At the 2016 Rio Olympics, viewers watching the men’s 400m semi-final race would have seen Grenadian athlete Bralon Taplin using his fingers to tap a sequence of points on his face moments before starting the race.
Taplin was actually tapping on acupressure points in a practice called Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), or simply, “tapping.” This peculiar technique has a wealth of clinical data behind it – sports performance being just one of its applications.
Taplin won that Olympic race and went on to place 7th overall in the finals.
His career – as well as use of EFT, is still going strong. Taplin competed at the Copernicus Cup in Poland this year, not only finishing first, but setting a new meet record. He can be seen tapping moments before the start of the race. The athlete also finished first in two other international races this year.
EFT is a type of therapy best known outside of the sports world. It’s most commonly used to resolve anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Users focus on their issue while tapping a series of points on their hands, face and upper body. EFT can be used in-session with a trained practitioner, or can be learned and used at home by anyone.
Despite a name that suggests more fad remedy than serious therapy, EFT is carving out its own place as an evidence-based treatment for mental health conditions. One of the most impressing things about it is just how fast it works. (It's also fascinating just how EFT works.)
In as few as 4-10 sessions, three studies found people using it for PTSD no longer met the diagnostic criteria for the disease. (1)
Yet EFT’s benefits are so broad, and results so immediate, that it was initially dismissed in the clinical community. Today the therapy is still considered an alternative practice, or is simply unknown, by many mental health practitioners.
When the first large-scale pilot studies were conducted, the results generated quite a stir. Not only did EFT work, but its success rate and speed surpassed any treatment in the clinical literature for the conditions being studied. (2)
Since then, the research surrounding EFT has grown considerably, as have the number of conditions it’s being trialed for. Weight loss, headaches, insomnia, phobias – even skin problems have been studied.
Incredibly, all have shown positive results. (3)
The conditions with the most research behind them are anxiety, PTSD and depression. Meta-analyses (a type of study that pools and analyzes data of previous trials, providing more statistically reliable results) have shown that tapping works as well or better for these conditions as other treatments, such as cognitive behaviour therapy. (4, 5, 6)
In addition to these conditions, randomized controlled trials (considered the gold standard for clinical research) for EFT have shown it to be an effective treatment for phobias, weight loss, tension headaches and, no surprise to Bralon Taplin, sports performance. (7)
I use EFT as a mainstay of my coaching practice and can attest to its broad benefits and fast results. EFT works like nothing else I've seen to release the emotional charge of past events, which kept many of my clients feeling stuck in life and looking for change.
People who come in to see me have been carrying grief, guilt, fear and low self-esteem as a result of a number of difficult life experiences and firmly-anchored negative beliefs. Their life histories often include abusive relationships with spouses and family members, bullying, or traumatic events. Some want to change their story around money, sex, work and body image. Everyone just wants their life to work.
I use EFT to get them tuned into their joy and motivation, and to release the old stories and memories.
It's the secret weapon for breakthroughs. With EFT, my clients are much more easily able to change the emotional landscape. For some, they break through years of struggle to create a new type of life on the other side.
Regardless of the therapy, the human spirit deserves the majority of the credit for any life transformation. It’s just good to know that there are some things out there that actually do help.
1. Karatzias, T., Power, K., Brown, K., McGoldrick, T., Begum, M., Young, J., ... & Adams, S. (2011). A controlled comparison of the effectiveness and efficiency of two psychological therapies for posttraumatic stress disorder: eye movement desensitization and reprocessing vs. emotional freedom techniques. The Journal of nervous and mental disease, 199(6), 372-378;
Church, D., & Feinstein, D. (2013). Energy psychology in the treatment of PTSD: Psychobiology and clinical principles. Psychology of trauma, 211-224;
Nemiro, A. (2013). EFT vs CBT in the treatment of sexual gender based violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In conference of the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology (ACEP).
2. Feinstein, D. (2012). Acupoint stimulation in treating psychological disorders: Evidence of efficacy. Review of General Psychology, 16(4), 364.
3. Church, D. (2013). Clinical EFT as an evidence-based practice for the treatment of psychological and physiological conditions. Psychology, 4(08), 645.
4. Nelms, J. A., & Castel, L. (2016). A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized and Nonrandomized Trials of Clinical Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) for the Treatment of Depression. EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Healing, 12(6), 416-426.
5. Clond, M. (2016). Emotional freedom techniques for anxiety: a systematic review with meta-analysis. The Journal of nervous and mental disease, 204(5), 388-395.
6. Sebastian, B., & Nelms, J. (2017). The effectiveness of emotional freedom techniques in the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder: A meta-analysis. Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, 13(1), 16-25.
7. Church, D. (2013). Clinical EFT as an evidence-based practice for the treatment of psychological and physiological conditions. Psychology, 4(08), 645.