In 1979, an American Psychologist by the name of Dr. Roger Callahan had a client named Mary. Mary was in her early 40's and had suffered from severe water phobia all her life. She couldn't even bathe her own children. In the attempt to cure her, Dr. Callahan employed every traditional psychotherapy technique at his disposal: cognitive therapy, hypnosis, relaxation therapy, systematic desensitisation, biofeedback, and rational emotive therapy, but his success was limited to Mary being able to sit on the edge of a pool, whilst remaining in a state of acute anxiety. In one session, Mary informed Dr. Callahan that just thinking about water resulted in a terrible feeling in the pit of her stomach. Dr. Callahan had recently been studying Chinese meridian points (used in acupuncture) and in a moment of inspiration, asked Mary to tap on the stomach meridian endpoint which is located under the eye. To their mutual surprise, Mary's discomfort quickly vanished and so did her anxiety. Mary remains free of water her phobia till this day (Ortner, 2013).
Dr. Callahan researched and developed number of algorithms for a variety of mental and physical ailments, and his work became known as Thought Field Therapy.
Gary Craig was a Harvard graduate of engineering, and later in life a student of Dr. Callaghan. He refined Dr. Callaghan's complex algorithms, and this simplified and accessible form became known as Emotional Freedom Technique, or EFT, or simply 'tapping'.
EFT works by combining the modern psychological technique of exposure therapy, ie: focusing on an issue, while simultaneously accessing the midbrain through gentle stimulation, or ‘tapping’, of select meridian points. The combination of these has been shown to rapidly alter the way our brain works, and the way we feel.
The use of meridians is at the heart of a number of ancient medical systems across the world, particularly in Chinese medicine and has been applied for over 2,000 years. Acupuncture and acupressure are widely used alternative therapies that utilise these points. In 2003 Researchers from the Seoul National university confirmed the existence of meridians, or the Primovascular system (PVS). Using dye, they were able to identify the PVS in adipose tissue, thoracic ducts and tissues, brain ventricles, blood vessels, and lymphatic tissues.
EFT is effective in the way these meridians communicate with our brain, particularly the midbrain- the limbic system, which is responsible for the experience and expression of emotion. Using fMRI and PET scans, a Harvard Medical School study has revealed that the stimulation of acupuncture points ‘rapidly reduces limbic system arousal’ (Science Report,2018). It is the connection to this area of the brain that makes EFT so powerful.
When we are in a state of anxiety, the amygdala is activated. While this fight or flight response is necessary to keep us safe in dangerous situations, the amygdala cannot differentiate between actual threats and perceived threats, ‘meaning that a late night text from our boss can result in us reacting as if there was a lion in the house.’ (Huffington Post, 2013)
This is also why our perception surrounding events in our lives, particularly during our formative years, can affect us so deeply and have consequences for the rest of our lives. Intense emotions become attached to our memories, and can potentially manifest in our lives in the form of fears, self-doubt, procrastination, self-sabotage, relationship issues, weight gain, phobias…and so on.
Psychologists are highly skilled at exploring the issues we face by helping us talk them through, and are invaluable to those needing to explore serious issues. These issues are understood when we process them through our frontal cortex.
When we discuss our issues, the amygdala reacts and we have the chance to explore our emotions. Sometimes this process can be difficult and lengthy. By discussing our issues while tapping, EFT is able to switch off the fight or flight response that our amygdala produces. Not only does this allow the emotion surrounding an issue to be quickly reduced, it also means that verbal exploration of issues can be lessened. Furthermore, if a client desires, discussion can be addressed in such a way as to avoid specific information, such as for a problem that may be embarrassing of too difficult to process. The reduction of the emotional response in our midbrain is what makes EFT so effective, particularly when guided by a skilled practitioner.
There are two common problems in today’s stressful world. One is stress, and the second is lack of time. EFT is an excellent tool for those who want to maximise their potential.
Stress is constant and inevitable in today’s world. Unfortunately, due to the lack of discernment from our fight or flight centres of the brain, the resulting stress response is inevitable too. When this response is sustained, our bodies release excessive amounts of the hormone cortisol, which can lead to serious health problems, including immune system suppression, increased blood pressure, increased blood sugar levels and obesity, to name a few.
Regarding time…it is precious. Time for relaxation is too often sacrificed, and with it our chance for reflection. In a simpler time, the issues…the minor baggage we carry…could be worked through. Not only were we less stressed, when we faced stress we were armed with our reflections. These days, relatively minor events can cause us stress due to the sheer multitude and variety of dealings we face. EFT gives us a practical, powerful, and instantaneous method to lessen and in some instances prevent stressful responses in these instances altogether.
Events during our formative years shape us the most. If we can process them correctly consciously, we are less likely to be impacted negatively by them. The benefit of equipping ourselves with the skill of EFT early in life cannot be overstated. Already around the globe, EFT has been successfully incorporated into schools as a way or coping with the pressures modern students face.
Today, EFT is being recognised worldwide for its efficacy. Many people in many countries are benefitting, and the EFT movement is growing at a rapid rate. The amazing success stories are rolling in. Dr. David Feinstein, a clinical psychologist who has served on the Faculty of Department of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, indicates that "the evidence coming from research in over a dozen countries, suggests that it produces outcomes for a range of conditions that are unusually rapid, effective and lasting" (The Tapping Solution, 2013).
Extensive research is continuing in a number of institutions. In the USA, this has included Harvard Medical School, University of California at Berkley, City University of New York, Walter Reed Military Medical Centre, Texas A&M University, and JFK University. Facilities in other countries include Staffordshire University (United Kingdom), Lund University (Sweden), Ankara University (Turkey), Santo Thomas University (Philippines), Lister Hospital (United Kingdom), Cesar Vallejo University (Peru), Bond University (Australia), and Griffith University (Australia).
Clinical research has demonstrated remarkable results to date.
In America, Dr Dawson Church undertook a randomised control trial of 83 subjects, monitoring cortisol levels following a one-hour tapping session. Prolonged activation of the stress centres of the brain is known to release excessive amounts of the hormone cortisol into the body, which can lead to serious health problems, including immune system suppression, increased blood pressure, increased blood sugar levels and obesity to name a few. Cortisol levels in the tapping group reduced by an average of 24%, with the control group and the conventional talk therapy group showing no significant reduction.
Australia also has showcased great results with EFT. Dr. Peta Stapleton, Associate Professor in Psychology at Bond University, who has 20 years of experience as a registered Clinical and Health Psychologist in the state of Queensland Australia has been recognised globally for her research on EFT. Dr. Stapleton has been awarded many honours including the Australian Psychological Society Elaine Dignan Award for research into women's issues and the 2014 Harvey Baker Award for excellence in Energy Medicine Research. It is a pleasure to share her recognised work on EFT below using the video below.