Is EFT a spiritual practice?
EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) is a therapeutic method of tapping on acupoints on the face, hands and body, while focusing on a person’s problems. It is used for a wide range of issues, from the physical such as pain management through serious psychological disturbances such as PTSD, anxiety and depression, to improving sports performance and changing one’s mindset to achieve goals.
In recent years there has been a big push to get EFT tapping researched and acknowledged by the mainstream as a serious, scientifically proven modality, so the language has moved away from the energy and towards the brain, nervous system, and biological mechanisms. This is very helpful, and has made EFT accessible to many people who have no spiritual or religious beliefs or practices. EFT actually does work, no matter how sceptical the person, and if you are someone who likes things to stay in the strictly physical and measurable world of evidence-based therapy and double-blind trials, you can be sure that EFT has plenty of robust research studies that prove its efficacy.
However the fact remains that the tapping points used are from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), an energetic system of healing.
Origins in Daoist philosophy
A practitioner can successfully apply EFT without knowing anything at all about the acupoints, TCM, or the underlying theory and philosophy. However, EFT can be enhanced by learning some of the theory and usage of the acupoints within the TCM framework. For example, understanding the Chinese Five Element theory can help to pinpoint the potential types of emotional disturbances to look for, and to fine-tune the questions asked by the practitioner.
TCM is not religious, although it is based on Daoist principles such as Yin/Yang, the holistic nature of mind, body, spirit and environment, and qi or energy, an unseen life-force that circulates within us, our environment and all of life. This holistic, spiritual approach can greatly enrich an EFT practice.
Developments in EFT
Roger Callahan developed Thought Field Therapy (TFT), the precursor to EFT, and explained his technique of psychological therapy as a way of ‘tuning in to disturbances in the thought field’. This quasi-scientific terminology closely resembles some modern Western spiritual systems (such as the New Age chakra system) which assume a felt sense or belief in ‘energy’ as a life-force that can be altered to optimize our health and well-being.
Gary Craig developed EFT from TFT and his spiritual beliefs and perspective have influenced his teaching of EFT, especially in recent years. He is an ordained minister of the Universal Church of God in Southern California, which is non-denominational and embraces all religions. He also studies and works with A Course In Miracles, a loosely Christian text which offers a spiritual thought system for personal transformation.
In his own EFT practice, Gary has now moved away from tapping and towards working with what he calls ‘the Unseen Therapist’. In this iteration of EFT (taught by Gary as ‘Optimal EFT’), a spiritual helper (which can be anything or anyone the client prefers) is invited to heal the presenting issue.
However, as with TCM and the acupoints, a practitioner of standard EFT does not need to have or refer to any kind of religious or spiritual belief system to effectively help their clients with EFT. Nor does the client need to believe in anything in order for it to work.
Spiritual EFT in Indonesia
There are also many of us who would like to incorporate existing religious or spiritual beliefs and practices in our EFT work, and to consciously use EFT as part of our spiritual path.
One example is SEFT (Spiritual EFT) which has become popular in the predominantly Muslim country of Indonesia. In 2006, Ahmad Faiz Zainuddin published a text called Spiritual Emotional Freedom Technique for Healing, Success, Happiness and Greatness (Afzan Publishing, Jakarta). Since then, numerous research studies have been published in Indonesia using this method. Essentially the same as standard EFT, it incorporates the language of prayer and submission to God in the setup statement. For example:
Bismillȃhirrahmȃnirrahȋm.[In the name of God, the most Gracious, most Merciful] O Allah [God], although I am a smoker, I am sincere, I am [sic.] surrender to You, I deeply and completely accept myself. I decide to stop smoking now with the [sic.] blessing from You, for the sake of my future, Ȃmȋn. [Amen.]
(Salami and Fatmawati 2020) 
In this way, the religious beliefs and worldview of the client can be harnessed in a way that no doubt feels very beneficial for their healing journey. Religion and spirituality engender intense emotions in people and so for those that have these belief systems, consciously using them can increase how “tuned in” they are to the problem. This is when more efficacious healing occurs in EFT. Whether Muslim, Christian, Hindu, or a member of any other religion or spiritual belief system, it is possible to use this type of prayerful language as part of your EFT process.
How EFT can help with your spiritual growth
To return to the science: when we tap, it has been found that it alters your brain wave state by decreasing beta brain waves (the fast ones used for logical thinking) and increasing alpha and delta brain waves (the slow ones active in deep sleep, meditation, and trance states.) This means that a person can more easily access the state of mind that can allow them to connect deeply with their heart, with God, with the Universe, with their Higher Self, or however they would wish to connect with something greater. This brain state, a feeling of “oneness,” is very healing at all levels, both physical and mental/emotional.
EFT can also help you target obstacles and blocks to your spiritual growth – because I believe we are all trying to find our way back to a state of grace that we naturally have at a soul level but we have forgotten. So each of us has particular problems or blocks – addiction, greed, depression, or whatever it may be. EFT can be very helpful for these issues anyway. If your aim is spiritual growth, then when you consciously ask for help and pray before you practise EFT, the outcome will be improved as your whole heart and soul is aligned and invested in the practice. The results follow your intention – and will therefore be consistent with your higher aims and personal growth.
Some ideas on how to use EFT in a spiritual practice
- Ask for help before an EFT session. Depending on your belief system, you may call on God, specific angels, your own higher self or inner wisdom, your personal life guides, reiki, the Unseen Therapist, the Cosmos, ancestors, animal spirits, Earth Mother, etc. and ask for help to heal what needs to be healed during your session.
- Tap before you pray or meditate. This will help you to get into the brain state that facilitates spiritual work. A few minutes of tapping, with or without words, will be enough to alter your brain wave state.
- Use a version of the SEFT setup statement. I feel the statement I quoted above is too long and complicated and more suited to the end of a session. For general EFT work, I suggest something like: Even though I [have this problem], I deeply and completely accept myself and surrender this to [God].
- Tap during your prayer. When we pray, we are usually feeling some strong emotion, either positive or negative. Tapping can help calm the negative and boost the positive.
- During an EFT session, ask your higher self, the Unseen Therapist, God etc. for help. For example, anywhere you might normally use words such as, “I’d like to,” or, “I choose,” you could say, “I ask You to show me the way, give me the words, show me what I need to know, help me learn whatever I need to learn, help me to heal, etc.”
- Forgiveness and gratitude. Sprinkling in forgiveness and gratitude throughout your tapping work will help to cultivate these invaluable spiritual attitudes. Forgiveness includes forgiving oneself, and it is OK if you don’t feel able yet to forgive yourself or another.
- Tap along with words from Metta meditation or any other formulaic prayer of your choice in a way that is consistent with your beliefs. See my video for an example.
 For example, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6381429
 Salami and Fatmawati, 2020: The Implementation of Spiritual Emotional Freedom Technique (S-EFT) to Reduce Self-Discomfort: A Study Among College Students. Available at https://www.scitepress.org/