Treatment for anxiety involves a combination of medication, psychotherapy and alternative therapies. Emotional freedom technique (EFT), also known as tapping or EFT tapping, is a therapeutic intervention that combines both cognitive and physical elements. EFT tapping therapy has been demonstrated to improve the symptoms of several mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression. EFT tapping for anxiety is an effective way to reduce anxiety symptoms such as excessive worry, irritability, sleeping difficulties and difficulty concentrating.

What Is EFT Tapping?

EFT tapping was created in 1995 by the psychotherapist Gary Craig. Since then, detailed manuals have been written to allow for consistent training and clinical practice. EFT tapping therapy combines aspects of cognitive therapy, exposure therapy and physical touch. During an EFT session, tapping with the fingertips on specific points of the body occurs while the participant focuses on a specific concern. These points on the body are called meridian points, which are considered hot spots of the body’s energy. While tapping, participants recite short phrases directed to an emotional or physical symptom. The goal of EFT is to balance energy and decrease stress, thereby improving emotional health. When tested against the standards of the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Empirically Validated Treatments, EFT is considered an evidence-based therapy for anxiety, depression, phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Uses for Tapping

There are many evidence-based uses for tapping. EFT tapping points can be useful for treating:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Pain
  • Phobias
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Headaches
  • Weight loss

History Behind Tapping

EFT tapping history begins with the practice of thought field therapy (TFT), which was created in 1980 by the psychologist Dr. Roger Callahan. While working with a patient with a severe water phobia, Dr. Callahan utilized his training in traditional Chinese medicine to devise a novel therapeutic technique. The patient’s fear of being near the water caused them to experience chronic stomach pains. Based on his previous training, Dr. Callahan knew there was an acupuncture point for the stomach meridian on the cheekbone. By directing the patient to tap their cheekbone, he was able to relieve their stomach pain and decrease their water phobia. 

Dr. Callahan’s tapping technique was subsequently refined to form the base of thought field therapy. A student of Dr. Callahan, Gary Craig, then modified and simplified the TFT technique to create EFT during the 1990s. Rather than requiring the direction of a trained TFT therapist, Craig’s EFT technique could be learned and practiced by anyone.

How Does EFT Tapping Work?

Tapping utilizes connections between the body and the mind to address harmful thoughts and emotions. Practitioners believe that tapping stimulates the energy system that travels along the body’s meridian pathways, thereby restoring balance and relieving distress. During a tapping session, the participant focuses on an undesirable emotion, such as a stressful situation, specific fear or bad memory. While maintaining focus on the concern, the participant uses their fingertips to tap on each of the body’s nine meridian points. Specific phrases are repeated during the session to maintain the focus on the issue at hand. Tapping on the meridian points while concentrating on accepting the negative emotion or concern helps re-balance the body’s energy.

The nine main EFT tapping points include:

  1. Karate chop (side of the hand)
  2. Eyebrow point (EB)
  3. Side of eye (SE)
  4. Under eye (UE)
  5. Under nose (UN)
  6. Chin point (CP)
  7. Collarbone point (CB)
  8. Underarm (UA)
  9. Top of the head (TH)

Basic Tapping Sequence

Tapping for anxiety can be an effective way to decrease distress. Many people wonder how to use EFT tapping to relieve their symptoms. The EFT tapping method utilizes several simple steps, including. 

  1. Identify concern: The participant identifies a concern they would like to address. For example, anxiety is identified as a concern.
  2. Rate the distress level: The participant rates their current distress level on a scale of 0 to 10, with zero being baseline and ten being the highest level of distress. This rating system is called a Subjective Unit of Distress (SUDS) scale. For example, the current distress level in an anxious participant may be eight.
  3. Formulate setup statement: The participant formulates their concerns as part of a setup statement, which helps them tune into their distress. The setup statement consists of two parts. The first part emphasizes acknowledging the problem they wish to address, while the second part focuses on self-acceptance. For example, the setup statement may be “even though I feel anxious, I profoundly and fully accept myself.”
  4. Tapping sequence: The participant engages in the physical tapping process, focusing the touch on EFT tapping points on the face and body. Each point is tapped in a specific sequence about five to seven times. While tapping, the participate repeats short phrases to maintain focus on the problem at hand. This repeated phrase is called the reminder phrase. A sample tapping sequence for anxiety may include the following steps.
    1. With four fingers on one hand, tap the karate chop point on the other hand
    2. Repeat the setup statement three times, while simultaneously tapping the karate chop point
    3. Tap about five to seven times each on the remaining eight points
    4. Each point is tapped while repeating a simple reminder phrase, such as “my anxiety”
  5. Repeat until resolution: The distress level is reevaluated and the tapping sequence is repeated until a zero or one on the SUDS scale is achieved.

Benefits of Tapping

There are many proposed benefits of EFT tapping, including:

  • Decreased anxiety or depression
  • Improved symptoms of chronic pain
  • Reduced headache frequency and intensity
  • Increased weight loss
  • Improved mood
  • Reduced stress and levels of the stress hormone cortisol

The Science Behind Tapping

EFT tapping research demonstrates its effectiveness for anxiety and depression. One large-scale study looked at 5,000 patients with anxiety who received either traditional anxiety treatment in the form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with or without medication, or tapping with no medication. The majority of patients (90%) who received tapping therapy experienced a reduction in their anxiety symptoms compared to 63% of the CBT participants. Similarly, an analysis of 14 randomized controlled trials of EFT for anxiety disorders found that EFT treatment was associated with a significant decrease in anxiety scores.

Researchers studying depression reported that after group intervention using EFT for depression in college students, those who received EFT had significantly less depression than those who did not receive it. A recent study of 81 patients showed reductions in post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression symptoms in EFT participants.

Although further research is needed to uncover the science behind EFT tapping and determine how EFT tapping modifies the body’s response to stress, some practitioners believe that the amygdala is involved. The amygdala is a part of the brain involved in the body’s stress and fight or flight responses. Supporting this theory, studies using EEG (electroencephalogram) to evaluate EFT tapping found that EFT reduces the brainwave frequencies associated with stress or amplifies those associated with relaxation. 

Additional Resources on Tapping

The following are some helpful additional videos and books that can provide additional information EFT Tapping.

EFT Tapping YouTube videos:

Watching videos is a great way to start your EFT journey. Here are a few to check out:

Books on EFT tapping:

Here are some helpful books that can guide you through the process of EFT tapping step-by-step:

If you or a loved one is struggling with anxiety along with a substance use disorder, The Recovery Village can help. You can receive comprehensive treatment at one of the Recovery Village facilities located throughout the country. To learn more about treatment programs, call The Recovery Village to speak with a representative today.