Emotional freedom techniques (EFT)

March 22, 2017


Emotional freedom techniques (EFT)

Natural Standard Monograph, Copyright © 2013 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.

Related Terms

  • Acupoints, acupuncture, affirmations, body tapping, chi, EFT, emotional freedom technique, Gary Craig, meridians, meridians, Roger Callahan, tapping, TCM, traditional Chinese medicine.


  • Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), also called tapping, is a psychological, or emotional, version of acupuncture that does not involve needles. This therapy is based on the idea that unresolved negative emotions contribute to many physical pains and illnesses. Supporters of EFT claim that stimulating the acupuncture points helps get rid of emotional blockages from the system, thus restoring the mind and body's balance.

  • EFT is based on the same philosophy as traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). According to Chinese medicine theory, the human body contains a network of energy pathways through which vital energy, called "chi," circulates. These pathways (also called meridians) contain specific points that function like gates, allowing chi to flow through the body. In acupuncture, needles are inserted into these points to regulate the flow of chi. Illness and symptoms are thought caused by problems in the circulation of chi through the meridians.

  • Unlike acupuncture, EFT does not involve needles. Instead, a person taps his/her fingertips on specific meridians on the body along. This is combined with positive voice affirmations. The tapping supposedly stimulates chi and corrects the negative emotions that have detrimental effects on the body's flow of energy. In this way, proponents believe that practicing EFT helps return the body's system to balance and reduces physical symptoms.

  • People can practice this therapy themselves. However, EFT should not delay diagnosis or treatment with more proven techniques or therapies, and it should not be used as the sole approach to illnesses.

  • EFT was developed by Gary Craig in the mid 1990s to treat a variety of health problems, including depression, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), stress, common cold, cancer, phobias, and various types of addictions. According to Craig, EFT can be used to treat just about any physical or mental ailment. EFT is a simplified version of Roger Callahan's bodywork techniques, which were part of the energy psychology movement.

  • A variety of books have been published by EFTs founder and others on tapping. Instructional videos and DVDs are also available. A number of Web sites are devoted to tapping. Many practitioners advertise their services online.

  • Three human studies on EFT have been published in three peer-reviewed journals. These studies evaluated the emotional and physical effects of EFT in humans. These small studies found that EFT might have positive effects on people who have phobias and stress. However, these studies were not well-designed and did not discover a definitive mechanism of action. Additional research is needed to determine if EFT is an effective treatment.

  • As a procedure that is usually self-administered, healthcare professionals may be interested in learning more about tapping because it is inexpensive and non-invasive.


  • Practitioners and training: Anyone can practice emotional freedom techniques (EFT). Printed manuals, videos, DVDs, Web sites, individual sessions, and live workshops are available to help people learn the strategy of EFT. The goal is for the person to achieve independent practice. People are able to learn the basic EFT techniques in minutes. Tutorial DVDs range from seven minutes to several hours. During this therapy, a person taps his/her fingertips on specific meridians on the body and makes positive voice affirmations.

  • Finger and body positioning: The number of fingers used for EFT varies. Some people use their index and pointer fingers. Most practitioners recommend that the individual use four or five fingers. The patient relaxes his/her hands so that the fingers naturally curve. The very tips of the fingers (called the pads) are used, rather than the fingernails. Some practitioners recommend that individuals perform these exercises in front of a bedroom mirror at first.

  • Repetition: The patient taps the points in the same series with one hand through a natural respiration cycle. This is usually a repetition of 5-7 sequences. After one complete respiration cycle, the patient switches hands. Alternate hands are used for each respiration cycle. Tapping may be done up to 10 times per day, but the founder of EFT claims that doing the procedure once a day at bedtime may be frequent enough to manage symptoms. Each session should last between 3-5 minutes. Most EFT professionals believe that a total of about 6-8 hours of tapping are required to achieve the desired goal.

  • However, if a person's ailment is complex, or if there are several different aspects contributing to a person's health problem, it may take more time for symptoms to be effectively reduced or cured. For instance, a phobia may be considered complex if it involves a combination of many different phobias. A fear of flying, for example, may be caused by a fear of falling, fear of dying, and fear of enclosed spaces.

  • Tapping: The first point in the cycle is at the top of the head, and tapping is continued down to the sides of the ribs. The last point is the inside of each wrist. People who are new to the therapy are encouraged to practice in front of mirrors to ensure that they are locating the points correctly. Tapping with the same speed between repetitions or hands is not necessary. The patient should first focus on memorizing the series of points. Each point has an abbreviation and is described in sequence below:

  • TH (the head): Place the fingers back-to-back and tap down the center of the skull.

  • EB (eyebrow): The fingers tap just above the eyebrows and slightly to the side, at about the side of each nose.

  • SE (side of the eyes): The bone bordering the outside of the eyes is tapped.

  • UE (under the eyes): With the eyes looking forward, tap the bone that is located about one inch under each eye. This point is vertically in line with the pupil.

  • UN (under the nose): The area between the nostrils and the top of the upper lip is tapped.

  • CH (chin): A point directly between the chin and the bottom of the lower lip is tapped.

  • CB (collarbone): This point is located at the intersection of the sternum (breastbone), collarbone, and the first rib. To find this point, slide the fingers along the collarbone towards the middle of the body, in line with the bellybutton. Then, the finger should be slid out on the collarbone about one inch. This point may need to be adjusted somewhat for people who are very tall (slide out more) or short (slide out less). On children, this point might be about one-half inch out.

  • UA (under the arm): This point is located under both arms, four inches below the armpits. The point is level with the nipples in men or at the level of a well-fitting bra in women.

  • WR (wrists): The last point is the inside of the wrists. The person taps his/her wrists together. The crease where the forearm meets the hand should make contact with the other crease, forming an "X" shape.

  • Once the person has tapped his/her wrists (which is the end of this series), the person starts back at the top of the head.

  • Affirmations: Then, the patient integrates affirmations into the pattern of tapping. The affirmations are to be repeated with intent, focus, and sincerity. They are said out loud with every repetition of tapping. The person does not have to believe the statements he/she is saying, but he/she should be open to the possibility that the positive action may occur as a result of saying the statements. The affirmations are intended to lead to self-acceptance, and they are meant to lead people to take positive actions in their lives. The most commonly used affirmation is, "Even though I have this user states emotional difficulty, condition, disease, situation, problem, craving, or aspect of personal history, I deeply and profoundly accept myself." Examples of common affirmations include:

  • "Even though I have this cancer, I deeply and profoundly accept myself."

  • "Even though I have this debt, I deeply and profoundly accept myself."

  • "Even though I have this sexual trauma, I deeply and profoundly accept myself."

  • "Even though I have this fear of dogs, I deeply and profoundly accept myself."

  • "Even though I have this craving for nicotine, I deeply and profoundly accept myself."

  • "Even though I have this stiffness in my neck, I deeply and profoundly accept myself."

  • "Even though I have this disagreement with my partner, I deeply and profoundly accept myself."


  • Advocates of emotional freedom techniques (EFT) believe that practicing the therapy regularly may help improve physical pains and illnesses. Tapping may be done up to 10 times per day, but the founder of EFT claims that doing the procedure once a day at bedtime may be frequent enough to manage symptoms. Each session should last between 3-5 minutes. Most EFT professionals believe that a total of about 6-8 hours of tapping are required to achieve the desired goal. People are encouraged to say their statements with great enthusiasm. According to proponents of EFT, the subconscious mind will not convert a person's affirmations into reality unless he/she can tie the statements in with emotional energy.

  • According to practitioners of EFT, negative experiences result in a person having negative emotions. These emotions are internalized by the body, and as a result, the energy systems are disrupted. This ultimately leads to physical symptoms. The tapping is aimed at correcting the disruption of energy systems that occurs. Practitioners of EFT claim that repeating affirmations (in combination with tapping) will eventually will cause the subconscious to accept the statements. As a result, this may help reduce symptoms because, according to EFT practitioners, the subconscious mind brings up whatever emotional issue is contributing to the cause of the physical symptom. The affirmations are intended to help people recover from negative emotions, which will help restore proper flow of energy in their bodies. If practiced regularly for several days, the mind, body, and spirit begin to work in unison once more.

  • A 2003 trial, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, randomly assigned people with phobias of small animals to 30 minutes of treatment with EFT or a relaxation method called diaphragmatic breathing. Immediately afterwards, individuals who received EFT reported a significant decrease in their phobias as evidenced by three self-reported measures. In a behavioral assessment, individuals who received EFT demonstrated significantly greater improvement immediately after the session, as well as at follow-up at six and nine months.

  • A 2003 placebo controlled study, published in The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice compared the efficacy of two variations of EFT (created by the researchers) to no treatment on patients with phobias. The first group received regular EFT. A second group tapped on sham points, and a third group tapped on a doll. The fourth group received no treatment. The first three groups all demonstrated statistically significant improvement in their phobias when compared to the fourth group. These people reported a significant decrease in their fear ratings. However, differences in relief from the phobia were not significant between these three groups. The study authors concluded that tapping on specific meridians, as defined in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), was not necessary for EFT to be effective.


  • Serious adverse effects have not been reported in the available scientific literature. Theoretically, intense inward focusing may cause pre-existing psychological problems or personality disorders to surface.

  • EFT should not delay diagnosis or treatment with more proven techniques or therapies, and it should not be used as the sole approach to illnesses. EFT is usually used as a supplemental technique to other treatments, not as a replacement.

  • EFT techniques should not be practiced while driving or during other activities that require strict attention.

  • EFT may trigger physical symptoms, such as headache, that can be triggered by stress, anxiety, or emotional upset. If practicing EFT produces anxiety, a qualified healthcare professional should be consulted. Similarly, people with a history of trauma, abuse, or psychological disorders should speak with their healthcare professionals before using this technique.

Author Information

  • This information has been edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).


Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

  1. Association for Meridian Energy Therapies. theamt.com.

  2. EFT Support Site. www.eftsupport.com.

  3. Waite WL, Holder MD. Assessment of the Emotional Freedom Technique: an alternative treatment for fear. Sci Rev Mental Health. 2003 Spring - Summer. 2(1). www.srmhp.org/0201/emotional-freedom-technique.html.

  4. World Center for Emotional Freedom Technique. www.emofree.com.

  5. Wells S, Polglase K, Andrews HB et al. Evaluation of a meridian-based intervention, Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), for reducing specific phobias of small animals. J Clin Psychol. 2003 Sep;59(9):943-66. View Abstract

Copyright © 2013 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)

The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.


March 22, 2017