Tapping into EFT
You may have seen celebrities like Pink, Russell Brand, Fearne Cotton, Michael Ball, Lily Allen and Boy George talking about 'tapping' and describing it in a range of different ways, but what actually is tapping and how can it help us to transform our mental health for the better?
What is EFT?
EFT stands for 'emotional freedom techniques' and is commonly referred to as 'tapping' because you use two or more fingers to stimulate acupressure points on the face and body. This, combined with psychological interventions such as cognitive reframing and exposure, has been clinically proven to produce impressive results. It is accessible and adaptive, so much so that it can be used with children from a young age.
Originally, EFT/tapping was described as a way to 'rebalance the energies in the body', much like acupuncture. It has also been referred to as a 'distraction' or 'meditative' technique, which isn't necessarily incorrect in some cases, however, it undervalues the possible change that can occur. There is a big difference in being distracted from feeling anxious, which is a temporary measure, to being able to reduce anxiety effectively with long-term effects.
The tapping technique directly affects our amygdala, which is the stress centre in the brain. When we are feeling anxious, stressed or experiencing extreme emotion, the amygdala activates and sends subsequent hormones into the body (such as cortisol) that we associate with the fight, flight or freeze response. This is great when we are faced with something life-threatening, but less helpful when we are about to deliver a presentation at work or spending most of our day feeling anxious.
When we use EFT, research shows that the stress centres of the brain calm which reduces cortisol levels, positively affects brain activity and other biological factors, as well as deregulating (switching off) up to six genes in the body responsible for stress symptoms and syndromes.
In a 2019 study (Bach et al, 2019), clinical EFT was shown to improve multiple psychological markers of health.
- anxiety decreased by 40%
- cortisol decreased by 37%
- depression decreased by 35%
- pain decreased by 57%
- PTSD symptoms decreased by 32%
- food cravings decreased by 74%
- blood pressure decreased by8%
- Resting heart rate decreased by 8%
- immune markers increased by 113%
- happiness increased by 31%
Research has been conducted into EFT for over 20 years and shows that not only is it a safe treatment, but it can also produce results quicker and more effectively than traditional talking therapy. A 2022 systematic review (Stapleton et al, 2022) also confirms its effectiveness for anxiety, stress, depression, PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder), phobias, cravings, pain, insomnia and autoimmune conditions as well as professional and sports performance.
In plain terms, EFT can help you to move past fear, limiting beliefs and the things that are holding you back in order to feel better and live more freely.
Can you imagine feeling 40% less anxious, how would your life look?
So how do you do it?
The clinical EFT model is below for you to try out.
It's important to note that if you skip a point, it will still work. For example, some people find the underarm point uncomfortable to get to, so decide to leave that one out. The way you tap also doesn't matter; you can use one or both hands on either side of the body.
First, rate your emotion or issue using the SUDS (subjective units of distress) scale from zero to 10. Zero equals no distress and 10 equals the highest level of distress.
Then we begin by using a ‘set-up statement’ - tapping on the side of the hand (1) on the fleshy bit underneath the little finger. The set-up statement acknowledges the problem and/or emotion we are experiencing, creates an acceptance of it and completes it with something more positive or how we’d like to feel. For example: “even though I am feeling anxious, I choose to feel calm and relaxed”.
Then, tap through each point below (moving from 2-9). We would call this a ‘round’, and repeat a ‘reminder phrase’. The reminder phrase might be something like, ‘my anxiety’ or ‘feeling anxious’.
- start of the eyebrow (2)
- side of the eye (3)
- under the eye (4)
- under the nose (5)
- under the lip on the chin crease (6)
- an inch under the collarbone (7)
- under the arm (about four fingers down from the armpit (8)
- top of the head (9)
Once you get to the top of the head, take a deep breath in and out, extending your exhale and then re-rate the feeling or issue using the SUD scale again. Repeating the rounds until your SUD is zero or one.
I've tried tapping on my own or following videos online but I haven't felt any difference - does this mean tapping won't work for me?
In a word, no. It may just mean that you haven't been able to get to the root of the issue or the videos haven't been specific enough to you. Often, if you are working on a particular or persistent issue, it is necessary to work one-to-one with an accredited, certified practitioner as they have a range of different techniques that they can use.
For example, if someone has a phobia of spiders they may find that tapping on "I'm scared of spiders" doesn't always give results. In this case, a practitioner would work with them to find the precipitating event, work through connected emotions and properly process it.
It's important to note that there are ways to work with triggering events without having to go into detail about what happened, which is extremely favourable to issues such as PTSD and trauma.
Once you have worked to remove the emotional intensity from key events, core beliefs and tackled any resistance to letting the problem go, the issue that you were working on will resolve itself. Ultimately, you can choose how you react, or simply have no reaction in the future. You may even pick up a spider and remove it from your home without even thinking about it!
There are so many great resources online that can introduce you further to EFT. If you're looking to work with a practitioner then make sure to check that they are registered with a body such as EFT International which ensures high standards of training, mentoring and ongoing CPD.
In order to find someone who will work well with you, do your research and see if they are someone you feel comfortable working with. You may also want to consider their specialisms to see if they suit your needs and match your values so that you can get the most out of your time with them.
D. Bach, ND, G. Groesbeck, P. Stapleton, R. Sims, K. Blickheuser, D. Church, 2019, Clinical EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) Improves Multiple Physiological Markers of Health, National Library of Medicine.
P. Stapleton, D. Church, T O'Keefe, A. Vasudevan, 2022, Clinical EFT as an evidence-based practice for the treatment of psychological and physiological conditions: A systematic review.