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What is the Emotional Freedom Technique?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated May 17, 2024
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Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is a form of therapy developed in the 90s by Gary Craig, an ordained minister. The theory is based on Thought Field Therapy, developed by Roger Callahan. Craig refers to the Emotional Freedom Technique as acupuncture without needles and claims that its use will significantly improve both mental illness and chronic pain or other disease because the “energy field” of the body, when disturbed, creates negative emotions and illness. Despite some reviews in recognized psychotherapy journals, the tide seems turning on this technique with many now labeling it pseudoscience.

The basic premise behind Emotional Freedom Technique is that the body is composed of energy, and EFT uses the 12 special points or channels of this energy, called meridians in Chinese Traditional Medicine. When patients are in a therapeutic session and are discussing negative emotions or pain, they can tap on these meridians with the fingers to restore disturbed body energy to a balanced state. While Callahan’s earlier Thought Field Therapy dictated a specific order of touching these meridians, EFT does not and simplifies Callahan’s work, making the technique much easier to learn for therapists and laypersons.

Two studies published in 2003 suggest that people using Emotional Freedom Technique were able to slightly reduce phobias. But an interesting part of one of these studies published in The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice was that a control group of people undergoing EFT that were given fake meridian points seemed to report as much improvement as those people who tapped on the recognized meridian points. It is thought that tapping on the body might provide some distraction when discussing deep emotional content, and this distraction might help people to divert focus from deep psychic pain.

What both studies seem to prove is that talking about problems is more likely to alleviate pain than is tapping on specific parts of the body. Yet, Craig’s website on Emotional Freedom Technique tends to look at talk therapy as lengthy and not particularly useful. Moreover, his website does make claims that EFT can be used to cure or resolve illnesses such as chronic pain. While he, and other practitioners provide anecdotal evidence that this works, inability to test this via the scientific method means claims regarding effectiveness should be taken with a grain of salt.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
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Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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