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History of EFT 101

From origins in ancient China, via modern innovations and scientific research, here is a brief overview of the development of EFT.

EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) combines two main features – tapping on acupoints and focusing on a problem or unhelpful emotion, thought or memory.

Ancient origins

EFT therefore has its roots in the ancient, 3000-year-old Chinese healing tradition of acupuncture. In this system, energy (qi, pronounced “chee”) runs all around the body in channels called meridians. Along the meridians are particular points which have specific health-giving effects when stimulated. These acupoints can be stimulated by needles, as in acupuncture, or through touch, as in acupressure, or through movement and intention, as in the equally ancient practice of qigong. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), acupressure treatment is normally focused on physical wellness, although it is a holistic practice and no very clear distinction is made between the physical and the emotional or psychological.

Acupoints for emotional issues

In the 1960s, Dr George Goodheart, an American chiropractor, developed a healing modality called Applied Kinesiology which involved testing muscles in the body to determine the causes of illness and the treatment required. Tapping on acupoints was one of the techniques he used for balancing and healing the body. Australian psychiatrist Dr John Diamond built on this work in the 1970s with his Behavioural Kinesiology, which he used to treat emotional problems.

In the 1980s, American psychologist Dr Robert Callahan learned Applied Kinesiology and further researched traditional acupuncture. He had a patient called Mary who suffered from a severe phobia of water. She had anxiety attacks when water touched her skin, or even just looking at a swimming pool. Dr Callahan tried many different psychological techniques to help her, but nothing worked. One day she mentioned that she felt a sensation in her stomach when feeling the fear of water, and Callahan had the idea to tap on an acupoint related to the stomach. This instantly and permanently cured her phobia.

Dr Callahan subsequently developed a complex and effective method of treating various psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, phobias, addiction, anger, and others. Through extensive muscle testing with patients he worked out a sequence of acupoints to tap for each type of issue. He called this TFT or Thought Field Therapy, and it is still in use today.

The Innovation – EFT!

In the 1990s, American engineer Gary Craig learned TFT and through trial and error concluded that instead of the complex algorithm for each different problem, it was effective to tap on all of the points, in no particular order, for any problem. This huge innovation made the process easy, simple and streamlined so that anyone could use it for themselves or others. He called it EFT, Emotional Freedom Techniques, and offered it for free to the world through his books and videos. We owe Gary Craig an enormous debt for this innovation and act of generosity. Without it, TFT would no doubt have remained a small, niche and overlooked complementary therapy. Instead, the basic form of EFT is so simple to learn, and yet so effective, that it spread widely through people learning from the free materials he made available.

EFT in its original form included all the finger points as well as the “9 Gamut Procedure” (from TFT). Including the finger points means that all 14 of the main TCM meridians are stimulated. Later, Gary realized that a shortcut of 8 points was equally effective in most cases, and that the 9 Gamut Procedure could also be dispensed with except for specific uses. (This is probably because the TCM meridians are not really discrete and separate channels, but all join up inside the body, so that tapping a few of them balances all 14.) The top of the head point was also added later on and is now normally used as one of the 8 shortcut points.

Modern EFT as it is practised today draws on influences such as hypnotherapy, clean language, NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), IFS (Internal Family Systems), counselling, CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), coaching, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing), as well as metaphor and visualization techniques.

Perhaps due to his engineering background, Gary Craig was always interested in what worked, what helped people most, and what was the simplest technique with the greatest results. He did not try to find the reasons why EFT was so effective, and explained it in the same way as Dr Callahan, as balancing an energy imbalance in the body’s energy or thought field.

Scientific advances

Since the early 2000s, Americans Dawson Church (health writer and researcher) and Dr David Feinstein (clinical psychologist) have begun the much-needed work of finding robust research to back up EFT’s startlingly good results – it was clear THAT it works, but the HOW remained to be proved. In order to compare EFT with other therapies or with a control group, they needed to standardize the technique and came up with the term Clinical EFT. This means that different research studies can be compared with each other, and ensures that the idiosyncrasies of different practitioners are eliminated for the purposes of research studies. Clinical EFT is the basic, standard method of EFT used by most reputable practitioners, with the caveat that often an experienced practitioner will go above and beyond the mechanical application of Clinical EFT and use a more “free-flow” style.

Dr Peta Stapleton, an Australian clinical and research psychologist and also an EFT practitioner, has carried out many scientific studies and has contributed immensely to the body of scientific research into EFT. She describes EFT as part of a “4th wave of psychology”, and hopes to see her research contributing to the wider acceptance of EFT into mainstream psychology in the near future.

A spiritual approach

To return to EFT’s founder, Gary Craig has moved on to a more spiritual form of EFT, where he draws on a higher source, “the Unseen Therapist”. He has deliberately tried to steer clear of religious terminology, so that each individual can think of this “Unseen Therapist” as their own higher self or subconscious parts, God, an angel, a spiritual guide, an ancestor, or whatever suits them and their worldview. Instead of using extensive tapping throughout a session, Gary now uses minimal tapping and instead relies on forming a connection with this “Unseen Therapist” to heal a person’s problem.

It is exciting to able to draw on so many effective resources – traditional Chinese practices, modern muscle testing innovations, psychological therapies, scientific research, and spiritual approaches, in one single technique!

If you’d like to explore how EFT can help us deal with life’s challenges contact me to set up a free 20 minute chat to see how I could help you!

Do join my free Facebook group where I regularly offer free group tapping sessions.

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