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THE PHENOMENON OF EFT ‘TAPPING

EFT (or ‘tapping’ as it’s often called) may seem like a recent phenomenon in the mental health and personal wellness spheres, but the technique has been used for over 30 years by practitioners...
By Kristin Panasewicz
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EFT (or ‘tapping’ as it’s often called) may seem like a recent phenomenon in the mental health and personal wellness spheres, but the technique has been used for over 30 years by practitioners and individuals who prefer an alternative to traditional talk therapy. EFT stands for Emotional Freedom Technique, which may sound unsophisticated, but it’s exactly what it does. EFT truly gives us emotional freedom.

 

WHAT IS EFT ‘TAPPING’?

EFT is a gentle but highly effective form of somatic therapy used to relieve painful emotions, limiting beliefs, phobias, and self-defeating patterns. Developed in the 1990s by Gary Craig, EFT has become well-regarded as a trauma therapy due to its ability to deactivate sensory triggers associated with distressing experiences and memories and to restore regulation to the nervous system. There’s a lot of science behind tapping’s impact on our neurobiology, but the most important thing to know is that it works.

If you’re wondering what I mean when I say EFT ‘works,’ I mean that it can create permanent change. In EFT therapy, we aim to change or clear our issues; we don’t just learn coping skills or talk about our problems.

In some ways, EFT clients hold themselves to the ultimate standard of accountability due to their desire and willingness to change what doesn’t serve them well.

Before going on, it’s worth mentioning that although many of us know EFT as ‘tapping,’ there is technically a difference. While all EFT is tapping, not all tapping is EFT. The term ‘tapping’ describes the method of stimulating acupoints along the body’s meridian system just as other acupoint treatments such as Chinese acupuncture or Japanese Shiatsu utilize needles and massage to stimulate the acupoints, respectively. By contrast, EFT is a therapeutic modality which combines the energy principles of Eastern Medicine and Western principles of psychotherapy. (There is an umbrella category of techniques called Energy Psychology which is rooted in this combined—or integrated—approach, and there is a lot of material about it online if you’d like to learn more). Finally, a practitioner needs to be properly trained and accredited to say that they practice EFT, whereas anyone can say they guide clients in ‘tapping.’

Note that professionals who administer EFT refer to themselves differently depending on what country they practice in. For example, often, in North America, the term EFT Practitioner is used while in many places in Europe, the term EFT Therapist is used. People who are not accredited or educated in mental health usually just say they practice Tapping, just in case you spot some inconsistencies and get confused!

 

HOW DOES EFT WORK?

To understand how it works, it’s useful to understand a little bit about the science behind EFT ‘tapping’ and neuropsychology. (Very) basically:

    1. The autonomic nervous system holds imprints of experiences during which we felt unsafe in the past.

     

    2. The autonomic nervous system is constantly scanning our environment for sensory cues of threat or safety through a process called neuroception, which is a core aspect of Dr. Stephen Porges’ Polyvagal Theory. The criteria that the nervous system uses to assess whether it is safe or not is, ‘Is this similar to something that hurt me before?

     

    3. The nervous system sends its report to the thalamus, which is the part of the brain that processes sensory information (except for smell, which functions slightly differently). The thalamus then shares this unfiltered and crude report with the amygdala, which is the survival center of the brain. The amygdala then determines what action is necessary to take.

     

    4. If the nervous system perceives safety, the amygdala takes no action and we remain regulated in a ‘rest and digest’ state. However, if it perceives a threat, the amygdala initiates a survival response in the form of fight/flight/freeze (or in some cases, fawn). By the way, this process all takes place in a matter of seconds!

    Notice that nowhere in this process did the cognitive brain consider the options and make a decision; it acts automatically. That makes sense, right? Of course, it does. But there’s one catch (a BIG one): The human brain cannot discern between a physical threat and an emotional one. Think about that for a second. If our brain can’t tell the difference between threat levels when someone is criticizing us and when we’re being followed in a dark alley, that makes us highly susceptible to overreaction. I don’t mean that our reactions aren’t valid, they are. I just mean that going into survival mode when our boss gives us a poor review or every time we board an airplane is inappropriate, or in other words, disproportionate, to the situation and it happens whether we decide for it to happen or not. (NB: Anyone who practices manifestation already understands that the brain cannot tell the difference between visualization and reality. That too is rooted in neuropsychology. The only difference is that in one situation we are using the power of intention to control the brain while in the other WE are being controlled by the brain).

    This is how most conflicts begin—when we’re emotionally and neurologically hijacked by unprocessed and unhealed wounds, most often from our childhoods but not exclusively, our resulting behavior causes a problem. An inappropriate response can look like anything ranging from exploding in anger when someone is rude to us or freezing when touched. Both are completely natural and completely human, but both are occasionally inappropriate and unhelpful.

    EFT intervenes in Step 3 above when the amygdala determines what action it wants the nervous system to take. By stimulating acupoints while thinking or speaking about a particular stressor or memory, we send signals to the amygdala canceling the survival response. We literally rewire the brain to stop responding to particular situations, triggers, memories, or sensory stimuli through a survival response. What’s most spectacular about this effect is that the result is permanent.

     

    MY EFT STORY

    In 2013, I started seeing my first therapist. I hit a plateau and couldn’t seem to get past a particular emotional response I kept having whenever I felt like I was being compared to someone else, a colleague, or a friend, for example. My therapist said, ‘Can I try something?’ (So many EFT conversions begin with the question, ‘Can I try something?’…) She started tapping on me while I repeated some statements. It felt absurd, and I was self-conscious about the whole thing. When she stopped, she said, ‘What came up?’ I was stunned to admit that a memory from my childhood had, in fact, popped into my mind as she tapped, a memory when I felt completely invisible around my tall, thin, exceptionally beautiful, older cousin. There it was! We had found the root of my insecurity and, most importantly, we were able to clear it.

    The experience stuck with me. I had no idea what it was that my therapist had done; I was convinced it was some kind of witchcraft, but truthfully, I didn’t care. It worked! Three years later, in January 2016, I experienced an acute trauma that left me in a hospital bed for months. After my body healed, my mind took its turn to fall apart. My flatmate moved out as soon as I was discharged from the hospital, leaving me with two bedrooms in London to pay the rent for despite not having earned a salary in six months. There was no money for therapy, never mind for a trauma-trained specialist. With mounting debt, I had no choice but to return to work several months too early. The darkness I experienced was indescribable.

    The trauma was starting to consume me, and I knew I was going to die if I didn’t find some way to intervene in my own internal processes. During one particularly bad night, I lay in bed and just started tapping. I remembered what my old therapist had done, and I Googled ‘tapping points.’ Each time I felt the despair closing in, I just tapped around my body until I started to feel more in control of my urges. I became an Accredited EFT Practitioner so that I could properly administer it to myself* and eventually, once the worst of the darkness had passed, I gained more advanced levels of accreditation and specialist training. In 2021, I established my healing practice and called it Yew Tree Integrated Healing.

    EFT saved my life, and I’ve never come across any therapeutic modality like it. For me, it’s the gold standard as long as it’s wielded by proper EFT Practitioners who are well-trained and know what they’re doing.

     

    WHAT CAN EFT ‘TAPPING’ BE USED FOR?

    There is no issue too big or too small for EFT. It is safe and effective for adults, teenagers, and children. EFT ‘tapping’ can help relieve, process, and many times eliminate the following issues and more (but please remember that not all EFT Practitioners work with each of these issues, usually we have areas of specialization):

    Shame

    Phobias

    Trauma

    PTSD

    Anger

    Stress

    Guilt

    Grief

    Anxiety

    Limiting beliefs

    Self-defeating patterns

    Cravings

    Hypervigilance

    Compulsive behaviors

    Eating disorders

    Depression

    Distressing memories

    Physical ailments inc. insomnia & chronic pain 

    Conflict in interpersonal relationships

    Fear

    Lack of clarity around decision-making

    Performance blockages

     

    FURTHER RESOURCES ON EFT TAPPING

    EFT International’s Directory of Practitioners

    Dr. Peta Stapleton’s TEDx Talk on EFT: Is Therapy Facing a Revolution?

    EFT International’s free EFT Manual

    My favorite book on EFT and Energy Psychology

    A good podcast called Tapping Q & A by Gene Monterastelli

    Livestrong.com’s article on the benefits of EFT ‘Tapping’

    A selection of interviews and demonstrations by EFT experts hosted by Gene Monterastelli in his 2023 24 Hours of Tapping fundraiser

     

    *Please note that although self-tapping is great, it is not recommended for individuals to treat themselves for trauma or significant, complex emotional issues. I share my story to demonstrate that EFT helped me stay afloat until I had the energy and resources to work with a professional in a moment of desperation, However, I do not encourage anyone to use EFT on their own trauma without working closely with a trauma-trained professional. There are always resources available if money is a concern.

    Kristin Panasewicz

    Originally from New Jersey but based in London, Kristin is a Trustee of EFT International; an Accredited Advanced EFT Practitioner; and a certified Integrated Healer. She has a BA from Temple University and an MA from Georgetown University and has also lived and worked in Philadelphia, Washington DC, Paris, Rome, and Dublin. Her practice is called Yew Tree Integrated Healing and she works with clients around the world.

    View Kristin’s Bio Page

    View Kristin’s Website