Emotional Freedom Technique and what it’s all about
If anxiety made a baby with a hive of buzzing bees, you’d get me.
Hi, I’m an extremely nervous person. My tendency to worry works out great when reporting and I just can’t let a question go, but it’s a burden when it’s midnight and I’m checking the doors — again — to make sure they’re all locked.
So, when I heard there is a simple ritual that I can perform myself that may shed my hyped-up emotions, my interest was piqued. It’s called Emotional Freedom Technique, EFT, Energy Psychology, or Meridian Tapping — and sometimes people refer to it simply as “tapping.” EFT combines mindfulness, realistic positive thinking, and physical relief into a quick series of massages and self-applied taps on the body’s meridian pressure points. The heft of emotional distress dissipates as the person doing the EFT gets distracted by tapping and convinced by repeat messaging that gives way to relief.
“EFT is a tool or technique that releases emotions and negative beliefs,” says Stefan Gonick, an EFT practitioner living in Westhampton. EFT can be used in two ways: coping and healing.
“For coping, you use EFT to get relief in the moment of feelings,” he says via a Skype interview. “EFT for healing is when you apply it to a bad childhood, a life issue, you go into the memory.”
Gonick is an Advance EFT Practitioner certified by AAMET, the international EFT association. He’s been using EFT in his spiritual healing practice for 15 years.
He found EFT after years of being in therapy as a client. Gonick says he felt like his recovery was stalled; he was talking about his problems, but he wasn’t feeling better.
“I had accepted a reality that therapy is a slow gradual process that takes years,” Gonick says. “So, that started to become frustrating: Why did it have to take so long?”
But when he stumbled on EFT while doing some research and he decided the try it out, the results, he says, were “astounding.”
“It’s very easy to learn the basics — it’s not complicated,” Gonick says. “You get good and it works really well over time with practice.”
EFT isn’t just good for treating anxiety, Gonick and other practitioners say. The technique can be useful in relieving sadness, anger, shame, or any harmful emotion.
Detractors of the practice, however, say EFT is nothing more than a placebo and note that few quality studies have been conducted on the technique. The international Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology, the certifying authority for professional EFT practitioners, only knows of 100 studies — and many of them rely on anecdotal data. There have been, however, some promising studies that have shown EFT providing emotional relief. In 2013, a study published in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease looked at whether U.S. war veterans suffering from PTSD could be helped by EFT. Of the 60 participants, half were treated with EFT and standard therapy, and the other half only received standard therapy. After six hour-long sessions, 90 percent of the veterans in the EFT group no longer met the clinical criteria for PTSD, while only 4 percent no longer met the criteria in the control group.
“You don’t have to believe in it — it’s kind of weird looking at first,” Gonick says. “Be skeptical as long as you are open to it working; you’ll get something out of it.”
EFT got its start in the U.S. in the 1970s when alternative medicine was becoming more popular. The practice draws on acupuncture, neuro-linguistic programming, energy medicine, and Thought Field Therapy. The technique picked up steam in the 1990s when Gary Craig published the EFT Handbook, a seminal introduction to EFT and a tutorial for basic techniques. Craig, who is still writing and creating EFT teaching materials, is not a psychologist or a licensed therapist — his professional training is in engineering. He’s also an ordained minister in the Universal Church of God. On his website, Craig said sharing EFT with others is his calling.
Last week, Marianne Reiff, a retired college professor and EFT coach with a two-year practice out of Orange, came to the Advocate office to explain EFT and give a demonstration of how it works. I played guinea pig.
First, she said, we needed to find something in my life that was giving me stress. We were in a newsroom, so I suggested deadlines. She asked me to describe how the stress feels — is it physical? Does it have a shape or a color? — and to rate my level of stress on a scale of 0 to 10.
I closed my eyes to repeat after her: “Even though I have this stress about a deadline and it feels like a big rock in my chest, I have the skills to get the work done well.” I repeated this, and variations of it, several times, with deep breaths. Then it was time to tap.
I lightly tapped on my orbital in an area closest to the nose and repeated the mantra. Then I moved to tapping my temples, chin, under my nose, the top of my head, just below my collarbone, and under my arms. I finished by tapping the side of my hand and all my fingers.
When I was done I took a deep breath. I did feel a bit better. On a personal anxiety scale, I’d say I dropped two points.
“I love that there is no way to do it wrong. You don’t have to be an expert, you don’t have to have the right breathing, or certain skills, lots of practice,” Reiff said. “EFT notices with awareness and acceptance, then takes action.”
Reiff said I should give it another go, practice a little, take a session, and then it would become a stronger response. She also mentioned that tapping is great for people with sleep problems. This is excellent, I thought — I’ll try it tonight.
Around 4 a.m. that night, I woke in bed, for seemingly no reason. I decided to put Reiff’s advice to the test, but I didn’t do EFT correctly. I forgot to asses my pre-tapping stress level, think about what is keeping me awake, or tap in a recommended pattern. “Even though I’m wide awake too early, I know I can fall back asleep peacefully,” I said to myself.
When done tapping, I felt less anxious about being up too early. If I had done another round of tapping, I’d probably have fallen asleep. But I reached for a sleeping pill anyway, which only sort of helped.
Perhaps more practice will benefit me. Perhaps EFT is nothing more than a placebo effect. The point is: there is something to EFT, even if people don’t know exactly what just yet.
Kristin Palpini can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want More EFT?
The Boutique on King Street in Northampton regularly hosts EFT workshops with Marianne Reiff — check Facebook for the next event. Reiff also holds a free introduction to EFT the first Wednesday of every month at 10 a.m. at the Lyme Disease Resource Center in Northampton. For more information, visit Reiff’s website at mariannereiff.com.
Stefan Gonick is hosting an Association for the Advancement of Meridian Energy Techniques practitioner training March 30 to April 2, 2017. For more information, visit Gonick’s website at eft-alive.com.