anxiety, depression, physical pain, and insomnia.

While there are some success stories, researchers are still investigating its effectiveness on other disorders and illnesses. Continue to seek traditional treatment options. However, if you decide to pursue this alternative therapy, consult with your doctor first to reduce the likelihood of injury or worsening symptoms.

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