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Therapeutic Tapping (aka Emotional Freedom Technique)

Summary: Therapeutic tapping (aka Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)) is a technique for helping with stress and anxiety that involves tapping on acupressure points on the body.
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Introduction 

In traditional Chinese medicine, the body is believed to possess various meridians along which the body’s energy flows. Stress and illness lead to blockages in the body’s energy flow. By using acupuncture needles, blockages in energy are relieved, which helps restore the body’s natural homeostasis and healing ability. Western science believes that acupuncture stimulates nerves that provide input to the brain, resulting in therapeutic effects.

Challenges with acupuncture include that it requires a trained acupuncturist to administer the acupuncture needles, takes time and effort, along with the fact that many people do not like the idea of having to have needles placed into their body.  

As a result, Gary Craig in the 1980's devised a technique which he called 'emotional freedom technique (EFT)', which is now simply referred to as therapeutic tapping. 

In therapeutic tapping, one simply taps on various points (which generally correspond to acupuncture points). 

Evidence suggests that it may be helpful in conditions such as stress, anxiety and depression (Church, 2012; Feinstein, 2012; Clond, 2016).

On one hand, there is certainly much less evidence for therapeutic tapping compared to other evidence-based treatments such as cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT).

On the other hand, advantages include the fact that you can do therapeutic tapping on yourself; you can do it on a loved one (such as a child or youth); it doesn't cost anything (compared to treatments such as psychotherapy) and it carries no side effects (compared to medication treatment). 

How to do Therapeutic Tapping

Here is a video that shows how to do therapeutic tapping: “How to Tap with Jessica Ortner: Emotional Freedom Technique Informational Video”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pAclBdj20ZU

Therapeutic Tapping in 5 Steps

Step 1. Identify the issue

What is the issue or fear that you are focusing on?

My issue / fear is ____________________________ (e.g. anxiety, stress, worry about exams, etc.)

Note that sometimes, your issue is related to another person’s behaviour. But you can’t change other people’s behaviours, only your reaction. So if your issue is “my boss acts like a jerk”, you can’t change that -- however, you can try to improve your reaction, “My issue is staying calm when my boss is challenging.”

2. How severe is the stress?

Ask yourself, between 0 and 10, if 0 is no stress and 10 is the most stress, how stressful is the issue? This helps you see later on, if the tapping has been helpful or not.

3. The setup

The “setup” is where you have a phrase that summarizes the issue you are trying to address -- it has two parts:

  • Acknowledging the issues
  • Accepting yourself despite the problem

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

Write down set up phrase below:

Problem acknowledgement

“Even though I have this problem with _______________________”

Positive affirmation

“I love and accept myself…”

Insert any other positives you want to reinforce here as well…

4. Tapping sequence

Tapping sequence is where you tap through the various acupressure meridian points.

While tapping each point, say your reminder phrase -- the reminder phrase is just a quick phrase that reminds you about what you are working on.

So if your problem / affirmation phrase is this:

  • “Even though I have anxiety when I leave my house, I accept myself,”

Your reminder phrase could simply be “the anxiety…”

My reminder phrase is _________________________________________________

Recite this phrase at each tapping point.

Repeat two or three times.

5. Rate your stress/ distress level

After doing a sequence of tapping, rate your stress/distress from 0 to 10.

Diagram of Tapping Points

Private Practitioners

Are you interested in seeing a health care professional for therapeutic tapping? Therapeutic tapping is not as widely known as other types of evidence-treatments plus there are many who are skeptical about the technique. Nonetheless, there may be health professionals that offer therapeutic tapping in your area. It is generally  recommended to seek out services from registered health professionals (e.g. social workers, psychologists, registered psychotherapists). The reason for this is that if you have problems with services, then you can contact their regulatory college or body in order to have your concerns addressed.

Summary

Therapeutic tapping is an intervention that may possibly be helpful for stress and anxiety. It does not have the same evidence base as other treatments, but it is simple and easy to do, and worth trying to see if it might be helpful in your situation.

References

Church D. et al.: Brief Group Intervention Using Emotional Freedom Techniques for Depression in College Students: A Randomized Controlled Trial, Depress Res Treat. 2012; 2012: 257172. Published online 2012 Jul 17. doi: 10.1155/2012/257172

Clond Morgan: Emotional Freedom Techniques for Anxiety, J. of Nervous and Mental Disease: May 2016 - Volume 204 - Issue 5 - p 388-395. doi: 10.1097/NMD.0000000000000483

https://journals.lww.com/jonmd/Abstract/2016/05000/Emotional_Freedom_Techniques_for_Anxiety__A.9.aspx 

Feinstein D: Acupoint stimulation in treating psychological disorders: Evidence of efficacy. Review of General Psychology, 16, 364-380. doi:10.1037/a0028602

For More Information

Website of Gary Craig, the founder of the 'Emotional Freedom Technique' 

https://www.emofree.com/

Jennifer Ortner

http://www.jessicaortner.com/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pAclBdj20ZU

About this Document

Written by the eMentalHealth Team.

Disclaimer

Information in this pamphlet is offered ‘as is' and is meant only to provide general information that supplements, but does not replace the information from your health provider. Always contact a qualified health professional for further information in your specific situation or circumstance.

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Date Posted: Apr 15, 2021
Date of Last Revision: Apr 15, 2021

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