Originally published on bodyandsoul.com.au
Everything you need to know
‘Tapping’ is having a moment thanks to its proven success in helping with a range of issues. But what is it and how does it work?
Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) is a proven treatment for mental and physical conditions, like eating issues, chronic pain, and for quitting smoking, too.
Dr Peta Stapleton, an associate professor at Bond University, has been researching EFT for 15 years, and after understanding how it helps people with food cravings and emotional eating habits, she wanted to delve into how it could treat chronic pain.
“When you reduce the stress response in the body through this technique, you get lots of other flow-on positive effects,” Dr Stapleton said, explaining how tapping changes the brain’s response to emotional and physical stimulus, leading to visible changes which can be seen in MRI scans.
“In the food area, that includes weight loss, and with chronic pain, it includes being able to reduce medication,” she told Body+Soul.
The results have been so compelling, that the practice has been accepted under the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The next step is recognition as an evidence-based treatment under Medicare.
There’s so much more to EFT than just a few taps on the face and body. Here, Dr Stapleton gives us a complete breakdown of the treatment, and how you can even do it yourself at home.
What is EFT?
“EFT is a stress reduction technique and is often called ‘tapping’. This is because a person physically taps with two fingers on acupuncture points on the face and/or upper body. While they tap the person says their worry out loud to keep the brain engaged. For example, they might say “I feel stressed” (because they do) and tap on eight acupoints as they do this.”
How does EFT work exactly?
“EFT has been shown through brain scan imaging, cortisol studies, EEG studies and more to reduce the stress hormone cortisol, normalise EEG brain patterns, reduce activity in the amygdala (stress centre in the brain) and reduce things such as blood pressure and inflammation markers, and improve biomarkers such as immunity (gene expression has been measured).
Research in the last five to 10 years has shown that acupuncture meridians are actually a physical duct system in the body and tracer dyes injected into the primo vascular system (what meridians are now called) show coagulation at the known acupuncture points and overall system.
Studies of brain imaging and stimulating these acupuncture points show signals go back to the amygdala and reduce stress activity (hence people feel calmer). The tapping process on these acupoints gets converted into an electrical signal that can travel along the primo vascular system too – collagen is a semi-conductor of this processing.”
What can it help with?
“EFT has been shown in clinical research to profoundly assist a range of conditions including, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, emotional eating/food cravings, stress, and more.”
What ailments or conditions do you see the most success with?
“Generally, as a stress reduction technique, it is excellent and many studies have measured cortisol readings before and after EFT and shown significant reductions.
It is extremely effective for PTSD and the research there is very robust – I led the recent review of EFT for PTSD for the American Psychological Association to be accepted as an evidence-based approach – this is currently being assessed.
There are also now 15 years of research in food cravings, emotional eating and eating issues, and weight loss. All studies show significant outcomes and a two-year follow-up showed zero return of symptoms. This means people couldn’t remember the food they did EFT on as they no longer ate it.”
Can you do it yourself or do you need professional assistance?
“Yes. First up it is a self-applied stress reduction technique – so if you learn the proper technique (clinical EFT and not some unproven hybrid) then you can use it on a daily basis with good results.
Children as young as five years can tap as well and many school trials have been conducted. I am currently preparing to begin a primary school trial comparing EFT versus mindfulness meditation in children from four-and-a-half years to 12 years.
If someone wanted to use it more therapeutically to process past memories that still cause distress, we would strongly recommend doing this with a trained practitioner.”
How many sessions do you need to see results?
“Clinical EFT (this is the version tested in trials) has been shown to remediate most issues, including PTSD, in six to 10 sessions.
Gold standard talk therapies recommend 18 to 24 sessions, so this is quite a contrast and shows how including a somatic element in stress reduction actually speeds up the process.”