Understanding EFT

The shape of a session

I would love for you to feel comfortable as you join me in our sessions, so here is a little preview: Our Discovery session is really about us getting to know each other. We start by exploring the how's and why's of EFT. If there are things in your personal history we want to cover, we'll spend some time there. Most of this session is spent in detailed discussion about what we are working on with EFT, identifying relevant limiting beliefs and setting up a goal. We'll also check in on some admin details and how to prepare for your first tapping session.
After this foundational session, a typical EFT tapping session will begin with a check-in of your limiting beliefs. Then we get straight into tapping on what's coming up for you around our area of focus. The whole point of using EFT is to regulate your nervous system, so our work is to follow it, and tend to it accordingly. At times this means we'll use gentle techniques and tools such as orienting, while tapping. My skillful and purposeful application of these techniques will keep things as comfortable for you as possible.


The section below shows the acupressure points used during a clinical EFT session. These points were well known to Traditional Chinese Medicine even before detailed understanding of the anatomy and physiology of the nervous system existed. EFT uses this ancient knowledge and integrates it with an understanding of modern psychology.

The clinical eft points

  1. Karate Chop point - on the side of each hand. It doesn't matter which hand you tap on.
  2. Top of head point - on the top and centre of your head
  3. Eyebrow point - tap on your brow where your eyebrows begin, above the nose bridge.
  4. Side of eye point - tap on the bone directly to the left and right of your eyes.
  5. Under eye point - tap on the bone directly below your eyes.
  6. Under nose point - tap under the nose and above the mouth
  7. Chin point - tap in the space between your bottom lip and chin
  8. Collarbone points - Put your fingers on the start of your collarbones, just below your throat. Move them out along the bones. Stop where the bones protrude the most. Move just below the bone and tap in this soft area.
  9. Under arm point (not pictured )- about a hand-width below your armpit on the side of your ribs.


what to say

You won't have to memorise anything for an EFT session. Everything you say is done in a 'repeat after me' format, where I use your words to create our statements. This allows you to simply flow with what you feel.
In short, we speak a Setup Statement three times while on the karate chop point. We follow this with Reminder Statements on each point as we tap through the remaining points. For example...
Setup statement: "Even though I feel stressed, just thinking about...(the situation, thoughts, what it means to you)...I feel this in my chest and I accept myself and how I feel."
Reminders: "stressed" "stressed in my chest"
I also like to include the main point of the setup statement as a reminder, to help keep you tuned in.


" We've now had the last 10 to 15 years [of] clinical trials that are demonstrating that tapping on or stimulating acupressure points on the body can change DNA expression, can radically reduce your stress hormone cortisol, can even change your brain's pathways. "
Dr. Peta Stapleton, Clinical & Health Psychologist, World Leading Researcher, Author & Educator

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The following section is a more detailed explanation of how and why EFT works. I also offer a brief example of how an EFT session on public speaking might work. If you're not into reading all this detail, you can find some helpful videos at the bottom of the page.

eft: a bridge between mind and body

EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) is a stress-management tool that may help you work through emotions and physical sensations that are brought up by triggers, memories or limiting beliefs. It does so by engaging the body via the nervous system and the mind via a process of memory reconsolidation.
There are two branches of your nervous system that are essential to explaining EFT: Parasympathetic (often called rest and digest) and Sympathetic (often called flight or fight). Polyvagal theory (as explained by Dr. Stephen Porges in a video below) acknowledges a third state aside from flight or fight, which is known as freeze. When you are in a neuroregulated state, you are in the sweet spot between these states. You feel calm, balanced, safe, able to communicate and form social connections.
If you are in a dysregulated state you may begin to move (in varying degrees) into one of two states. Sympathetic overdrive causes you to feel stressed, anxious, and hyperalert. When you feel like this you might experience, sweating, trembling, and an increased heart rate. On the other hand, if your nervous system enters parasympathetic overdrive, then you might feel dissociated, like you have 'left your body.' This can feel like being shut down, frozen, and unable to communicate. Neither sounds great, so how do we stay in that sweet spot of neuroregulation?
The truth is, we are moving in and out of these states in different degrees, all the time. Both are necessary for coping with the world around us. A regulated nervous system doesn't mean that you are calm 24/7. It means that once you leave this sweet spot, you are able to easily and efficiently find it again. This is what it means to ride the waves of life. EFT is a tool that helps to regulate the nervous system so you can feel like yourself again.
What might kick you out of that sweet spot? Your nervous system is constantly using a process known as neuroception, which is a fancy word for a search-and-detect alarm system. It continuously and subconsciously scans your environment for signs of danger. When it detects something which it perceives as a threat, it sets a series of biological events in motion which it feels will help you survive (including the release of adrenaline and cortisol). As Dr. Dan Siegel puts it in the video at the bottom of this page, we 'flip our lids' and our brains become dis-integrated.


EFT targets this physiological response of the body with gentle tapping on acupressure points. The tapping sends a conflicting message to the nervous system. On one hand, you are experiencing the "negative" responses to a trigger and on the other hand, you are stimulating points that induce a calming effect on the nervous system. This juxtaposition is what helps take the 'charge' out of what you are tapping on. Your nervous system is, in a sense, relearning its response to a particular trigger.
The points used in EFT are not chosen at random. There is evidence to show that when compared to using 'fake' points on the body, clinical EFT points offer greater benefit and are thus considered the active ingredient in EFT. Tapping on these points has been shown to affect hormones, brain waves, and even gene expression in the body (1). The clinical EFT points located on the face and torso also stimulate the ventral vagal nerve. According to Dr. Stephen Porges' Polyvagal theory, when we are in a ventral vagal state, our nervous system is more regulated, ready for social engagement, and in that sweet spot we spoke of earlier (2).

Let's see this in action

Let's use an example in order to illustrate how EFT may work in a session, as well as explain the process of memory reconsolidation and the parts of our brain which are impacted by EFT:
You and I have decided to work on decreasing the stress you feel around public speaking. You have an upcoming presentation at work next week, and you are so nervous! Even just thinking about standing in front of your boss and colleagues to present makes you freeze and mix up your words. You're not sure why this has to be such a big deal!
Today, we are tapping on this upcoming presentation in our EFT session. While tapping, you suddenly recall an older, related memory. It's a memory of a time in high school when you gave a presentation in front of your class. You stumbled over your words and the whole class laughed at you! You were embarrassed and just wanted to run away, but you couldn't just leave the classroom. So, you shut down and froze instead. Your nervous system registered this scenario (standing up and presenting in front of a group) as dangerous.
Now, all these years later, your body remembers, even when you did not. The upcoming presentation at work reminds your hippocampus (the memory centre of your brain) of this time in high school, which is why this nugget conveniently shows up in our tapping. As a result, your hippocampus tells the amygdala (the part of your brain responsible for putting you into fight/flight/freeze) that this situation isn't safe. In this case, your amygdala sets your nervous system into a freeze state yet again, which leaves you feeling like you can't access any words.
If it is safe to do so, we may decide to work directly with this older memory. Recalling the memory has moved it from long term storage to short term. In this state, it is susceptible to change (1). Re-experiencing the stressful memory while tapping offers you the contradictory experience we mentioned earlier. This juxtaposition of the negative emotion with the calming effect of tapping takes the 'charge' out of the memory. You will not forget what happened, but the memory may now be reconsolidated without the associated emotion of fear and the physiological freeze response. Going through this process will likely mean that you will notice a positive change in your reaction to your upcoming presentation.
Memories like this don't always pop up in sessions, but when they do, you can see how they can be really helpful! Even without such epiphanies, simply by working on the present scenario, we engage neural pathways in the brain which connect to all the other times you felt a similar way. These neural pathways, which are like connecting highways in our brain, are responsible for the generalisation effect of EFT. If you are afraid of public speaking and have had a load of bad experiences, we won't have to tap on every single one. We just have to apply EFT skillfully to as little as one, or a couple scenarios, for you to feel a shift.


Somatic therapies such as EFT are highly effective because of the strong relationship between mind and body. Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk has written extensively about the body remembering trauma in his book, The Body Keeps the Score. Research also demonstrates that somatic interventions such as EFT and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) are capable of offering equal, if not faster, resolution to certain mental health diagnoses, when compared to standard talk therapy approaches (1). It may be that sometimes simply discussing a memory isn't enough to clear it. The body may still relive the initial physiological response until it receives contradictory signals from a somatic treatment.

(1) The Science Behind Tapping: A proven stress management technique for the mind and body, Dr. Peta Stapleton (2) Stephen Porges' Polyvagal theory

Clinical EFT Improves Multiple Physiological Markers of Health



Please do not attempt to process highly emotional or traumatic memories on your own. Co-regulation with a practitioner is essential when you are emotionally vulnerable.
While research on the way EFT works and its applications grows, it is still considered an experimental method. It cannot diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or disorder. If you use EFT, you must take full responsibility for it and take necessary measures to keep yourself safe. This means seeking appropriate professional help if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed while tapping or have concerns about your mental well-being. Please do not attempt to process highly emotional or traumatic memories on your own. This should be done either with a certified EFT practitioner and/or a mental health professional. Do not make any changes to your lifestyle or prescribed medications without first consulting a medical or mental health professional.
" When you're not integrated, it can become chaotic and rigid, it's like flipping your lid. So instead of living with harmony within yourself and harmony and connection to others, you're literally becoming chaotic with an outburst or rigid and withdrawn. "
Dr. Siegel, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, and Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute
"What if we can't get away from the danger?...The possibility is that we could trigger a third circuit which shuts us down. And it's that shutdown circuit that makes it so important in understanding trauma and the polyvagal theory articulates that shutdown circuit...These responses are not voluntary."
Dr. Stephen Porges, Professor of Psychiatry, University Scientist at Indiana University, Founding director of the Traumatic Stress Research Consortium

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