Is EFT a Hoax?
Is EFT a Hoax?
To determine the truth behind Emotional Freedom Techniques, also known as EFT Tapping, we have to look at the science behind the technique, and evidence and clinical studies in favour of or against it to come to an unbiased and objective conclusion.
Emotional Freedom Technique, commonly known as EFT Tapping, is one of the most popular alternative healing techniques positively affecting thousands of lives across the globe.
The foundational principles of the technique are such that skepticism and criticism around it seem impending.
However, the question is, “Are we ready to keep an objective eye and review EFT Tapping even if the outcomes run counter to our beliefs? (1)
Assuming your position as one of a curious explorer or someone who is relatively new to Emotional Freedom Techniques, we will start off with a brief introduction to the healing therapy and delve deeper into other objectives as we go.
The most basic and known fact about Emotional Freedom Techniques is that it belongs to a group of therapies/techniques called Energy Healing or Energy Psychology. So let us briefly understand what these Energy Healing techniques are.
WHAT ARE ENERGY OR POWER THERAPIES?
Therapeutic techniques such as Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), Tapas Acupuncture Therapy (TAT), Getting Thru Therapy (GTT), etc. are examples of Energy Healing primarily because their treatment plans involve manipulating energy systems to assuage a particular challenge.
Largely capitalizing on the success of Thought Field Therapy (TFT), these modalities work on non-validated techniques that include treatment of the body's energy system or field.
More often than not, these healing techniques are developed by individuals who are non-researchers, but nevertheless curious.
For example, the person who developed EFT Tapping and made it known to the world, Gary Craig, had a bachelor’s degree in Engineering with no significant background in the domain of healing, therapy, or psychology per se.
On the other hand, there is another spectrum of alternative healing therapies known as Power Therapies.
Power Therapies refer to the techniques that “claim to be able to produce seemingly miraculous results in a short period of time and report much success in treating anxieties and traumas in particular.”
Some examples of Power Therapies include Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR), Traumatic Incident Reduction (TIR), Visual/Kinesthetic Dissociation (VKD) and Crisis Incident Stress Debriefing (CSID), etc. (13)
WHAT IS EFT TAPPING?
Emotional Freedom Technique or EFT Tapping is a part of a wide array of Energy Healing techniques.
Emotional Freedom Techniques, generally referred to as EFT, is an alternative therapy or a tool that is clinically proven to be effective in helping people heal from issues like anxiety, PTSD, etc. It is one of the most powerful healing techniques in the world today.
Gary Craig, the developer of Emotional Freedom Techniques and the person who brought it to prominence in the 1990s when he first put his work around the therapy on his website, describes EFT as a technique wherein you tap on different parts of the body to help balance energy systems and reduce physical and emotional pain while verbalizing the truth of the situation or condition. (2)
In simple terms, Emotional Freedom Techniques is a talk and touch therapy that works on issues like:
- Chronic pain
- Weight issues
EFT is also helpful if you:
WHAT ARE THE TWO ASPECTS OF EFT TAPPING?
As mentioned above, EFT Tapping is an alternative therapy that involves two crucial aspects: talk and touch.
The first aspect of EFT Tapping like several other therapies or healing techniques, is talk. Talking is an essential part of psychotherapy, which is why we also call it Talk Therapy.
It's a mode of communication between the therapist and the distressed individual. Talking about emotions and feelings can actually help shift perspectives and even make you feel differently.
Techniques like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) also involve this aspect of talk in its practice. (3)
One of the five love languages, touch is a necessary aspect of EFT Tapping. Touch can be an extremely important factor in healing as it communicates care, affection, and presence—all of which a troubled person needs.
Research shows that babies who are touched and held soothingly are less likely to face psychological challenges later in life than the babies who did not receive enough or any safe touch.
EFT Tapping, as the name suggests, involves tapping on specific points on the body known as Tapping points.
The origin of the concept of these Tapping points can be traced back to ancient Chinese Acupuncture where they talk about meridians and stimulating them by means of inserting needles in those specific areas.
WHAT IS THE SCIENCE BEHIND EFT TAPPING?
EFT Tapping finds its roots in traditional Chinese medicine. It borrows its underlying principle of tapping or exerting slight pressure on specific points on the body in order to stimulate them to cure physical and emotional pains from acupuncture.
Both the techniques talk about meridians or acupoints.
But what really is this meridian?
Meridian is a tube, like blood vessels, which has energy flowing in it. They can also be thought of as subtle channels of energy. Sometimes they get blocked. Therapies, like acupuncture, work on relieving this blockage.
We have meridians on our eyebrows, under the eyes, and we have the ends of meridians on our chin.
Tapping or applying slight pressure unlocks your meridians. EFT Tapping allows the mind and body to work in sync to take the edge off the negative emotions and feelings.
All one needs to do is tap on the meridians while focusing on the pain, discomfort, or any psychological challenge one is facing. Tapping palliates blockages and releases pent up negative energy the same way acupuncture does with metal needles.
New to EFT? Learn how Emotional Freedom Technique Tapping heals.
Emotional Freedom Techniques (tapping) is clinically proven to lower stress, tension, anxiety, past-trauma to enable health, happiness and vitality.
CAN A LINEAR THEORY EXPLAIN HOW EFT TAPPING WORKS?
Being a member of the family of the rather controversial Energy Healing therapies, it is quite obvious that EFT Tapping must find its foundation in some theory around energy, too.
The theory behind EFT Tapping is quite simple and linear.
- The theory supposes that all the negative emotions or feelings lead to certain disruptions in the body’s energy system. These negative emotions and feelings can be a result of some distressing event, a mishap, or a negative belief.
- These disruptions cause blockages in the energy system which are different from the mental blocks we all face from time to time.
- Tapping on certain points causes these blockages to clear, thus restoring the balance in the energy system of the body.
HOW DOES EFT TAPPING WORK?
After an introduction to EFT Tapping and learning what its underlying principles are, the next step is to learn the practical steps one can take to alleviate physical discomfort or emotional and psychological challenges.
Here’s a simple tapping process to help you get started.
So, for instance, if someone is experiencing a headache, then this is the tapping process they should follow:
WHAT DOES SCIENCE HAVE TO SAY ABOUT EMOTIONAL FREEDOM TECHNIQUES?
Gary Craig with this work titled EFT Handbook, published in 1990s, brought into light the alternative healing therapy of Emotional Freedom Techniques. (4)
EFT Tapping accompanied the already existing spectrum of alternative therapies that were broadly discussed and understood under the umbrella of Energy Psychology or Energy Healing.
One of the leading bimonthly American general audience magazines, The Skeptical Inquirer defines EFT Tapping as "a hodgepodge of concepts derived from a variety of sources, [primarily] the ancient Chinese philosophy of chi, which is thought to be the 'life force' that flows throughout the body." The existence of this life force is "not empirically supported." (5)
In addition to this, science considers Emotional Freedom Techniques and other such Energy Healing therapies as nothing but examples of placebo effect with no true benefit as a therapy.
It is also sometimes labeled as pseudoscience and lacks sufficient support from clinical psychology. Some clinical data consider EFT Tapping to be parallel to exposure therapies.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH EMOTIONAL FREEDOM TECHNIQUES
In my own experience, I’ve had quite an interesting journey with EFT. Having done my doctorate in Cancer Research from Oxford University, I was adamant that science is the only way forward and that anything that deviates from it is plain buffoonery.
By that, what I actually meant was, Medicine, as understood in its most conventional form, is the only hope and cure for all ailments.
I used to suffer from migraine and had splitting headaches on a daily basis. Nothing was helping and I was doomed. One day when I was at my mother’s, I had a similar headache. My mum noticed and asked me to try out this alternative therapy she knew.
I was highly skeptical, but agreed begrudgingly. And the alternative therapy she used was Emotional Freedom Techniques.
She started out by asking me to give my headache a number on a scale of one to ten where ten was the highest intensity and one the lowest. Still not believing it would work, I answered, “8”.
She asked me some more questions like “Does it have a colour, size or shape?” As absurd as they sounded to me then, I went on with the process and answered the questions anyway.
Finally, she asked me to repeat some phrases while lightly tapping some points on my face and upper body. After a few rounds of tapping, she asked me to take a sip of water and checked in as to how my headache was.
Coldly stunned, I couldn’t help but accept the fact that the tapping has actually helped my headache come down to a lower number. I confessed to my mom that the headache did reduce a little.
Furthermore, she asked me some new questions such as “How does this headache make you feel?”, “Does it remind you of something?”, etc. I mulled over the questions and answered truthfully.
Again, she led into a few rounds of tapping and this time she included the new information I had provided her with. Again, she asked me to take a sip of water and checked in how I was feeling and how my headache was.
To my astonishment, my migraine headache had reduced to a great extent by then.
A little hesitant to accept that this alternative healing therapy of hers had actually worked for me, I resigned from praising my mum and decided to quietly investigate more into this therapy technique.
My first experience with Emotional Freedom Techniques was brought to me by my mother and it changed my life for the better.
I began my quest into the domain of Energy Healing and dug some gems of wisdom which later I decided to share with other people, but that is another story.
Having been labelled as pseudoscience or a typical case of placebo effect, Emotional Freedom Techniques have garnered the attention of many researchers, clinical psychologists, and geeks.
More than a few clinical studies, papers, and evidence-based data have been produced in order to substantiate or nullify the effectiveness of EFT Tapping as a therapy.
Here is a list of some of the clinical studies along with their overviews concerning Emotional Freedom Techniques:
A paper titled ‘Clinical EFT as an evidence-based practice for the treatment of psychological and physiological conditions’ by Dawson Church published on Scientific Research in 2013 talks about EFT Tapping being an evidence-based practice and seems to have garnered professional acceptance as a counselling therapy. (6)
In his paper titled ‘Controversies in Energy Psychology’ published in the Energy Psychology Journal, Dawson addresses additional controversies raised by psychotherapists and mental health professionals against acupoints tapping. (7)
In yet another paper by Dawson titled The Effect of Emotional Freedom Techniques on Stress Biochemistry: A Randomized Controlled Trial published on The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease in October 2012, an attempt is made to establish the link between practicing EFT Tapping and so-called resultant biochemical changes observed in the body. The aim of the study is to posit that EFT Tapping is indeed an effective therapeutic modality. (8)
A paper titled A review of efficacy claims in energy psychology by Danny L McCaslin claims “The small successes seen in these therapies are potentially attributable to well-known cognitive and behavioural techniques that are included with the energy manipulation. Psychologists and researchers should be wary of using such techniques, and make efforts to inform the public about the ill effects of therapies that advertise miraculous claims.” (9)
In “The Current Status of Energy Psychology: Extraordinary Claims with Less than Ordinary Evidence” published on Energy Psychology Journal in May 2014, Bakker “asserts that attempts to establish empirical support for the efficacy of energy psychology have “not been able to demonstrate an effect beyond non-specific or placebo effects, or the incorporation of known effective elements”. (10)
“Emotional Freedom Techniques: The Sage Handbook of Counselling and Psychotherapy”, a paper by J Bullough deems EFT Tapping to be a “popular name for a therapeutic approach that combines the well-proven techniques of exposure and cognitive restructuring with a crucial new component, namely simultaneous somatic stimulation. In EFT, this somatic stimulation takes the form of tapping certain electromagnetically sensitive points on the body while at the same time focusing conscious attention on the issue presented for therapy.” (11)
A Master’s thesis of I.C. White titled “It helps me to love my work: An interpretative phenomenological analysis of the senior therapist experience of using Energy Psychology in psychotherapy for trauma” talks about Energy Psychology in light of “combining concepts from traditional Chinese medicine with simple cognitive interventions” with initial empirical investigations claiming it to be effective. (12)
A collective study performed under the title “Tapping their Patients’ Problems Away?: Characteristics of Psychotherapists Using Energy Meridian Techniques”, published on Sage Journals in June 2012 aims at learning the characteristics of psychotherapists who make use of Energy Meridian Technique (EMT) in their practice by conducting an internet-based survey. (14)
A collective study titled “The Dream to Freedom Technique, a Methodology for Integrating the Complementary Therapies of Energy Psychology and Dream Work” talks about clearing the surface symptoms first and then beginning with digging deeper stuff using Energy Psychology. (15)
In the paper “Six trauma imprints treated with combination Intervention: Critical incident stress debriefing and Thought Field Therapy (TFT) or Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT)”, M.M. Green states that “combination treatments seemed to have a beneficial effect in alleviating the acute aspects of multiple traumas.” (16)
Emotional Freedom Techniques or EFT Tapping is a touch and talk therapy that uses the same fundamental principle of activating the meridian points in the body as the traditional Chinese practice of acupuncture.
Understood as a component of Energy Healing or Energy Psychology, EFT Tapping has been through its fair share of tribulations as to whether it can qualify as an effective therapeutic technique.
Amidst counter arguments and science-based clashes, maintaining a certain position is rather difficult.
However, by entertaining the clinical data provided on the subject and taking into consideration live experiences, EFT Tapping might be deemed as a clinically proven alternative therapy.
I will leave it for you to decide whether EFT Tapping is a hoax or a legitimate, effective therapy.
Dr Rangana Rupavi Choudhuri (PhD)
How To Self-Heal & Become An EFT Practitioner
Discover how EFT Tapping can help you to self-heal or to become professionally qualified as a Certified EFT Practitioner. Emotional Freedom Techniques (Tapping) is clinically proven to lower stress, tension, anxiety, past trauma to enable health, happiness and vitality.
- Is EFT Tapping a Scam? | The Truth Revealed - Floating At Home
- What is EFT tapping? Evidence and how-to guide (medicalnewstoday.com)
- What Is Talk Therapy & The Benefits | Regain
- Emotional Freedom Techniques - Wikipedia
- Skeptical Inquirer - Wikipedia
- Clinical EFT as an evidence-based practice for the treatment of psychological and physiological conditions | Research and Studies | English (eftuniverse.com)
- Controversies in Energy Psychology | Energy Psychology Journal
- The Effect of Emotional Freedom Techniques on Stress Biochem... : The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease (lww.com)
- A review of efficacy claims in energy psychology - PubMed (nih.gov)
- Comment on “The Current Status of Energy Psychology”: Growing Evidence for Extraordinary Claims | Energy Psychology Journal
- Emotional Freedom Techniques, Sage Handbook of Counseling and Psychotherapy | Research and Studies | English (eftuniverse.com)
- It helps me to love my work: An interpretative phenomenological analysis of the senior therapist experience of using Energy Psychology in Psychotherapy for Trauma | Research and Studies | English (eftuniverse.com)
- Emotional Freedom Techniques - Debunking Thought Field Therapy (google.com)
- Tapping their Patients’ Problems Away?: Characteristics of Psychotherapists Using Energy Meridian Techniques - Brandon A. Gaudiano, Lily A. Brown, Ivan W. Miller, 2012 (sagepub.com)
- The Dream to Freedom Technique, a Methodology for Integrating the Complementary Therapies of Energy Psychology and Dream Work | Energy Psychology Journal
- Six trauma imprints treated with combination Intervention: Critical incident stress debriefing and Thought Field Therapy (TFT) or Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) | Research and Studies | English (eftuniverse.com)
Disclaimer: The information on this website is purely for educational purposes and does not in any way replace the requirement for medical and psychological diagnosis and treatment. Please seek professional medical and psychological diagnosis and advice for all medical and mental health conditions. It is advised to always book any consultations with qualified professionals.
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