Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)

It began in 1980, with a psychologist by the name of Roger Callahan, and a patient with an extreme phobia of water. Mary’s fear of water controlled her life and kept her from daily activities. She was unable to take her children to the beach and was unable to drive near the ocean; she grew fearful when it rained, and could not even withstand the sight of water on TV. She had vivid nightmares involving water.

Dr. Callahan and Mary had been working on this problem together for over a year. Finally, Mary worked up the courage to sit within sight of the pool at Dr. Callahan’s house. Even doing this caused Mary extreme distress, and though she found ways to cope with the intense fear and emotional pain, she did not overcome her phobia. They discussed her problem, and how to overcome it, but without success.

Her fear of being near the water caused Mary’s stomach pains – a common “gut reaction.” Dr. Callahan had recently been studying traditional Chinese medicines and learning about meridians. Suddenly he had an inspiration. Remembering that there was an acupuncture point for the stomach meridian on the cheekbone, he asked her to tap there, thinking it might cure her stomach pains.

Mary tapped her cheekbone as directed, and to her amazement, as well as to Dr. Callahan’s, her stomach pains disappeared. But even more amazingly, her phobia of water disappeared, too! She ran down to the pool and began splashing herself with water. Roger called his technique Thought-Field Therapy and wrote a book called “The 5 Minute Phobia Cure[1].” From this Dr. Callahan, in the early 80’s, developed TFT, a set of “algorithms” for tapping on specific acupuncture points, with each specific algorithm being appropriate for specific ailments and dysfunctions. Even the same points could be used in a different order, thus creating many different algorithms. 

EFT was given birth in the U.S. by Gary Craig, in the early ’90s. Gary is a Stanford engineering graduate and an ordained minister.  He also has a high regard for Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) in which he is a Certified Master Practitioner.

While trying to educate himself and continuously searching for better methods and techniques for personal development, he got trained (in 1991) in Dr. Callahan’s Thought Field Therapy or TFT. 

Craig took his TFT training in 1991 and then tried to apply the method with his clients. During the next five years, he was trying to simplify the method and he finally found that the sequence of tapping the points is really of very low importance! In 1995, Gary assembled and released his first training video set, titled The EFT Course and his guide for the general public, The EFT Manual[2]

The basic technique requires you to focus on the negative emotion at hand: a fear or anxiety, a bad memory, an unresolved problem, or anything that’s bothering you. While maintaining your mental focus on this issue, use your fingertips to tap 5-7 times each on 12 of the body’s meridian points. Tapping on these meridian points – while concentrating on accepting and resolving the negative emotion – will access your body’s energy, restoring it to a balanced state.

What are these meridians? Put simply, energy circulates through your body along a specific network of channels. You can tap into this energy at any point along the system.

This concept comes from the doctrines of traditional Chinese medicine, which referred to the body’s energy as “ch’i.” In ancient times, the Chinese discovered 100 meridian points. They also discovered that by stimulating these meridian points, they could heal. Call it energy, call it the Source, call it life force, call it ch’i… Whatever you want to call it, it works.

In some ways, EFT (also referred to as Tapping) is similar to acupuncture. Like Tapping, acupuncture achieves healing through stimulating the body’s meridians and energy flow. However, unlike Tapping, acupuncture involves needles! “No needles” is one of the advantages of Tapping. 

Acupuncture also takes years to master. Acupuncture practitioners must memorize hundreds of meridian points along the body; the knowledge and training take years to acquire.

Tapping is simple and painless. It can be learned by anyone. The beauty of EFT is that you can apply it to yourself, whenever you want, wherever you are. And it’s free. It can be used with specific emotional intent towards your unique life challenges and experiences. Most importantly, it gives you the power to heal yourself, putting control over your destiny back into your own hands.


In 2003 Nick Ortner began researching  EFT and created a video of people before,  during and after a 4-day training session on EFT.    He produced a movie of that training entitled The Tapping Solution and, with his sister, has published several successful books on The Tapping Solution.[3]

EFT – The Basic Formula

  1. Name the issue you want to work on.
  2. Rate it on a scale from 0 to 10, 10 being the worst it has ever been.
  3. While tapping on the Karate Chop point, say the set-up affirmation 3 times
    ”Even though I have this ___________, I totally and completely accept myself.”
  4. Do the 9 points 
    Tap (7 – 10 times) or hold (for a full breath in and out) on each point while saying
    “This __________ (problem or feeling)
  5. Rate the problem again 
    if your number is less than a 1 or zero go on to number 6
  6. Repeat the sequence from Number 3.  This time add the phrase “ this remaining _____(problem)”

The idea is that stimulating these energy points helps the body to activate its natural healing process.  The problem may return later and you can repeat this process to once again activate your healing.[4]

I use  EFT as my go-to resource before anything else.  I particularly like it for going to sleep or for returning to sleep if I awaken during the night.    What else does this work on?  I suggest that you try it on everything, and find out.

As far as anecdotes, having taught clients for 20 years, I have plenty.   Some of them are mundane, such as clearing a phobia.  I have helped people release all sorts of phobias, from heights, snakes, and needles to elevators and spiders.  I had a couple come to me for a fear of heights.  They were planning a trip down the Grand Canyon on mule-back in the near future and were both anxious about heights.  We did a 20-minute session on the fear of heights and they both could not induce any anxiety about looking out our 3rd story window.  4 months later I got a postcard, from the bottom of the Grand Canyon, thanking me for the work.  It’s so much fun to have people letting go of limiting fears.  

Some stories are more unusual.  One 18-year-old girl asked if EFT would help with her sense of smell.  Asking her about it I found out that she had none, and hadn’t been able to smell anything for years.  
“Will Tapping help me with smelling things?”
My answer, “I have no idea.
”Well, how do I go about it?”  
Here I had to improvise.  “Try this; wet your finger and dip it in the salt.  Then tap it to your tongue and rate, on a 1 to 10 scale, how much salt do you taste.”  
“I already know the answer, zero.  I don’t taste salt.”  
“Now, going through the points, tap while saying “This inability to taste salt.”  Go through the 9 points and try to taste again.”

Now I had no idea if this would work; I suspected it wouldn’t.  If that were the case my next suggestion would be to deal with any emotions related to her lack; perhaps Frustration, or Hopelessness.  But about an hour later she returned and said, “It worked! I could taste the salt.”  I congratulated her, surprised that it worked.  The next day she reported, with a smile “I’ve got a new problem.  I think I’m addicted to Oreo cookies!”

You might have noticed that, had the first attempt not worked, I would have switched to emotions.  EFT is called Emotional Freedom because blocked or unprocessed can cause emotional and physical symptoms.  I try one way and, if unsuccessful, switch to the other.  For example; one client asked me to help with her nausea.  

“I have had nausea for 3 days.  I take the nausea medication but it doesn’t help!”I tapped with her on nausea, and nothing changed.  It was a 10 before and a 10 after.  WhenI get no change I don’t repeat that process; rather I change the focus.  So I asked, “Are you angry at your body for this nausea?”
”No, not angry.  I’m terrified that this will never go away.”
“On a scale from 1 to 10, how terrified are you?”
“A 10!”
“Let’s try tapping on the terror that this nausea will never go away.”
On the first round, it went down to a “6.”  On the second, to a “4.”  And on the 3rd round, the terror was gone. 
“How is the nausea?”  “
“It’s still the same.” “Let’s try the Tapping again on nausea.”  And, in 3 rounds the nausea was gone.  I explained to her that the terror was not allowing her body to relax, hence the medication wasn’t working.  By releasing the terror the medication could kick in and clear the nausea.

Over and over I have found that, if a person is willing to try, relief often happens.  Even when a person is skeptical; if they are willing to try, we often have success.  I have gone so far as to first work with the person on their skepticism by tapping on it.

Prefer video learning? This is a class on EFT I taught.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vg_zxG3bjgg&t=37s


[1] Publisher: Enterprise Publishing, Inc.; 1st edition (February 1, 1985)
ISBN-10: 0913864897
ISBN-13: 978-0913864890 
Hardcover: 188 pages

[2] 1998, Gary released a video training set, titled Steps Towards Becoming the Ultimate Therapist. This is where you can see additional techniques and wonderful refinements of EFT principles and techniques in action (mostly taken from Gary’s live seminars)

[3] https://www.thetappingsolution.com/

[4] For more information —  www.emofree.com for a free download of the EFT manual by author Gary Craig

Published by Jim Hussey

I am a licensed professional counselor, working in a hospital setting. I have been a meditator and teacher for 47 years, a therapist for 28 years and married for 29 years. My secret vice is golf.

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