Can tapping away your worries actually work? It might sound too good to be true, but the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), also known as tapping, could potentially offer relief.
EFT is a holistic mind-body therapy influenced by Traditional Chinese Medicine’s acupuncture, and it’s now utilized as a self-assistance tool in contemporary psychology. This method entails lightly tapping on specific acupressure points (acupoints) across your hands, face, and body, while simultaneously concentrating on distressing emotions or issues and reciting positive affirmations to counteract those feelings, EFT International suggests (PDF).
Studies indicate that EFT tapping could alleviate stress, reduce cravings, boost performance, and even alleviate symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
But, how does it function? Is tapping on acupoints truly capable of making a significant impact on your mental and emotional wellbeing? We’ve sought out research and expert opinions to uncover the answers.
EFT Tapping: Tracing its Origins
For millennia, acupoints have been utilized in addressing illnesses, with acupuncture being one of the oldest methods known, employing needles to stimulate these points, a research paper notes.
Dating back to approximately 100 BCE according to said paper, EFT tapping, as widely recognized in the U.S. today, was established in the 1990s by engineer Gary Craig. His methodology, which he claims can be learned in a mere five minutes, involves tapping through various points while uttering specific statements to connect individuals to their emotions, explains Alex Ortner from The Tapping Solution, a Connecticut-based organization offering EFT resources.
Over the years, as Craig applied EFT tapping and other licensed therapists added their unique touch, the practice evolved. Currently, EFT tapping is utilized both for managing daily stress and anxiety, enhancing performance, and curbing food cravings, as well as in clinical settings by certified practitioners to treat patients grappling with PTSD, trauma, phobias, and other mental health conditions.
Understanding EFT Tapping’s Effects on the Body
EFT tapping is akin to acupuncture in its use of specific acupoints for tapping, says Dr. Peta Stapleton, a clinical and health psychologist at Bond University in Queensland, Australia. Traditional Chinese Medicine posits that the human body houses over 2,000 acupoints linked by meridians, channels through which life-force energy (chi) flows, as explained by Johns Hopkins Medicine. This energy flow is deemed essential for overall health, with any disruption potentially leading to illness. Stimulating particular acupoints is believed to enhance this energy flow and consequently, health.
Scientists have discovered that these acupoints are not arbitrary; they contain a plethora of nerve endings, temperature-regulating nerve fibers, and numerous white blood cells, a review states. Further research highlights that acupoint stimulation can generate various brain chemicals, including pain-relieving endogenous opioids, mood, sleep, and memory-regulating serotonin, and calming gamma-aminobutyric acid, per a past research article (PDF).
“Although tapping on acupuncture points has been a practice for thousands of years, we are now in a position to quantitatively measure its effects by examining gene expression, brain waves, hormones, and neurotransmitters,” Dr. Dawson Church from EFT Universe, an EFT training and education organization, shares. “There’s a growing body of research showcasing what this technique can accomplish for the body” (Dr. Church has conducted research on the effects of EFT tapping on PTSD and obesity).
Identifying the EFT Tapping Points
Standard EFT tapping incorporates nine primary acupoints located on the face, hands, and body, EFT International outlines. However, EFT tapping extends beyond mere physical stimulation of these points; it also involves mental concentration.
An initial step in tapping requires pinpointing a distressing emotion or situation and formulating a statement that acknowledges this issue, followed by a phrase of acceptance, such as: “Even though I’m overwhelmed with work, I deeply and completely accept myself.” This is known as the setup statement, creating a foundation for what EFT International refers to as “the disconfirming experience,” aiding in perceiving the issue as it truly is, rather than through our emotional lens.
Countering a negative thought with a positive affirmation is theorized to neutralize it, as suggested by the aforementioned research article (PDF), which provides an exhaustive overview of EFT and other energy therapies. The calming effect of tapping, combined with these neutral statements, potentially makes them more believable.
For PTSD patients in clinical settings, Dr. Church explains, “During tapping sessions with a certified EFT practitioner, the traumatic event is repeatedly brought to attention, activating the neural pathways associated with adverse experiences.” Tapping the acupoints simultaneously offers a comforting signal to the brain, possibly rapidly calming the body’s stress reaction to the traumatic memory.
As a result of these clinical sessions, the brain learns to respond neutrally to stressful memories. Following clinical EFT, individuals retain the details of the traumatic event but with a diminished emotional response, or they experience the emotions less intensely, Dr. Church concludes.