How to use tapping to alleviate anxiety
Tapping – or Emotional Freedom Techniques – is an acupressure technique that’s based on the same concept of acupuncture but without the needles
image Elia Pellegrini via Unsplash
words James McIntosh
It goes without saying that we live in anxious and uncertain times. It’s no surprise that, according to mental health charity Mind, 1 in 4 people people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England. And with waiting lists for NHS-approved therapy reaching up to 18 weeks or more, it’s no wonder more and more of us are turning to different methods to combat both short and long term stress.
Tapping – or to use its proper name, Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) – is an alternative therapy drawing from various practices, including acupuncture and neuro-linguistic programming. The technique has been around since the 1970s, but was developed in the late 1990s by Dr. Roger Callahan and Gary Craig, and its advocates claim it has the power to treat everything from anxiety to addiction. But critics state that it has little therapeutic use, and decry it as a pseudoscience. So what is it, and how can you do it? Woo has the lowdown on the tippy-tappy technique that’s got the nation talking.
What is tapping?
Broadly speaking, EFT works in a similar way to acupuncture. In fact, London-based hypnotherapist Sue Beer and neurolinguistic programmer Emma Roberts, who co-founded the The EFT Centre in 2004, describe it as “emotional acupuncture without the needles”. The principle is developed from the ancient Chinese meridian energy system (sometimes referred to as Qi, or “vital energy”). “It is based on the premise that all negative emotions are the result of a disruption in the body’s energy system”, Beer says. When combined with western psychology, and the methods of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), it’s said to “create a very effective therapy or self-help method”, by changing the way you think or behave.
How does it work?
The aim of an EFT session is to clear an energy blockage by ‘tapping’ several times on certain body points, known as meridian points, in a round sequence. The repetitive nature of the movements, combined with the calming words of affirmation, should then alleviate the particular problem focussed on – be it general anxiety, or something more specific.
During a typical session, the person first focuses on slow and steady breathing. It helps to be in a relaxing space, such as your bed, or a peaceful park. Then, the person begins the tapping sequence. This typically starts on the ‘karate chop’ point – the fleshy bit between your wrist and your little finger. Whilst gently tapping the spot over and again, the person repeats a mantra of affirmation to themselves: “Even though I have/feel [x problem], I love and accept myself”. For example: “Even though I have anxiety, I love and accept myself”. The participant then moves the tapping to another meridian point, following the body down from the head. So, under the eye; then on to the nose; then the chin; then the collarbone; and so on. The subject then rates the emotional intensity out of ten, and if necessary repeats the exercise.
According to Beer and Roberts, the process “shifts energy and changes the way the brain thinks about a particular issue –– so tapping while tuned in to that issue is like rewiring or rerouting the brain’s conditioned negative response”.
Can you use it for anything?
Broadly speaking, yes: “In the EFT world we say ‘Try it on Everything’”, adds Roberts. “EFT has been shown to benefit so many areas from anxiety and depression to weight loss, pain relief and beating addiction”.
What’s the best way to get started?
The EFT Centre has numerous introductory videos on its YouTube channel, and a free mini-course is available on its website, which starts with the basics. For reading, Roger Callahan’s book Tapping the Healer Within, or Feinstein, Eden, and Craig’s The Healing Power of EFT and Energy Psychology are great places to begin. For a deeper dive, The EFT Centre offers several three-day courses, also all available on its website.
So finally, does it actually work?
A 2016 study found that tapping was effective in reducing anxiety in patients when compared to control patients, and there is more research still being done into its effects. Whilst EFT is not yet available on the NHS, and practitioners like Beer and Roberts maintain that the techniques should not be used in lieu of proper medical care, tapping is free to try and easy to do. It’s painless, quick, and could provide you with some of the relief you’ve been looking for in the testing modern world.