Tapping Is Still A Thing For Thousands Suffering With Mental Illness

Emotional Freedom Technique, nicknamed "tapping," still thrives in an online community.

By Michael Quinones
January 8, 2020

Using your pointer and middle fingers, tap near your wrist while you think, mantra-like, about your most pressing problem. Tap around your eyes. Tell yourself to let that problem go. Tap your cheeks. Tell yourself you love yourself. Tap near the middle of your collarbone. Record changes. Repeat.

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), or tapping, is quite simple, and there are no shortage of testimonials online claiming it offers relatively rapid relief for everything from depression and addiction to PTSD and eating disorders. 

Combining modern psychology and Chinese Meridian acupuncture, the technique Gary Craig introduced in 1995 is said to reduce stress and cortisol that cause or exacerbate the above conditions. The acupressure on specific points sends a calming signal to the midbrain, explains Dawson Church, a book publisher turned doctor of natural medicine and author of The Genie in Your Genes. Tapping won’t make the problem or the traumatic event go away, per se, but changes the subject’s emotional reaction when they think about it.

“They no longer respond by going into fight or flight,” says Church. “The memory is reconsolidated in the brain, but without the fear.”

There are a host of EFT critics who see it as a pseudoscience, and their arguments are consolidated throughout the Wikipedia page for EFT/Tapping. Chief among them is Gary Bakker and his 2013 study underscoring the view that “EFT has no benefit as a therapy beyond the placebo effect or any known-effective psychological techniques that may be provided in addition to the purported ‘energy’ technique.”

Meridians, discovered by the Chinese millennia ago, are believed to be points on the skin that are sensitive to energy. Skeptics aren’t convinced these points exist, but Church argues that Meridians can be measured today using a galvanometer. Church even petitioned Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, to ask for the entry to be more balanced, claiming it was full of the biased views of several skeptics, but to no avail. (That Church has a financial motivation for promoting tapping as a proprietor of EFTUniverse.com might appear to inform claims of biased research.)  

Nevertheless, Church’s nonprofit initiated the Veterans Stress Project, which has used EFT with over 21,000 veterans in the last decade, and he has testified before Congress twice on its benefits. A 2013 study, co-authored by Church, showed that 86 percent of 59 veterans who received EFT treatment no longer met the criteria for clinical PTSD, in just six sessions. A bigger effect size was measured in meta studies on PTSD than those on anxiety and depression. This due to its specificity, says Church: “If someone remembers the childhood violence or remembers the combat trauma, you can take that memory and really work with it and have them release that triggering very quickly.” 

It’s hard to say whether the pseudoscience claims have dampened EFT’s popularity since it gained mainstream attention in 2013 with Nick Ortner’s The Tapping Solution: A Revolutionary System for Stress-Free Living—a New York Times best seller that spurred a follow-up book. A promotional web page for the Ortner-produced Tapping World Summit claims the 2018 online event had approximately 500,000 participants. The Tapping Solution channel on YouTube currently has 86,000 subscribers, while the EFT Universe channel has 11,600. The Tapping Solution company says more than 1 million tapping meditations have been played on its app, which has 66,000 monthly users.

Have you tried this technique before? Let Outlier readers know in the comments below if it worked for you.

About the Writer:
Michael Quiñones is a freelance storyteller/journalist/editor, with decades of experience on projects from sci-fi novels and plays to pop culture websites. A former managing editor of Us Weekly celebrity news brands and editor of People brand’s CHICA site, he is also currently a copy manager at Condé Nast’s Content Integrity Group where he primarily works on Vanity Fair. Born in the suburbs of Dayton, Ohio, he makes frequent trips back there from his home base in New York City, where his two young daughters and two cats keep him up nights.

Outlier Disclaimer

This site is for educational purposes and not a substitute for professional medical care by a doctor or otherwise qualified medical professional. The information provided by Outlier Magazine is on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services.

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