What Is EFT Tapping and How Can It Help Anxiety?

Have you noticed? “Tapping” has been everywhere recently. Your friend mentioned she’s been doing it to manage her anxiety. You saw it on the Today show as a natural remedy for chronic pain. But maybe you're still wondering exactly what is EFT tapping, anyway, and should you give it a shot? So let’s get a few things straight about this holistic trend.

Wait. What is EFT Tapping, Exactly?

Also known as EFT (emotional freedom technique), tapping is a form of alternative therapy that involves touching a variety of acupressure points on the body in a specific pattern in order to calm the mind and body. Proponents of tapping believe the process helps you access the amygdala, the part of the brain that creates the “fight or flight” response. By sending calming signals directly to this portion of the brain, the aim is to reduce the production of cortisol in the body, thereby easing stress, anxiety, depression and possibly even chronic pain.

How Do I Practice EFT Tapping?

Gently tap five to seven times on 12 specific acupressure points on your arms, hands, head and torso, in order, while visualizing and/or naming out loud the pain or anxiety you’re currently feeling. We tried it, and the whole process feels surprisingly meditative. It’s kind of like learning a dance routine—while you’re learning and repeating a pattern, it’s pretty tough for your mind to wander.

How Does EFT Tapping Work?

Um, we’re not sure. The program was created by Gary Craig, an engineering graduate with some training in energy psychology (aka…not a doctor). On Craig's website, he states the process "integrates the Chinese meridian system into the therapy process by tapping on meridian points with your fingertips." The practice is believed to clear disruptions in the flow of energy (what Chinese medicine terms chi). An unobstructed energy flow means a more balanced emotional state, according to the theory.

So What Does The Research Say?

While claims have been made for EFT tapping as a therapy for PTSD, chronic pain, Asperger's, depression and anxiety, it's still relatively new and uncharted territory. And although some studies have shown EFT tapping to be effective, definitely don’t use it as a substitute for traditional therapy or medicine without discussing it with your doctor first. However, it's not contraindicated in any other treatments, so it's safe to add on to what you're already doing. If you want to try it in the privacy of your own home, follow along with author, reiki master and EFT Tapping practitioner Kelsey Patel in a stress-reduction video she prepared to address anxiety at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a Nutshell:

If you’re curious, a few rounds of tapping won’t do any harm (unless you accidentally poke yourself in the eye while trying to keep up with the routine). But if you’re looking for a magical cure-all? Unfortunately, there’s just not enough scientific or medical information to back it up. (Not yet, anyway.)

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Freelance Editor

From 2015-2020 Lindsay Champion held the role of Food and Wellness Director. She continues to write for PureWow as a Freelance Editor.