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Is EFT Therapy?

The words ‘therapy’ and ‘therapist’ are often used interchangeably with ‘psychotherapy’ and ‘psychotherapist’. However ‘therapy’ can also be used in a much looser sense. Here I explore in depth the question of whether EFT is a therapy.

EFT Therapist or Practitioner?

In the world of EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique, or tapping) people often steer clear of the potentially controversial idea that EFT is therapy and that EFT practitioners are therapists who provide a therapeutic treatment. EFT is talked of as a ‘technique’ that we ‘practise’. As an accredited member of EFT International (EFTi), the main internationally-recognised training body for EFT, I can call myself an Advanced Practitioner of EFT. Not a therapist, a practitioner.

Especially in the US, the words ‘therapy’ and ‘therapist’ are often used interchangeably with ‘pyschotherapy’ and ‘psychotherapist’. However ‘therapy’ can also be used in a much looser sense, as we see in ‘massage therapy’, ‘yoga therapy’, and other activities which may not be primarily aimed at mental wellness. Even the commonly used terms ‘complementary therapy’ and ‘alternative therapy’ certainly encompass a wide range of methods which are intended to help us feel better in some way.

What is a therapy?

Here are some definitions from the Oxford Dictionary:

I think it is helpful to move towards a wider definition of therapy when thinking about EFT. Therapy certainly need not be confined solely to counselling and psychotherapy. According to WebMD [1]:

Here’s another definition from Medical News Today [2]:

Both these medically-focused resources also refer to EFT as a therapy within these articles.

Coming back to EFTi, although we are called EFT practitioners and not therapists, the EFTi’s own definitions on their website also reference ‘therapeutic effects’ and ‘tapping therapy’ [3]:

EFTi also has comparable ethical guidelines and practices to other forms of therapy such as counselling – for example, confidentiality requirements, keeping records securely and apart from identifying information, mentoring and continuing professional development requirements, and more.

What do people think EFT is?

Recently I asked my Facebook group members whether they think EFT is a therapy or not. Some of the members are clients of mine, others are practitioners themselves, others are people who use EFT on their own for self-help. Without exception, 100% of them said yes, they think it is a therapy.

Here’s what one member, Kelley, says:

What other modalities are called ‘therapy’?

We commonly come across many modalities designed to help and heal people which are referred to as ‘therapies’: massage therapy, yoga therapy, aromatherapy, physiotherapy, psychotherapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, hypnotherapy, art therapy, music therapy, and many more. Some of these target mental and emotional wellness, while others focus on the purely physical (such as physiotherapy) or a holistic wellness including mind and body (such as yoga therapy or massage therapy).

Even in the sphere of mental and emotional therapies alone, there is a huge variety. The UK’s National Health Service [4] says that:

It describes the following as talking therapies:

  • CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy)
  • Guided Self-Help
  • Counselling
  • Behavioural Activation
  • Interpersonal Therapy
  • EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing)
  • MCBT (Mindfulness-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy)
  • Psychodynamic psychotherapy
  • Couple Therapy.[5]

Psychology Today mentions as types of therapy the following (amongst many others):

  • NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming)
  • Coaching
  • EMDR
  • Somatic therapy
  • Hypnotherapy [6]

Aspects of all of the above 5 are included in EFT as I practise it. It therefore seems logical to include EFT in such lists of therapies.

Somatic therapy

EFT is most commonly used for mental and emotional problems such as anxiety, phobias and addictions, but is also useful for physical issues like pain management, and positively affects physiological markers such as heart rate variability, blood pressure, immune system markers and cortisol levels. And this I think touches on the unique therapeutic value of EFT – it is a somatic (body-based) process. It both uses the body during the process (via tapping on the acupoints) and affects the body in turn. Feedback from the body in the form of bodily sensations can be used to determine the words used in the tapping process.

According to Psychology Today[7]:

As it is known that trauma is held in the body or ‘remembered’ at a physical level, by using a body-based method, trauma can be released from the body in a way that simply talking or thinking and trying to change one’s mindset does not. Using touch, the mind and emotions are healed and at the same time, physical effects also take place.

Clinical psychologist Dr Peta Stapleton argues that somatic therapies are the 4th wave of psychotherapy, the emerging trend of newly-discovered modalities including EFT, EMDR and others. [8]

So, is EFT a therapy?

EFT is certainly different from conventional psychiatric therapies. It’s not psychiatry. It’s not psychotherapy. It does not provide a diagnosis. It’s not a cure for psychiatric conditions. It’s a therapeutic intervention that can help you feel better and reduce or eliminate symptoms of common conditions such as PTSD, depression, anxiety, phobias, addictions, and many more. In some cases these may even become subclinical, or disappear altogether after a course of EFT.

The depth of the therapeutic effect depends on how EFT is applied. Someone who uses tap-along videos and tapping scripts may absolutely find it therapeutically calming. However, to really get to grips with the deep-seated and long-held belief systems and traumas that are held in the body and subconscious mind, I believe a course of sessions with a skilled EFT practitioner is necessary. This is where the real therapy takes place, in the detailed deep dives into one’s inner world, guided by a practitioner.

While it is important to make a distinction between EFT and conventional psychotherapeutic techniques, I believe that in the near future EFT will be widely recognized for what it truly is – an evidence-based, extremely effective therapeutic tool.

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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