Emotion Freedom Techniques

Emotion Freedom Techniques


Emotional Freedom Techniques are a controversial form of exposure therapy that combines brief psychological exposure with the manual stimulation of acupuncture points or accupoints[1]. Applied together, these cognitive and somatic elements are believed to have an immediate effect on the reduction of anxiety and behavior associated with phobias.

Goals of Emotion Freedom Techniques

Emotional Freedom Techniques have been used to remove negative emotions, reduce food cravings, reduce or eliminate pain and implement positive goals.

When are Emotion Freedom Techniques Used?

Emotional Freedom Techniques were employed on a variety of phobias and even on victims of sexual abuse. Case studies of EFT have shown the method has been successfully used to help people overcome the fear of speaking in public, anxiety and fingernail biting, the fear of spiders, coffee addiction, alcoholism, grief, the fear of needles, guild and insomnia, the fear of elevators or panic attacks.

Emotion Freedom Techniques were first used by Dr. Roger Callahan in the 1980s. He was working with a patient who suffered from intense water phobia. She was experiencing frequent headaches and nightmares, both of which were linked to her fear of water. After a year and a half of conventional therapy, Callahan decided to try something different. He was intrigued and had been studying the body’s energy system. He tapped with his fingertips under her eyes, an end point of the stomach meridian. The treatment showed immediate improvements in the patient’s state of mind. Her distressing thoughts about water disappeared and she even went to the local swimming pool and threw water in her face. After tapping those energy points, the patient entirely overcame her severe fear of water.

The research was continued by Gary Craig who published in the late 1990s the EFT Handbook, a manual that served as the basic teaching resource for practitioners of this unconventional method[2].

How Emotion Freedom Techniques Work

EFT consists in various taping procedures meant to realign the body’s energy system. These procedures are combined with an emotional element. The basic principle is that negative experiences disrupt the energy meridians that run through our bodies[3]. The physical changes that happen as a result of these disruptions are linked to the emotional distress. Therefore, in order to heal, the link between the physical and emotional distress must be severed.

The main tapping points used in EFT are the top of the head (fingers back-to-back down the center of the skull), the eyebrow (just above and to one side of the nose, at the beginning of the eyebrow), the side of the eye (On the bone bordering the outside corner of the eye), under the eye (On the bone under an eye about 1 inch below your pupil), under the nose (on the small area between the bottom of your nose and the top of your upper lip), the chin (midway between the point of your chin and the bottom of your lower lip), the collar bone (the junction where the sternum, collarbone and the first rib meet), under the arm (on the side of the body, about 4 inches below the armpit and the wrist[4]. Other tapping points are the fingertips of the thumb, index finger, middle finger and little finger and the gamut (karate chop).

The choice of acupoints, the number of acupoints stimulated, the order in which they are stimulated, and the forms of stimulation (e.g., tapping, holding, massaging) vary with different practitioners, approaches, and clinical situations.

In treating PTSD for instance, the therapist will use words or imagery to trigger a traumatic memory. The patient will evaluate on a scale from 0 to 10 the distress caused by the memory. The EFT practitioner will then instruct the client to tap between 4 and 14 predetermined acupoints for about 5 seconds each while keeping the trigger mentally active[5].

The end goal of the treatment is to eliminate the link between the negative emotion and the physical distress.

Criticism of Emotional Freedom Techniques

Some researchers have suggested that the principles behind the Emotional Freedom Techniques have not been scientifically confirmed, making the method a pseudoscience, rather than a valid concept.

Others have suggested that the benefits of RFT were due to placebo[6].

“Once we are convinced of the healing power of a doctor or a treatment, something very remarkable happens: a sham treatment induces real biological improvement. This is the placebo effect. Healers have relied on the placebo effect for thousands of years, but until recently, it was usually referred to as the "mysterious" placebo effect. Scientists, however, are beginning to understand the complex interaction of the brain and the endocrine system that gives rise to the placebo effect”, argues Bob Park[7].


[1] Feinstein, D. (2010). Rapid Treatment of PTSD: Why Psychological Exposure with Acupoint Tapping May Be Effective. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training. 47(3), 385-402.

[2] Craig, G, EFT Manual. Retrieved August 19, 2013 from spiritual-web.com

[3] Emotional Freedom Techniques - Australia

[4] Mercola, J, “Basic Steps to Your Emotional Freedom”. Retrieved August 18, 2013 from http://eft.mercola.com/

[5] Maria Salas, PhD, Audrey J. Brooks, PhD, Jack E. Rowe, PhD., The Immediate Effect of a Brief Energy Psychology Intervention (EFT) on Specific Phobias: A Randomized Controlled Trial, The Journal of Science and Healing, in press

[6] Serina Deen, Tapping Away Trauma: 'Emotional Freedom' Techniques. Retrieved August 19 from http://huffingtonpost.com

[7] Robert T. Carroll, Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) Retrieved August 19 from http://skepdic.com

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