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anxiety-2019928_1280Tapping, or what is called, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT not ECT!) is a popular alternative therapy that was developed by Roger Callahan (Pulos, 1999) and based on traditional Chinese medicine. It was first used to deal with anxiety and phobias.

The theory is that there are meridian points in the body that carry energy. When energy flow is disrupted or blocked, tapping on one of the meridian points while thinking about the distressing emotion, then restores the energy flow and releases the negative emotion–the source of most emotional problems. Gary Craig developed this method to help his clients deal with negative memories, thoughts and emotions after exploring Callahan’s Thought Field Therapy (TFT). EFT differs from traditional therapies in that it adds the novel element of stimulating acupuncture points. He simplified the technique by telling clients to use their own fingers to tap on their meridian points. By tapping and focusing on the negative memory or thought, the emotion releases.

When people focus on their fear and then tap, they are doing something similar to a process called systematic desensitization. This involves facing the fear or imagining the fear and then relaxing the body–very similar to what the tapping might be doing. And the expectancy of results can impact a person as well. If you believe doing something will achieve a certain result, it might. And because the technique includes saying positive affirmations about yourself, this could be one reason people feel better. The technique has elements of cognitive therapies including exposure therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy as well.

The treatment has become widely popular with many claims of help, but more scientific studies are needed. That said, a review of some studies  found the technique resulted in a significant decrease in anxiety.  Other reviews claim the benefit comes from the way the technique incorporates other therapies.  And one psychiatrist provides reasons to “turn off the tap.”

The effectiveness of this technique has not been established in the science literature. Some even call it “pseudoscience.” Keep in mind that some people get better without doing anything when their problems are mild. Finally, it should be noted that none of the major professional mental health organizations endorses it as evidenced-based.

 

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