Emotional Freedom Techniques

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Emotional Freedom Techniques
Alternative medicine / fringe therapies
Claims Tapping on meridian points on the body, derived from acupuncture, can release energy blockages that cause negative emotions[1][2]
Related fields Acupuncture, Acupressure, Energy medicine
Year proposed 1993
Original proponents Gary Craig
Subsequent proponents Silvia Hartmann, Jack Canfield, Nick Ortner
See also Thought Field Therapy, Tapas Acupressure Technique
EFT-tapping points[1]

Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) is a form of counseling intervention that draws on various theories of alternative medicine including acupuncture, neuro-linguistic programming, energy medicine, and Thought Field Therapy. It is best known through Gary Craig's EFT Handbook, published in the late 1990s, and related books and workshops by a variety of teachers.

Advocates claim that the technique may be used to treat a wide variety of physical and psychological disorders, and as a simple form of self-administered therapy.[1] The available evidence from studies done on EFT, however, has shown that while there may be small effects from use of this technique, they are likely due to well recognized conventional psychological techniques often used with the tapping, rather than the purported "energy" mechanisms. The Skeptical Inquirer describes the foundations of EFT as "a hodgepodge of concepts derived from a variety of sources [primarily] the ancient Chinese philosophy of chi, which is thought to be the “life force” that flows throughout the body." The existence of this life force is "not empirically supported".[3] An independent study found no evidence that the location of tapping points made any difference, and attributed effects to well-known psychological mechanisms including distraction and breathing therapy.[4]

EFT is generally characterized as pseudoscience and has not garnered significant support in clinical psychology.


During a typical EFT session, the person will focus on a specific issue while tapping on "end points of the body's energy meridians".

According to the EFT manual, the procedure consists of the participant rating the emotional intensity of their reaction on a Subjective Units of Distress Scale (SUDS) (a Likert scale for subjective measures of distress, calibrated 0-10) then repeating an orienting affirmation while rubbing or tapping specific points on the body. Some practitioners incorporate eye movements or other tasks. The emotional intensity is then rescored and repeated until no changes are noted in the emotional intensity.[1]


A 2009 review found "methodological flaws" in some research studies that had reported "small successes" for EFT and the related Tapas Acupressure Technique. The review concluded that positive results may be "attributable to well-known cognitive and behavioral techniques that are included with the energy manipulation. Psychologists and researchers should be wary of using such techniques, and make efforts to inform the public about the ill effects of therapies that advertise miraculous claims."[5]


A review in the American Psychological Association journal Review of General Psychology by energy psychology proponent David Feinstein, frames "energy psychology" thus: "[w]hile utilizing established clinical methods such as exposure and cognitive restructuring, the approach also incorporates concepts and techniques from non-Western healing systems." It attributes the controversial nature of EFT to "its reliance on explanatory mechanisms that are outside of conventional clinical frameworks" and "claims by its early proponents—without adequate research support—of extraordinary speed and power in attaining positive clinical outcomes." The review of 51 studies found 18 that met inclusion quality criteria, concluding that "they consistently demonstrated strong effect sizes and other positive statistical results that far exceed chance after relatively few treatment sessions".[6]

An article in the Skeptical Inquirer argued that there is no plausible mechanism to explain how the specifics of EFT could add to its effectiveness, and they have been described as unfalsifiable and therefore pseudoscientific.[3] Evidence has not been found for the existence of meridians.[7]

A Delphi poll of an expert panel of psychologists rated EFT on a scale describing how discredited EFT has been in the field of psychology. On average, this panel found EFT had a score of 3.8 on a scale from 1.0 to 5.0, with 3.0 meaning "possibly discredited" and a 4.0 meaning "probably discredited."[8] A book examining pseudoscientific practices in psychology characterized EFT as one of a number of "fringe psychotherapeutic practices,"[9] and a psychiatry handbook states EFT has "all the hallmarks of pseudoscience."[10]

EFT, along with its predecessor, Thought Field Therapy, has been dismissed with warnings to avoid their use by publications such as the The Skeptic's Dictionary[11] and Quackwatch.[12]


  1. ^ a b c d Craig, G (nd). EFT Manual (pdf). Retrieved 2011-05-03. 
  2. ^ Oliver Burkeman (2007-02-10). "Help yourself". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-06-29. 
  3. ^ a b Gaudiano BA; Herbert JD (2000). "Can we really tap our problems away?". Skeptical Inquirer 24 (4). Retrieved 2011-12-12. 
  4. ^ Waite, Wendy L; Holder, Mark D (2003). "Assessment of the Emotional Freedom Technique". Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice 2 (1). 
  5. ^ McCaslin DL (June 2009). "A review of efficacy claims in energy psychology". Psychotherapy (Chicago) 46 (2): 249–56. doi:10.1037/a0016025. PMID 22122622. 
  6. ^ Feinstein, David (December 2012). "Acupoint stimulation in treating psychological disorders: Evidence of efficacy". Review of General Psychology 16 (4): 364–380. doi:10.1037/a0028602. 
  7. ^ Singh, S; Ernst E (2008). "The Truth about Acupuncture". Trick or treatment: The undeniable facts about alternative medicine. W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 39–90. ISBN 978-0-393-06661-6. ""Scientists are still unable to find a shred of evidence to support the existence of meridians or Ch'i" (p72), "The traditional principles of acupuncture are deeply flawed, as there is no evidence at all to demonstrate the existence of Ch'i or meridians" (p107)" 
  8. ^ Norcross, John C.; Koocher, Gerald P.; Garofalo, Ariele (1 January 2006). "Discredited psychological treatments and tests: A Delphi poll.". Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 37 (5): 515–522. doi:10.1037/0735-7028.37.5.515. 
  9. ^ Lilienfeld, Scott O. (2003). Science and pseudoscience in clinical psychology (Paperback ed. ed.). New York [u.a.]: Guilford Press. p. 2. ISBN 1-57230-828-1. 
  10. ^ Semple, David (2013). Oxford Handbook of Psychiatry. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. p. 393. ISBN 978-0-19-969388-7. 
  11. ^ "Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT)". Retrieved 24 January 2013. 
  12. ^ Barrett, Stephen. "Mental Help: Procedures to Avoid". Retrieved 24 January 2013.