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What is EFT and how does it work? ~ Podcast with Frances Robertson-Ritchie

Interested in how EFT works, my story and practice, and other titbits of information? Read the transcript of my guest appearance on the podcast "The Explored Life: More Than Yoga".

Interested in how EFT works, my story and practice, and other tidbits of information? Here is the transcript of my February 2021 guest appearance on the podcast “The Explored Life: More Than Yoga” with Frances Robertson-Ritchie of Happy Healthy Yoga. (Sometimes, for some of us, it’s easier to read than listen!)

Frances: Hi, I’m Frances Robertson-Ritchie. Welcome to today’s episode of The Explored Life: More Than Yoga.

I’ve started hearing more and more about EFT or Emotional Freedom Technique, and I really wanted to find out a little bit more about what it really meant. So today I’m talking to Alice Bradshaw. She helps women with anxiety, however that manifests, whether it’s with sleep issues or digestion or panic attacks or relationship struggles. And her passion is to explore how you can deepen and accelerate your growth with a tool like EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique).

In this episode we’ll find out exactly what EFT is, how it works, and listen to the end where Alice shares a wonderful technique that you can use at home.

Thank you for joining me this morning, Alice! It’s really lovely to have you here. I thought it would be really good to start just with an explanation of what EFT actually is, because although I’ve heard about it here and there, it does seem to be becoming more – you’re seeing it more around, but I’m not sure I have a complete understanding of what it entails, and it would be lovely if you could share that with us here in the community.

What is EFT?

Alice: Yes I will! EFT stands for Emotional Freedom Technique, and these days you often see ‘tapping’ used as an interchangeable term, but they’re actually a bit different. There are lots of variations of tapping techniques. So, we use tapping in EFT. We tap on acupressure points on the face, the hands and the body, but if you don’t use words then that’s not EFT.

Emotional Freedom Technique was developed in the 1990s by Gary Craig, and he had a rather formulaic approach to start with, but as it evolved, it grew more and more organic. These days, if you’re doing a tapping technique or EFT, then you’re going to be focusing on your emotions, and your thoughts and feelings. So, it can be used for any kind of starting point. You could start with a physical pain, or a headache or something like that, or you could start with “It makes me frustrated when my boss shouts at me” – something specific like this. You could go back to childhood memories, any kind of starting point. Then you’ll be tapping on the acupressure points whilst you’re talking about the problem. So that’s EFT in a nutshell!

F: That’s really interesting! I wonder how it works?! Or is it mysterious?!

A: Well, there are two explanations – one is the scientific explanation –

F: I love the science! I’m always about the science!

How does EFT work? - the science model

A: OK, we’ll start with that one then! There’s been quite a bit of research done showing THAT EFT works, but they’re not quite sure what the mechanism is – it’s always more difficult to explain HOW it works. It’s been proven to work for various things like PTSD, panic attacks, phobias, anxiety, stress, lowering cortisol – you know, they measure the levels in the blood, this kind of thing.

And there are two explanations – one is that when you’re tapping on the acupressure points, it lowers the body’s stress response. So when you’re focusing with your words and your thoughts on a particular stressor, and also tapping at the same time, it allows you to rewire your brain and change the responses in your brain and your physiology to that stressor. But again, they don’t really understand how those things work anyway, let alone adding in tapping and acupressure. So that’s one explanation.

And then another one – another scientific one – is they’ve used these sensors for people’s brainwaves whilst they’re tapping, both for the therapist and the client, and they have shown that the beta brainwaves, which are the ones that we use when we think, the faster brainwaves, decrease completely when we’re tapping, even though you’re talking and thinking about your problem. And the delta brainwaves are the ones that are increased and used. Delta brainwaves are the very slowest ones, that show up in deep sleep, meditation, psychic channeling, all these kind of altered states of consciousness. So that explanation would suggest that with EFT you can access different states of consciousness and do things at a subconscious level that you can’t normally do when you’re just thinking.

F: That’s really interesting. Yeah, that actually makes a lot of sense to me, especially in relation to the work that I do, hypnotherapy, and the power of relaxation, and accessing those different, slower, relaxed brainwave states. And also just – sort of really simplifying it, because that’s how my brain works, I like to simplify things – just that idea of being able to access a more relaxed state while thinking about something that stresses you. So it’s a technique to manage your stress response, basically, isn’t it. Does that make sense, have I understood that?

A: Yes. Yes it does. Yes, exactly.

F: That’s fascinating. So what do you use it to help people with? You mentioned a couple of things there.

EFT and anxiety

A: Yeah, so I focus on working with women with anxiety. Anxiety is very broad and it shows up in different ways for different people, so it could be panic attacks, or it could be compulsive eating, you know, food cravings, or sleep problems – a lot of people have sleep problems, thinking through things at night. I mean, real insomnia – you can’t do anything about it, you know, you try cutting out the blue screens, and you cut out caffeine and alcohol, and you’ve tried everything. This is real insomnia where nothing works, but EFT can be very helpful. Yeah, and also, you know, anxiety shows up as relationship struggles, or anything, really, stemming from that feeling of anxiety.

F: Yeah, it’s interesting because I have heard the tapping thing – we got taught it when I did my hypnotherapy training in a very – it wasn’t EFT because it wasn’t using words but it was just explained as a pattern interrupt, and I think that works with the idea of working with anxiety because those thoughts, patterns that we’ve perhaps got into the habit of – you know, projecting into the future with anxious thoughts – you can interrupt it, can’t you, with the tapping?

A: Right. Yes, yes, and I’m a big fan of no-words tapping, especially for self-help, because you don’t have to think about what to say. People often get confused – “Oh, what am I gonna tap on, I don’t know what words to use,” and then they don’t do it, but just no-words tapping – you don’t have to think about it, and it still – it balances all your body’s energy and your brain and everything. So, yeah, pattern interrupt is a good way to think of it – it just sort of, it stops you thinking, basically, for a few minutes!

F: And then you can switch maybe to perhaps a more productive thought pattern, you know, that you’ve got in place, maybe something like gratitude or self-love, kindness, you can use it then as a technique, can’t you.

How does EFT work? – the energy model

It’s interesting you say that, about the non-words tapping because I don’t know if I mentioned this when we met first of all, that I use a tapping technique at the beginning of most of my yoga classes, and we go through the whole body. It was something that I was taught by my aunt, who’s a yoga teacher, and she’s actually retired now, because she’s 70, I think, or 71, or near abouts, so she learned a long time ago, obviously, and she passed that learning on to me. I was really curious about where it came from, so did some research into what it could be, and it seems to be, the real roots of it seem to go back into Chinese medicine and like you say, the acupressure points, the meridian lines in the body. Is that the same with EFT?

A: Yes. Yes, that actually relates to the other explanation of how it works, because in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the acupressure points are laid along lines called meridians, as I expect you all know, and when you have a blockage of energy, either too much or too little, or some stuck energy in one of the meridians, then that causes pain, whether it’s physical pain or emotional pain, or disease or some kind of problem. So with EFT and these other tapping techniques, you know, the tapping on the arms, and all kinds of striking techniques in qigong, it breaks up that stagnant energy, so we’re increasing the qi flow. Qi is energy, or prana in yoga. We’re increasing the qi flow. And if there is flow, then the pain, emotional or physical pain, is released.

The actual tapping points are not used as tapping points in qigong very much – they tend to use more of the body, like tapping along the meridians, along the arms and legs and along the body and the kidneys, you know, top of the head, this kind of stuff, but they are actually the end points of the meridians – I mean all the meridians interact, but these are the end points of the meridians and they’re more at the surface of the skin than some of the deeper points that you would use acupuncture for, so they’re quite easy to access yourself and increase the qi flow.

F: Amazing. Yeah, that’s so interesting.

My story and my practice

How did you come about finding EFT and becoming a practitioner?

A: I’ve always been interested in alternative therapies – yoga, reiki, qigong, and this type of thing – and I first learned a technique called Touch for Health, which is a much more complex system of muscle testing, like kinesiology muscle testing, and involves acupressure points and stimulating different parts of the energy system and Traditional Chinese Medicine Five Element Theory. So I found that really interesting, and then through that I came across EFT, which I love because it’s so simple, you don’t have to think about it. It’s really interesting to know about it but you don’t have to think about ‘Oh, this point is for the bladder, this one’s for the stomach.’ You just do all of them, and that does it! So I loved it because it’s so simple. And then I just found it really effective – really, really effective, for myself in my own life. I practiced just on myself and friends and family for a long time before I started working with clients. So yeah, it just sort of came about organically.

F: Have you been working with clients during lockdown? Have you been able to continue?

A: Yes. Yes, because it works really well on Zoom. In fact I was actually working online anyway. Because you don’t have to be with the person, it works exactly the same. You know, I can show them the points on the face and I tap along with them.

F: Yeah. You can guide them. That’s great. That’s really useful to know.

No-words tapping guided explanation

I wonder, Alice, if we could finish with – would you be able to show us something?

A: I’m really glad you asked that because I love to teach everybody! Everybody needs to know this! We’ll do No-Words Tapping, yeah!

[See my videos for more guidance about no-words tapping and where to find the points!]

So just sit comfortably upright. And just tune into your body, your breath, thoughts and feelings, and then if you just imagine your body’s a traffic light, what signal would that be giving you – a red, a yellow, or a green? So hopefully not red – very agitated, yellow might be some tension, green would be perfectly calm, happy, alert, whatever your baseline would be. So for me, I’m a little bit yellowish-green. How about you?

F: I feel quite green, to be honest! I’m surprised, actually!

A: Yeah? Great! So, we’ll do it anyway, there’s always benefit. So, start with tapping on the side of the hand. Just take two or three fingers, and the first point is just on the side of the hand, where people – it’s sometimes called the Karate Chop point, so where you, you know, imagine someone doing a karate chop on a brick, that’s the point. And we just tap, firmly enough to feel it, but not so firmly that you’re hurting yourself.

F: Does it matter which side?

A: It doesn’t matter which side. OK, and then the next point is where the eyebrows join the nose, in the middle, and you can take one finger or two fingers, and we tap about 8 to 10 or 15 times on each point. It doesn’t really matter how many.

F: It just feels nice as well, doesn’t it?!

A: Yeah, it feels really good! And then come round to the temple, the side of the eye.

F: We do this at the beginning of class. It’s nice.

A: And keep breathing, just deep, easy breaths, natural breaths. And under the eye. This point is on the eye socket bone, and if you’re looking straight ahead then it’s directly under the pupil. It’s quite close to the eye. You’ve got to be careful not to poke your eye, it’s that close! You know, some people do it down under the bone, but it’s actually not down there, it’s under the eye. OK, and the next one is under the nose, in the middle.

EFT tapping

F: Right, the top lip?

A: Yeah, on the top lip. And when you’re tapping there, feel like you’re tapping on your gum inside your mouth, so it’s not down on the teeth. And the next one is under the mouth. And there again, feel that you’re tapping on the gum, not actually on the chin, it’s above the chin. And then the next one – there are the two points of your collarbones in the middle of the chest, and then go down and to the sides, and you’ll feel a little hollow underneath, and that’s where it is. And you can actually tap all over the chest, there are lots of acupressure points there, and some people like to just go all over, and some people like to focus on that point under the collarbones.

F: What does this point relate to, because I use this a lot, this one?

A: The one that I’m tapping on directly under the collarbones is the Kidney meridian. It’s the end of the Kidney meridian, so it’s really useful for energy, general energy. If you’re feeling tired or, you know, sometimes in the afternoon you feel tired and you’re not actually sleepy or tired but it’s just a lack of energy after lunch or something, you can just tap on this one for that.

F: Lethargy, yeah. Post-lunch slump.

A: Yeah, lethargy. And then the next one is under the arm – it’s a hand’s breadth under the armpit.

F: OK, yup.

A: On the side of the ribs. It can be quite sore, this one, for many people. And then the last point is on the top of the head. I usually just take a few fingers. Yeah, you can – exactly like you’re doing, you can do it all over with a couple of fingers, or some people do it with their hand open so that their fingers are just going all over, and I like to be more focused and do it right in the middle. This is a point that’s often used in qigong called the Bai Hui, where all of the Yang meridians join up. So if you tap right in the middle of your head there, in the top of your head, you’re getting a lot of meridians at once there. OK, and then take a deep breath in. Sorry, stop tapping, I should have told you to stop tapping! Take a deep breath in – and out. And one more – a full breath in – easy breath out. OK, and then we could do one more round but we’ll just check in now – you were feeling pretty green anyway, so how does that feel for you?

F: It feels really good, yeah. Just a bit looser.

A: Yeah. I feel clearer headed, and more alert. I wasn’t feeling bad in any way, but I could tell it wasn’t quite my brilliant green, but now I am feeling green and clear!

F: Yeah. Oh, that’s lovely! Do you use it on yourself every day? Do you – is it a practice that you use?

A: Yeah, I do, yeah. I do it every day. I do two rounds like that every morning and evening with brushing my teeth. It’s like my emotional hygiene!

F: Yeah! Well, it’s very simple, like you say, isn’t it? It’s very accessible to anyone, you know.

A: Yes. And also because we’re not using words it’s very unlikely to get any kind of overwhelm or – you know, if you’re using words you can start to dig yourself into a pit, but here we’re not using words, you’re just simply balancing the energy system.

F: Yeah, yeah. I feel like it’s just such a useful tool. Thank you so much for sharing that with us.

A: Yeah, pleasure!

F: I wonder, where can people find you if they’re interested in perhaps finding out more, or booking a session?

A: You can go to my website, – very easy to remember – my email,, and you can follow me on Facebook – Tap with Alice – all over the place! I’ve got some videos up there.

F: Oh, that’s great, videos are good. I can drop the links for those things in the notes for this episode as well

A: Great, thank you.

F: Thanks! Thanks for joining us, and thanks for sharing! That’s such a wonderful tool for us to take away. And yeah, hopefully catch up with you again soon some time!

A: You’re welcome! Thanks so much for inviting me!

F: Thank you so much for listening today. Don’t forget that you can subscribe to listen to more episodes, you can leave a review if you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, and you can share with your friends, and I’d really appreciate that. Look forward to seeing you next week, and if you need a few moments out for yourself, I’ve left a free guided relaxation recording in the notes for this podcast. Take care guys, see you next time!

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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