What is EFT Tapping and How Does it Work?

Woman touching her chin and smiling

When we’re not feeling our best, we do just about anything we can to help our bodies recover. Perhaps you load extra leafy greens into a smoothie, spend more time resting, or maybe you add extra immune boosting supplements.

The truth is, we all have physical, emotional, and spiritual needs; we’re mind-body-spirit and the three are deeply interconnected. Sometimes, our bodies let us know they need some extra love and support through various symptoms including, changes in energy, or even through our emotions. For many people, it may seem easier to address physical needs, however, the reality is that our emotions reach far below the surface, even down to a cellular level, and can profoundly impact our physical well-being.

What is EFT?

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is a technique based on traditional Chinese acupuncture, following energy pathways, or meridians, that are found throughout the body. When these meridian points are stimulated through tapping, it’s possible to influence the body’s energy flow and promotes a deeper mind-body connection. EFT is designed to help reduce the impact of past emotional events ranging from stress, anxiety, PTSD, physical pain, cravings, and trauma. The belief is that by using EFT, we can improve our physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness by releasing unresolved emotional barriers, and it’s all done through light tapping of your fingers on specific meridian points.

While tapping specific points throughout the body, you want to feel the strong emotion in order to clear it.

Like acupuncture, EFT can help achieve healing by stimulating the body’s energy flow, but without the needles. Tapping is easy, painless, and can be done anywhere you are. It can be highly individualized to your unique experiences, feelings, and circumstances.

How does EFT work?

EFT has been extensively studied, with publications in peer-reviewed journals such as the Journal of Clinical Psychology, APA journals of Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, and Review of General Psychology.

EFT is based on the notion that our beliefs are shaped by our life experiences, and is used to target specific events that led to a particular belief.

Take for example utilizing EFT to clear a specific belief such as, “I’m not good enough.” While EFT isn’t used directly to change the belief, it is used to help identify the specific memories that perpetuated or support the belief. The thought, “I’m not good enough,” may have started in childhood and was reinforced by different events thereafter. Because there are multiple life events that can perpetuate various beliefs, EFT may not clear a negative emotion in one session, however, ongoing research is demonstrating just how effective EFT can be.

The basic steps of EFT are:

Identify the issue. Becoming aware of the specific problem and emotion that needs to be addressed is the first step. It’s generally recommended to focus on one issue at a time.
Notice Intensity. How intense is the emotion you’re bringing to your attention? Typically, people use a rating scale of 1-10, 1 being less significant and 10 being the most.
Identify where this emotion is in your body. This helps if you can identify where the emotion is in your body. After each tapping session check in and assess if the emotion has been eliminated.
Begin Tapping. During a typical tapping sequence, you will tap your fingers lightly over eight meridian points: the top of the eyebrows, side of the eyes, under the eyes, under the nose, under the chin, under the collarbone, under the arm, and top of the head. Tap 5-10 times on each meridian point. Do several rounds of tapping and then stop and check in.
Check In. Ask yourself again how you’re feeling. Has your intensity rating changed? If not, continue tapping until you check in and the emotion has dissipated.

EFT and Whole Body Healing

According to a 2017 study published in Medical Acupuncture, “clinical EFT has been shown to regulate stress hormones and limbic function and to improve various neurologic markers of general health. The epigenetic effects of EFT include upregulation of immunity genes and downregulation of inflammation genes.” [1]

This means that EFT is scientifically proven to benefit brain health, hormonal balance, regulate the “fight or flight” during times of stress, and can even influence genetic expression.

The potential for EFT to be used to address stress is significant as chronic stress, which results in higher cortisol levels, can impact the whole body and even lead to chronic illness, including the brain. [2] In fact, when compared with talk therapy or rest, EFT has been clinically shown the greatest reduction in cortisol [3]. In addition to emotional improvements, people have experienced lower resting heart rate, lower blood pressure, and improvements in immune function [3].

EFT has also successfully been used to help manage anxiety as well as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) [4]. According to a 2013 study on psychological symptoms in veterans, the group who practiced EFT noticed a significant reduction in psychological stress and 60% of participants no longer met diagnostic criteria [4].

In addition for the powerful benefits of EFT for mental and emotional well-being, there are also studies to suggest the efficacy of EFT for chronic pain.

One study in particular found that EFT contributed to significant improvements in women with fibromyalgia after 8 weeks [5]. Moreover, researchers found that no only did participants experience reduced pain, but also observed symptoms improvement in anxiety, depression, social function, mental health, frequent rumination, and increased activity [5].

EFT can be used for various conditions and individual needs, making it a powerful adjunct therapy alongside healthy lifestyle habits like a nutrient dense diet, exercise, and other stress relieving practices.

If you’d like to explore more on EFT, speak with our certified EFT provider – Catherine Duncan, MA, BCC! You can schedule an EFT session with her today!

1. The Manual Stimulation of Acupuncture Points in the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Review of Clinical Emotional Freedom Techniques
2. The effects of chronic stress on the human brain: From neurotoxicity, to vulnerability, to opportunity
3. The Manual Stimulation of Acupuncture Points in the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Review of Clinical Emotional Freedom Techniques
4. Psychological trauma symptom improvement in veterans using emotional freedom techniques: a randomized controlled trial.
5. Self-administered EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) in Individuals With Fibromyalgia: A Randomized Trial