What is Emotional Freedom Technique: Tapping for Stress and Distress

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Lynn Kennedy Baxter, RN, LMFTBy Lynn Kennedy Baxter, RN,

Marriage and Family Therapist

In Roseville

August 3, 2018

Emotional Freedom Technique

“It’s pretty woo-woo,” I thought, when a colleague suggested that I take a 3 day workshop on Energy Psychology in 2011. I was new to Colorado Springs and building my second practice after closing a 25 year practice in San Jose, CA.

I was very skeptical about Emotional Freedom Technique, aka EFT or tapping. I confess that my attitude was rather haughty. After all, I am certified in EMDR, a strong advocate for EMDR and by 2011 I had practiced it for 22 years. EFT tapping did not have the panache of EMDR, the research validation, or much credibility in therapeutic circles.

But, I remembered how skeptical I was in 1989 before taking the EMDR workshop with Dr. Francine Shapiro. EMDR was pretty “woo-woo” in 1989 with almost no research to validate it. Completing Level One training and using it with my abuse recovery clients quickly convinced me that this was the most incredibly effective treatment and the future of psychotherapy.

A little skepticism is good to keep me “grounded,” but it shouldn’t get in the way of expanding my repertoire of treatment modalities that might help my clients and ease their suffering. Besides, I was curious. So I relented and enrolled in the Energy Psychology workshop. I have used EFT tapping consistently, along with CBT and EMDR, since then with very positive treatment outcomes for my clients.

 What is Emotional Freedom Technique?

            Founder Gary Craig called EFT tapping “emotional acupuncture,” a powerful healing, self-help technique that combines the principles of ancient Chinese medicine with modern psychology.

This method, which was introduced in 1995, has proved to be remarkably effective in quickly and permanently eliminating negative emotions, troubling thoughts, destructive behavior patterns and a long list of distressing psychological and physical dysfunctions 

If you are familiar with acupuncture, you know that we have a subtle, life force energy called “ch’i” that runs in meridians or channels throughout the body. In Chinese medicine a person is in good mental and physical health when their ch’i is balanced and flowing freely in the meridians.

Gary maintains, “The cause of all negative emotions is a disruption in the body’s energy system.”

There are many conditions and events that can impede the flow of ch’i in a person’s energy system. Stress and anxiety, trauma of all kinds, upsetting experiences, anger and frustration, limiting beliefs, early life experiences, toxins, illness and allergies create blocks in the meridians

Traditional Chinese Medicine believes that stimulating precise meridian points on the body corrects the imbalances. Acupuncture uses needles to re-balance the energy and restore health to the individual. Fortunately, EFT tapping doesn’t.

EFT tapping uses systematic, gentle tapping with the fingertips on 9 to 14 meridians to rebalance this energy system, while the client thinks about a distressing feeling, event or limiting belief. This engages both the limbic system in the brain and the body’s energy system. The tapping clears and releases the blocked energy associated with the distress and restores the flow of ch’i through meridians. This gives the client freedom from distressing, negative feelings and opens their emotional choices.

The tapping technique is quite simple and clients can quickly learn to use it on their own, greatly enhancing their sense of self-efficacy to handle their feelings in a healthy, productive way. They don’t have to deny, avoid or bury feelings in order to cope.

As a psychotherapy tool, EFT tapping can be incorporated with most therapeutic orientations, especially CBT and psychodynamic therapies. It is a gentle process and the worst that can happen is nothing.

A demonstration of the EFT tapping points by Jessica Ortner can be seen at: https://www.thetappingsolution.com/tapping-101/, then scroll down to “Introduction to Tapping Points.”

You can view my demonstration of how to tap at: https://www.beconfidenttoday.com/eft-emotional-freedom-technique/. These two videos show two different ways of tapping that are both effective.

How does it work?

Tapping on a meridian generates a mild electrical charge called the piezoelectric effect. This is a small electric charge that results from the pressure of tapping on the body. It is this effect which clears the blocked energy in the meridian.

If you are skeptical about this, consider how Western medicine routinely measures the heart energy with an electrocardiogram; measure brain energy with an electroencephalogram; and measures muscle energy with an electromyogram. HeartMath Institute has established that the electromagnetic energy from the heart radiates about 3 feet out from the body.

The scientific origin of tapping therapy is based in the amygdala, the two almond shaped organs near the hippocampus that are part of the body’s limbic system. This is where the “flight or fight” fear response originates, alerting other parts of the brain that it senses danger. The amygdala communicates with other brain receptors to release certain hormones, like adrenalin/epinephrine and cortisol, which cause the body to respond to the perceived danger.

Tapping has been shown to literally “turn off” the amygdala, disrupting the stress response and allowing the brain to be rewired for a more appropriate emotional response to a given situation.


Dr. Dawson Church, an EFT tapping master and leading expert on energy psychology, conducted a study that established that EFT tapping lowers the major stress hormone cortisol significantly more than other interventions tested.

Eighty three subjects were randomly assigned to a single hour-long session of EFT tapping, talk therapy, or rest. Their cortisol levels were measured with a saliva test before and after the session. The results were remarkable. The average cortisol reduction of those who experienced an EFT tapping session was 24%. Some participants had a 50% reduction. People who were in the traditional talk therapy or resting groups did not have any significant changes in their cortisol levels.

You can find a comprehensive listing of research studies at Dr. Church’s website. His paper, “Clinical EFT as an Evidence Based Practice” is available at: http://tapping-foundation.s3.amazonaws.com/Clinical-EFT-as-Evidenced-Based-Practice.pdf

Dr. David Feinstein, PhD. is a noted clinical psychologist who has served on the faculty of The John Hopkins University School of Medicine. His published paper, “Acupoint Stimulation Research Review” can be found here: http://www.innersource.net/ep/images/stories/downloads/Acupoint_Stimulation_Research_Review.pdf

Another paper published in 2017 by the National Institutes of Health is titled: “Emotional Freedom Techniques to Treat Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Veterans: Review of the Evidence, Survey of Practitioners, and Proposed Clinical Guidelines.”

These are a few examples of the mounting body of solid research evidence that supports the value of EFT tapping for treating clients’ stress.

Gary Craig, who was a Stanford grad engineer turned personal coach, gave away EFT tapping to his coaching clients. He gave away the technique so as many people as possible could have access to this help.   Consequently, it is only now beginning to gain credibility as a significant psychotherapeutic treatment.

For more information here are three excellent websites with a wealth of information by reliable practioners. They are: www.TheTappingSolution.com   and www.EFTUniverse.com.

Gary Craig’s website is www.EmoFree.com.

I am happy to discuss EFT tapping and answer any questions. Please contact me by email at Lynn@BeConfidentToday.com or call me at (719) 534-3104.

About the Author

Lynn Kennedy Baxter, RN, LMFT

Lynn Kennedy Baxter is a RN and LMFT, who had been practicing in one capacity or another for 36 years, so she has an extensive background working with many kinds of problems that clients bring to therapy. As a seasoned therapist she is particularly interested in the issues that are presented by middle aged and older clients.

She is semi-retired now practicing in Roseville. Her current focus is working with adult clients with anxiety (trauma, PTSD, phobias, panic disorder, social anxiety, etc.) and depression. In addition to CBT and psychodynamic therapy, she has practiced EMDR for 28 years and used Emotional Freedom Technique for the last 7 years.

Read more about her at: www.BeConfidentToday.com

© 2018  Lynn Kennedy Baxter, RN, LMFT
Feel free to share this blog post with attribution.

If you or someone you love is struggling with mental health issues, therapy may be helpful to you. SacWellness.com is home to over 190 therapists located in the greater Sacramento area. You can search for therapists based on specific issues including Anxiety and Trauma/PTSD and by different therapeutic approaches like Emotional Freedom Technique and EMDR

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