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The EFT Habit Change Technique

The EFT Habit Change Technique

Dear EFT Community,

EFT practitioner and integrative coach-therapist, Esther Patrick explains what causes a habit to be so difficult to break and gives detailed instructions on her EFT Habit Change Technique. A remarkably simple, yet highly effective way to help clients overcome unwanted habits, and with the incorporation of Dr. Pat Carrington’s Choices Method, tap in possibilities for change.


By Esther Patrick

I’d like to share a technique I’ve been using recently for dealing with habits. I call it the Habit Change Technique and it is loosely based on NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) modelling of strategies.  I’ve simplified it so that it can be used by any EFT practitioner, even those without an NLP background.

Habits can be tricky to deal with.  Some habits are beneficial to us, but others are unwanted and unhelpful.  We’ve all had the client, friend or family member who has a habit they’d like to change.  Maybe we’ve got some of our own! Going red when speaking in front of a group of people, nail biting, procrastination or having to do something in a particular way — every time.  

What other unwanted habits can you think of?

Habits can be difficult for us to deal with as a practitioner.  By the time a thought pattern or behaviour has become a habit, it is so powerful and so ingrained that it is often far removed from the original causes or core events that caused it.  Although identifying the core events and tapping through these using methods such as the Movie Technique or Tell the Story can be successful, we often find that habits have since taken on a life of their own!  

With many clients, therefore, we need a way of getting in to work with the habit in the here-and-now.

The Habit Change Technique is a way of putting a habit back into the client’s conscious control, which allows them to make changes, and for breaking it down into small chunks that can be tapped through individually.  I’ll explain a bit more about this.

People are experts at their own problems, and an unwanted habit is no exception.  The more we do something, the faster and easier it becomes.  A habit is simply a sequence of steps — a process — of thought patterns and/or behaviours for doing something.  

We’ve then practised this sequence so much that we become an expert and no longer have to consciously think about it to do it.  We do it unconsciously, and our unconscious mind works very fast — so fast that our conscious mind, which does our logical thinking for us, can no longer keep up with what’s happening.  

Our conscious mind might recognise the triggers that cause the habit to happen, and it might recognise the habit as it happens, but it can’t identify the small steps that make up the habit because they happen too quickly.  That’s when we get clients saying, “I don’t know how or why this happens,” or, “It’s out of my control — there’s nothing I can do about it.”  

To help the client make changes to the habit, we need to:

–Slow down their unconscious mind so that the conscious mind can get back in on the act.  This gives the client back a sense of control.

–Break down the habit into small chunks that can be tapped through individually.  This allows you and the client to see progress being made.  Putting a structure on to something that previously felt unstructured to the client can also be very reassuring for them.

–Highlight opportunities for making changes to the habit, which gives the client choices, new perspectives and ownership of the habit.

How do we do that?

The Habit Change Technique:

1. Say to the client: “You’re so good at [habit].  I’d like you to teach me how to do it too.  How do you do what you do?”

Remember, the client is an expert at their own problems. Getting them to teach you how to do their habit is a great way of slowing down their unconscious mind, because it puts them into beginner mode instead of expert mode.  No matter how good they are at doing their habit, chances are they haven’t had any practise at teaching other people how to do it!  

You’ll find most clients will pause at this question, and then say, “I don’t know.”  No matter!  You’ve taken the first step towards making their unconscious mind slow down and giving the conscious mind a chance to catch up and take part.  Move into step 2 and use some specific questions to overcome the “I don’t know”.

2. Use ‘Start-Do-Stop’ to tap through the unwanted habit as it is at present.

Follow a three step tapping process.  I use the KC point followed by a shortcut tapping round that finishes by moving from the UA point back to the CB point.  Below, I use fairly standard set up and reminder statements as examples, but you can be as creative as you like with them.  Use your intuition and go with what seems right for the client.


Identify the context and the triggers for the habit.

“When do you do [habit]?  Where do you do [habit]?  Who are you with when you do [habit]?  How do you know it’s time to do [habit]?  What are the triggers for [habit]?”

Tap through one round for each aspect that comes up.

Set up: “Even though the lecturer looks straight at me and I know he’s going to ask me a question in front of everyone…”

Reminder: “He looks straight at me… he’s going to ask me a question…”


Identify their sequence of steps (thoughts and behaviours) for doing the habit.

“What do you do next?  And what do you do after that?  And after that?”

Tap through one round for each thought or action that makes up the habit, being as specific as possible.  Specific is always terrific, and especially so for this part of the technique!

Remember also that it is the client who does the habit.  It doesn’t happen to them.  

So NOT “Even though my cheeks go red…” but “Even though I start the redness in the middle of my cheeks and radiate it out from there, stopping at my cheekbone…”

This is an example of a specific statement that keeps the client in a position of control and responsibility for what happens.


Identify their thoughts and feelings at the end of the habit.  For example there may be shame, or guilt, or pleasure, or safety.

Tap through one round for each thought or feeling that comes up.

Set up: “Even though I have butterflies of relief in my stomach when the redness has gone and it’s all over…”

Reminder: “Butterflies of relief… in my stomach…”

3. Use Dr. Pat Carrington’s Choices Method to tap in possibilities for change.

Now that the client has cleared out much of the negative emotion and power of the unwanted habit, ask the client to talk once again through the START, DO and STOP of their habit.  Any time an opportunity is identified to choose something different, tap it in with Choices:

–What do they currently do?
–What would they like to choose instead?
–Set up: “Even though I do [old thought or behaviour], I choose [new thought or behaviour]
–Reminder: “[old thought or behaviour]” — 1 round
–Reminder: “[new thought or behaviour]” — 1 round
–Reminder: “[old thought or behaviour]…[new thought or behaviour]” — 1 round alternating

Repeat this at every identified opportunity for change throughout the START, DO and STOP of the habit.

5. Test the client’s new habit to identify any aspects that need more work.

“Where could this go wrong?  What if [x] doesn’t work?  How would you deal with that?  What would get things back on track?”

This is an important part of the Habit Change Technique — asking some challenging questions to really test out the new thoughts and behaviours.  We want to make sure that our work is definitely done.  Tap through as many set ups and reminders as are needed to tackle any aspect that emerges.

Note: If at any point in the session a core issue or event comes up, work on this using a technique such as Tell the Story or The Movie Technique and then return to the Habit Change Technique to keep working on the habit.  This can help to loosen the habit and facilitate change.

In my experience, you’ll need to schedule around 1.5 – 2 hours for an initial session using the Habit Change Technique.  At the end of the session, the client should have new thought patterns and behaviours in place that replace their previous unwanted habit.  They should also, thanks to the testing in Step 4, have the confidence to know that they can deal with any potential setbacks as they start to practise their new way of being in real life.  

Any new aspects or issues that come up as they do this can then be tackled in future sessions using the many excellent EFT techniques and tools that are available.

There are many possible variations using this technique:

–NLP trained practitioners could tap through the habit using the logical levels.
–You could use continuous tapping as the client talks through their entire START, DO, STOP strategy.
–Try using different tapping points or more creative set up statements.
–Whatever you try, remember that rapport and humour are powerful change agents.

“Habit is a cable; we weave a thread of it every day, and at last we cannot break it.” (Horace Mann)