According to Mary’s relatives, she’d had a severe water phobia since infancy. She couldn’t take a bath in a full tub of water or go to the beach. The mere sight of water triggered an extremely disturbing feeling in the pit of her stomach. Mary was so phobic that she was even frightened when it rained and suffered water-related nightmares.

In 1979 Mary worked with psychologist Dr. Roger Callahan to try to reduce her phobia. He tried a wide spectrum of traditional psychotherapeutic tools, but after a year, Mary had only gotten so far as to be able to sit on the edge of a pool and dangle her legs in the water—with enormous anxiety and a splitting headache.

Dr. Callahan had been studying energy meridian points on the body. He’d learned, for example, that the end point of the stomach meridian was directly beneath the eyes. In desperation, one day by the side of the pool he asked Mary to gently tap several times in a row under her eyes. She complied and, to their surprise, the horrible feeling in her stomach disappeared. Fearlessly, Mary slipped herself into the pool. From that day forward, she remained free of all traces of the phobia.

The results of his work with Mary led Dr. Callahan to devise the Callahan Techniques, which later became Thought Field Therapy (TFT), a process in which a person taps on acupressure points (the same as those used in acupuncture) while focusing on an emotion or problem. Although Dr. Callahan developed different acupoint sequences for different problems, the energy points always remain the same:

  • Top of the head
  • Eyebrow
  • Side of the eye
  • Under the eye
  • Under the nose
  • Chin
  • Collarbone
  • Chest sore spot (about four inches above the nipple)
  • Underarm
  • Fingertips (all five on either hand)

“A simple way to describe EFT would be that it is like emotional acupuncture, without the needles. An EFT therapist [teaches a client to tap]…with the fingertips on certain meridian points, stimulating the blocked energy so that it starts flowing freely again.”[/pullquote]The goal of every process is to break the connection between the triggering thought and the emotional response by tapping on the energy pathway. The technique has not been fully substantiated by empirical evidence, but TFT became world-renowned for its effectiveness in helping people overcome phobias, traumas, and other emotional disturbances.

In the early 1990s Gary Craig, a Stanford engineering graduate and ordained minister, studied TFT under Dr. Callahan. On a personal development quest since the age of 13, Craig saw the potential for TFT to be used even more widely and simply. While TFT emphasizes the use of individual algorithms unique to each problem, Craig stripped down TFT’s complexity by developing the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), which values tapping over the sequence itself. In fact, Craig contends that the sequence in which you tap the acupoints is irrelevant.

This shift in theory and practice gave rise to a process so simple that you can use it anytime, anywhere, without professional intervention to reduce your emotional response to any situation.

Memories are not eradicated, but their emotional charge is reduced and often eliminated, which leads to the relief of physical symptoms and a renewed freedom in emotional experience. While individual results vary, testimonials often cite almost immediate relief.[/pullquote]According to Sarah Brougton, an energy practitioner and a member of the Association for the Advancement of Meridian Energy Therapies, “EFT is based on the belief that all negative emotions are a result of an imbalance in the body energy system….A simple way to describe EFT would be that it is like emotional acupuncture, without the needles. An EFT therapist [teaches a client to tap]…with the fingertips on certain meridian points, stimulating the blocked energy so that it starts flowing freely again. Whilst tapping, the client focuses on negative feelings, thoughts, and emotions and experiences rapid and often long-lasting relief, as the body and mind become calmed and energetically balanced.”

Memories are not eradicated, but their emotional charge is reduced and often eliminated, which leads to the relief of physical symptoms and a renewed freedom in emotional experience. While individual results vary, testimonials often cite almost immediate relief. I can vouch for that: In my own trauma recovery, EFT was one of my favorite techniques for its gentleness and effectiveness.

To learn more, see Dr. Roger Callahan’s site for a free tapping therapy guide and video and Gary Craig’s site for an EFT tutorial.

1 Comment

  • Holly Scott
    Posted February 5, 2014 6:55 pm 0Likes

    Thank you for sharing this valuable do-it-yourself approach to relieving anxiety and other negative emotions. I plan to share the tapping therapy guide and EFT tutorial with some of my clients.

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