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Laurance Johnston, Ph.D.


The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) has become a popular, mind-body healing modality that’s slowly transitioning into mainstream acceptance. EFT is a form of acupressure-assisted exposure therapy, where you tap on various acupressure points while focusing on troublesome emotional issues. Basically, the technique catalyzes the release of negatively charged, stuck emotions that compromise - like an albatross around our necks - the fullness of our potential. Through EFT, we let go energetically of the emotional baggage that keeps us from moving on. The memory is still there, but the charge is gone.

EFT has successfully treated issues that have yielded reluctantly, at best, to years of psychotherapy or medication. Furthermore, because virtually all chronic disorders have mind-body correlates, EFT has the potential to lessen physical symptoms and pain, and pave the path to healing. EFT is a self-healing and -empowerment technique that people can learn to do by and for themselves. It has no negative side effects.

The problem for many, however, is that the technique seems too simple to generate the stunning results often observed when more involved, time-consuming, costly approaches have fallen way short. We don’t believe it can be that easy; we want a therapy that conforms to our expectations and biomedical understandings.

Energy Medicine

EFT falls under the umbrella of energy medicine (specifically energy psychology) a very different way of looking at healing and wellness than conventional medicine. In fact, energy medicine, which includes, for example, acupuncture/acupressure, therapeutic touch, homeopathy, light and sound therapy, is the fastest growing subfield in medicine today.

Conventional medicine’s reductionistic viewpoint essentially believes that we are a “meat” machine with component body parts, whether they are tiny molecules like neurotransmitters, cells such as neurons, or anatomical structures like our spinal cords. If the body breaks down, we need to fix or replace constituent parts, an example being transplanting stem cells into an injured cord.

In contrast, reflecting healing philosophies that prevailed throughout the ages until modern times, energy medicine believes that our biochemistry is affected by and interactive with our subtle energy fields. If you attempt to fix dysfunctional physiology without addressing this superseding influence, healing will be inherently limited. It is like trying to push a car in one direction when the steering wheel is cranked another way. A good conceptual example is that restored function after stem-cell transplantation (i.e., replacing a part) has been shown to be greater when it is combined with acupuncture (i.e., energetically pointing the stem cells in the right direction).  

EFT is based on two key energy-medicine tenets. First, we have an acupunctural system of points and meridians that regulate the flow of life-force energy throughout our bodies. As an analogy, view the meridians as a pipeline through which the energy flows, the acupuncture points as periodically placed, flow-controlling valves, and the acupuncture needles as the socket wrench that opens the valves. [With EFT, instead of needles, the pressure of tapping fingers regulates the flow.] Overall, each of us has a unique energy flow that is optimal for our health, and when this flow gets off-kilter for any mind-body-spirit reason, we become compromised.  

Secondly, emotions are a function of our internal energy flows. When our energy flows are weak or blocked, we may feel tired, cranky, irritable or easily triggered. When our energy flows are strong and open, we feel more fresh, present, alive, loving, and joyful. By crimping energy flow and distribution, negative emotions become psychosomatic baggage. Although we may not appreciate the influence of these, often pushed-down, emotions in everyday life, they are there, gnawing away at our ability to function optimally. EFT releases the energy behind these emotions. The heavy emotional suitcase we have been dragging through the long concourse of life becomes a light carry-on of non-charged memories.

Overall, EFT-generated benefits include 1) desensitizing negative emotions and  associated physical reactions; 2) releasing mood-altering neurotransmitters and hormones; 3) triggering the relaxation response; 4) interrupting stuck or limiting behavioral patterns/mind-sets; 5) resetting the body’s internal electrical system; 6) initiating energetic, perceptual, cognitive, and physical shifts; and 7) inducing feelings of joy, satisfaction, relaxation, peacefulness, and well-being. 

EFT Applications

EFT can blunt the impact of many of life’s “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” that chip away at our spirit, ranging from the minor to the all-consuming. If you are uptight due to traffic, being chewed out by your boss, or arguing with your spouse, EFT can put you back on an even keel. So to speak, EFT is the lint brush that wipes away the unneeded clumps of emotional lint that cling to us and cumulatively drag us down over time.

At the other end of the spectrum, the suffering, anguish, or anxiety associated with major issues, like addiction, intense phobias, childhood abuse, trauma, or post-traumatic stress, often let up in response to EFT. On occasion, deep-seated, life-compromising issues have been quickly resolved with EFT. The emotional balloon swollen with negative charge is punctured and deflated. However, numerous issues require persistent practice to dissipate the energies due to the many problem aspects that need to be peeled away layer by layer.

Underlying our negative behaviors, such as irrational anger, acting out, addictions, and psychosomatic conditions often lies trauma. In addition, studies have shown a direct correlation between adverse childhood experiences and later adult illnesses.

In my case, I’ve incorporated ETF tapping into everyday life. If I wake up at 3 am, fretting about life’s concerns, I tap and go back to sleep. If I’m irritated from a perceived slight, I tap it away, keeping it from festering under the surface. In another example, I recently gave a lecture on alternative medicine to mainstream health professionals, who are often not receptive to the topic. Given my concern about the audience and public-speaking in general, I tapped before my lecture. It released my speaking angst, and, as a result, “the force was with me.”

Various EFT applications are listed listed below; try it on any issue.

bulletAcademic performance
bulletFears & phobias
bulletPain management
bulletPersonal development
bullet Post-traumatic stress
bullet Procrastination
bullet Relationships
bulletSpeaking & stage fright
bulletSports performance
bulletTravel fears
bulletWeight loss

EFT Procedures

Given their often profound results, the basic EFT procedures are amazingly simple and can readily be picked up after a few short demonstrations. However, because it is more difficult to show their simplicity through a brief, introductory article, interested readers are encouraged to check out the resources listed below. Although procedures are easy, it is helpful to be guided initially by an experienced EFT practitioner when it comes to major issues.

As summarized in Table, you tap on key acupuncture points while focusing on a specific issue. These points are specifically selected because they are located at the end of various acupuncture meridians. If you have limited finger mobility, use your hands or just visualize the tapping.

Part 2 will focus on post-traumatic-stress disorder (PTSD), a problem experienced by many veterans returning home from combat.



1) Start by picking the issue, attempting to be as specific as possible. For general, amorphous issues, dissect them into component parts and work on each separately.

2) Assess issue intensity on a scale from zero to 10 (most intense).

3) Create a reminder phase to repeat while tapping. For example, if you have fear of giving talks, your reminder phrase might be “public speaking.”

4) Locate the EFT “tender spot” by going to the base of the neck where a tie is knotted, and then go down three inches and over three inches. This area is sometimes tender when rubbed because of lymphatic congestion.

5) While rubbing the tender spot, state the following affirmation three times “Even though I have this fear of public speaking [or war memory, fear of flying, alcohol craving, etc], I deeply and completely accept myself.”

Tapping Sequence

Using several fingertips, tap 7-10 times at each of the indicated locations (see illustration) while repeating your reminder phase. The tapping points proceed down the body, making them easier to memorize.

Face and Body: 1) Beginning of eyebrow on each side of nose, 2) Side of eyes, 3) Under each eye, 4) Under the nose, 5) Middle of chin, 6) Beginning of collarbone where the sternum and first rib meets, 7) Four inches under each arm, and 8) One inch below each nipple.

Hands & Fingers:  Tap the 1) outside cuticle edge of your thumb at the base of the thumbnail, 2) thumb-facing edge of each finger (except ring finger) at fingernail base, and 3) the fleshy outside edge of the palm used to deliver a karate chop (To save time, tapping can be consolidated, e.g., the outside edge of your right thumb can be used to tap on the outside edge of your left thumb, etc.)

A longer EFT version includes tapping on the hand’s gamut point (see illustration) while carrying out various eye movements, counting, and humming tunes. Although sounding strange, different parts of the brain are stimulated with each of these actions.

Finally, reassess the intensity of the issue again and repeat the cycle.

Acknowledgments: Special thanks are extended to all my EFT teachers, especially John Freedom.


1) www.eftuniverse.com is a comprehensive EFT website listing many resources (including a free “get-started package”), training opportunities, and practitioners.

2) Freedom at your Fingertips compiled by Ron Ball, Inroads Publishing, 2006.

Adapted from article appearing in December 2010 Paraplegia News (For subscriptions, call 602-224-0500) or go to www.pn-magazine.com