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Emotional Freedom Technique: Combining talk therapy with acupressure

Emotional Freedom Technique: Combining talk therapy with acupressure

How you can tap your way to emotional wellbeing
Emotional freedom technique
Representational image | Shutterstock

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), also known as body tapping or psychological acupressure is a recent psychotherapy tool that has shown promising results in clinical studies. Although this technique has gained social media limelight only recently but has been used by many for more than a decade.  

In 2013 lifestyle consultant Barkha Mahesh Bhatia fell into depression after losing a loved one. “I started using EFT since then to address that feeling. It has slowly but surely helped me heal emotionally over the years. I was able to release the pent-up emotions like letting out grief through tears, my fears about the future, and that sinking feeling,” says Bhatia. 

The genesis 

Reportedly developed by Gary Craig in 1995, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) combines the ancient practice of acupressure with modern psychotherapy to address emotional distress. According to Craig, our body is a conduit for a seamless flow of energy. Initially called Thought Free Therapy, this restorative technique was developed by Roger Callahan in the early 1900s. His theory was that there were specific tapping points for specific issues. “Craig simplified this technique to a great deal. From specific points, he modified it to tapping on all the hotspots for emotional relief,” shares Kunal Dudeja an EFT expert and coach.  

Understanding EFT 

We experience physical and emotional pain which if not released and internalised, usually manifests into physical issues. And the act of tapping or using fingertips to apply pressure on the energy hotspots restores the body’s energy system back to normalcy.  

Rooted in the traditional Chinese practice of exerting pressure along the energy meridian points in the body to alleviate discomfort, EFT combines acupressure with talk therapy. The technique seeks to restore balance to the energy centres of the human body by focusing on these meridian points connected to the internal organs.   “If the person is going through difficult times — a phase of unpleasant emotions, they have several options to create a positive change – at the cognitive, emotional, behavioural, and action level. While EFT or tapping works like magic to create a positive change at the emotional level, it is also important for the person to create a change at the thought, behaviour, and activity level too based on the issue they are working on,” emphasises Dudeja. 

Emotional Freedom Therapy in 5 steps to classify an emotional 

  • Identifying: The first step towards healing is diagnosis. Once the categorical cause of anxiety has been identified, the subject is urged to focus their energy on the problem.  
  • Quantifying: Visualise the intensity and mentally quantify it — either on a scale of 1-10 or in percentage.  
  • Set-up statement: Before the process of tapping can begin, a set-up statement is established to help the person in distress to acknowledge the issue and accept themselves despite it. The most common setup statement used in EFT is “Even though I have this problem (fear or anger), I completely accept myself.” The goal of the statement is psychological reversal.  
  • Tapping: The EFT professional employs methodical tapping on the relevant meridian points while the participant is asked to repeat a short version of the setup statement that acts as a reminder of the issue (feel fear).  
  • Assessing: At the end of the sequential tapping of meridian points, the EFT professional goes back to the scale on which the subject’s anxiety levels were recorded before the beginning of therapy. The two recordings are compared to assess the difference before recommending subsequent follow-up sessions.  

Is EFT an effective alternative to conventional talk therapies?  

Several studies on the efficacy of EFT have found the procedure to be useful in providing relief from anxiety, depression, PTSD, phobias, and in lowering heart rate, blood pressure, and the stress-inducing hormone cortisol.  

“EFT Tapping is clinically proven to lower stress, anxiety, tension, depression, PTSD, phobias and cravings to feel healthier and happier. For example, PTSD symptoms can reduce by 91% after six sessions with EFT Tapping,” says Dr Rangana Rupavi Choudhuri, Founder of Vitality Living College.

A study on 5,000 participants seeking clinical intervention for relief from anxiety reported 90 per cent improvement in participants who received EFT therapy with no medication in comparison to 63 per cent improvement in participants who underwent cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). EFT participants required three sessions to report feeling relieved of anxiety while the conventional therapy group reported relief after 15 sessions of CBT. The annual follow-up revealed that 76 per cent of the participants who had received EFT were able to maintain to the improvement.   

Another study on US war veterans found that EFT treatment yielded long-term positive results in participants with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The study group tested negative for PTSD and related psychological distress during the one-year follow-up assessment.  

Benefits of EFT 

  • Helps connect with your deepest emotions 
  • Calms you to be able to analyse your troubling thoughts  
  • Helps reduce anxiety 
  • Reduces the emotional intensity of one’s feeling 
  • Increases confidence in tackling the current issue at hand  
  • Creates more peace and calm 
  • Helps you to increase your overall emotional well-being 

Word of caution 

This therapy does come in with a disclaimer. Dudeja warns that this wellness practice should not be considered as a single solution to a specific medical condition for which it would be better for people to reach out to a licensed medical practitioner, therapist or a counsellor.  

If one wants to try this self-tapping technique, Choudhuri suggests learning it from a trained EFT coach first. “Once a person learns EFT from a qualified trainer who teaches them how to manage the surface symptoms and address the root cause through skilled questions, they can start the self-tapping technique to regulate emotions and manage stress. Although for serious challenges, it is preferable to work with a qualified and certified EFT practitioner.” 

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