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Q: How does EFT work?

Answer 1 by David Feinstein, PhD: In almost all acupoint stimulation protocols, the physical procedure is done simultaneously with the mental activation of a psychological problem or desired state. In this sense, energy psychology is an exposure technique. Bringing to mind an emotional trigger, problematic scene, or unresolved traumatic memory activates the amygdala, arousing a threat response. Stimulating selected acupoints, according to a 10-year research program at Harvard Medical School, simultaneously sends deactivating signals to the amygdala. Repetition of the physical intervention resolves these opposing signals by reducing the arousal while the trigger is still mentally active. The hippocampus records that the memory or trigger is being safely engaged without a stress response, and the neural pathways that initiate the associated stress response are permanently altered. Being able to encounter the memory or trigger without limbic system arousal becomes the new normal. While a vast oversimplification, this explanation fits both the clinical data and the brain image findings.

–Excerpted from: Feinstein, D. (2012). Acupoint stimulation in treating psychological disorders: Evidence of efficacy. Review of General Psychology, 16, 364—380. doi:10.1037/a0028602

Answer 2 by Expert EFT Practitioner Valerie Lis: Several explanations have been proposed as to how EFT works. Here is a possible answer based on its origin in acupuncture. This traditional Chinese medicine has been practiced for thousands of years and has been extensively researched. Acupuncture is based on the concept that the body is an energy field. The core belief is that life energy (chi) flows through the body in channels of energy called meridians. If the flow of chi is disrupted or blocked, it can lead to physical, emotional, and/or mental problems; if left untreated, it will eventually result in disease.

EFT tapping points are placed at the beginning or end point of each of the 12 meridians (the 12 tapping points in the Full EFT Recipe). As each meridian is associated with a different emotion, this sequence ensures that every emotion is tapped on.

Tapping with fingertips at the beginning/end of the meridians “shakes up” or dislodges blockages so that the energy flows freely again. This energy flow induces relaxation, which signals the brain to turn off the emotional trigger/conditioned link. With the link that caused the initial blockage broken, the trigger is neutralized, usually resulting in a permanent shift.