If you are stressed, many mind-body practices can bring you back to a state of calm. One is known as Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) or Tapping.
Standard EFT tapping is a non-invasive, inexpensive method that most people can learn on their own to relieve stress and anxiety, explains Alex Ortner, Newton, Connecticut-based co-owner and chief marketing officer of The Tapping Solution, a company that provides EFT tapping resources. .
EFT tapping combines the principles of traditional Chinese acupressure with modern psychology. As the name suggests, it involves touching specific locations, known as acupoints or acupuncture points, on the hands, face and body with your fingertips, according to EFT International (PDF).
As you tap, you focus on the problem or emotion you want to change, combine it with what’s called an attunement statement that acknowledges the problem, and end with a phrase of affirmation or acceptance. For example: “Even though I’m overwhelmed with work, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
In short, there are two types of EFT tapping: standard EFT (or self-applied) can help calm daily stress, moderate food cravings, promote focus, and more for generally healthy people with no diagnosed mental health issues. Clinical TES is a tapping technique used by licensed therapists to help people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, phobias and other mental health issues. It is similar to standard EFT, but should only be performed in a clinical setting by a trained medical professional.
Read on to learn how—and why—you might want to try standard EFT tapping if you’re feeling drained or stressed from everyday life.
The possible benefits of EFT tapping
EFT tapping can improve your health in many ways. Here’s what the research suggests:
1. It can reduce stress and anxiety
Research shows that EFT tapping can help with everyday stress and anxiety, such as being overwhelmed at work.
EFT has been shown to calm the amygdala, also known as the brain’s stress center. This effect can help people feel calmer and enable them to think more clearly, says Dr. Peta Stapleton, a registered clinical and health psychologist at Bond University in Queensland, Australia, who is leading clinical trials of EFT eavesdropping.
For example, a study published in November 2020 in Psychological trauma found that people who practiced EFT tapping had a significant decrease in cortisol (a stress hormone) compared to people who were given information on how to deal with anxiety. This study replicates earlier research that also supports TES as a potentially effective stress reduction method.
The author of a past review and meta-analysis concluded that EFT tapping led to significant improvements in anxiety in 14 studies, but noted that there is too little data comparing EFT to conventional treatments (such as cognitive-behavioral therapy) and more research is needed to better understand the efficacy of TEC in relation to established approaches.
2. It can reduce appetite and help with weight loss
EFT tapping can help with weight loss by creating changes in parts of the brain that activate food cravings.
In a study published in December 2018 OMB Integrative and Complementary Medicine, 96 overweight and obese adults practiced EFT tapping for four weeks. Brain scans showed changes in the part of the brain associated with appetite, and study participants reported less interest in food. However, the study did not track weight loss, only the potential efficacy of using EFT tapping as a tool to reduce food cravings.
However, other studies did measure weight loss: 76 dieters who practiced EFT tapping lost an average of 1 pound per week while following a six-week online EFT course, according to a study published in the March-April 2018 issue of Take a look.
“The weight loss during the program wasn’t dramatic, but after the program ended, people continued to lose weight over the next year,” says study co-author Dawson Church, Ph.D., founder and CEO of EFT Universe, an EFT training, certification and training organization. (Participants received monthly follow-up telehealth visits after the six-week course ended.) That’s a pretty big deal, he continues, because many people who lose weight on a program end up putting it back on after the program ends. “EFT is one of the few methods where they keep losing [weight] after their initial experience,” says Dr. Church.
3. It can increase focus
Tapping can be used to reduce performance anxiety and improve concentration, which can help people under pressure achieve results.
For example, a previous study (PDF) of high school and college basketball players found that those who practiced dribbling for 15 minutes improved their free throw shooting by an average of nearly 21 percent. Meanwhile, those in the control group saw a nearly 17 percent decrease in free throw performance. This study suggests that EFT tapping may be a viable method for calming the mind and increasing mental focus in high-stress everyday situations (eg, performing in a game or giving a work presentation).
4. Helps treat PTSD and trauma in clinical settings
Clinical EFT tapping can be an effective treatment option for some people with PTSD and trauma.
TES, administered by a licensed, trained therapist, can be used to help patients “process past memories that caused the trauma or PTSD and then be able to think about those memories without [or less] physical or psychological distress,” says Dr. Stapleton.
In a previous study, 58 military veterans with PTSD who performed EFT tapping, in addition to conventional treatment, saw a significant reduction in their PTSD (average of 65 to 34).
If you are interested in clinical EFT tapping, you can discuss with your health care provider whether this is an appropriate option for you.