Find a therapist Search articles

Emotional freedom techniques: Learn how to tap

Reviewed by Brooks Baer, LCPC, CMHP

Close-up of a young woman's face. Her eyes are closed as she taps her own cheek with two fingers.

What is emotional freedom techniques (EFT)?

Emotional freedom techniques (EFT), also called “tapping,” is an alternative therapy that uses the body’s pressure points to address both physical and psychological pain. Founded by coach and minister Gary Craig in the 1990s, tapping applies pressure to the body’s “meridian points,” areas in which energy is believed to flow through the body.1

Is EFT evidence-based?

Experts are still researching the effectiveness of tapping. Some studies show that EFT has potential in treating posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety.2, 3, 4 Tapping may also be helpful for insomnia and chronic pain.5, 6

More research is needed to determine whether tapping is effective on its own. Until then, it’s recommended that EFT be used only alongside more conventional forms of treatment.

Can you perform EFT on yourself?

It is possible to do EFT tapping by yourself. One benefit of this approach is that it can be performed without any special equipment. The basics of tapping are also fairly easy to learn.

How does EFT tapping work?

Like acupuncture, EFT is based on the Chinese medicinal concept of qi (pronounced “chee”). Qi is described as a vital energy that flows through 12 pathways through the body, called “meridians.”

The idea is that qi can become blocked or imbalanced, requiring intervention at a meridian point. Acupuncturists insert thin needles into the skin at these points to stimulate energy.

Instead of inserting needles like an acupuncturist would, EFT therapists apply pressure to the client’s meridian points by tapping them with their fingertips, which encourages the body’s energy to flow.

Tapping points for EFT

The nine meridian points (or “tapping points”) most often used for EFT are the following:

  1. The side of the hand, on the outer side of either palm below the little finger
  2. Top of the head, at the center
  3. The inner eyebrow, at the beginning point of the brow near the nose
  4. Next to the outside edge of the eye, on the bone
  5. Underneath the eye, at the top of the cheek bone
  6. Under the nose, just above the upper lip
  7. On the chin, halfway between the point of the chin and the lower lip
  8. Beneath the collarbone, where it meets the sternum and ribs
  9. On the side, several inches below the armpit

5 steps to basic tapping

Step 1: Identify your issue

Choose a problem to focus on for your tapping exercise. This could be a physical or mental problem (for example, “I’m stressed about work”). Each tapping exercise should focus on only one issue.

Step 2: Determine the issue’s intensity

Once you choose a problem, rate it from 0 to 10 in terms of how bad it makes you feel. This will be your baseline number that helps you evaluate the progress you make through tapping.

Step 3: Choose a “setup statement”

Your setup statement should state your issue, then demonstrate that you’ve accepted yourself despite it. This statement can be very simple: for example, “I’m stressed about work, but I know I am a capable person.”

Step 4: Tap in sequence

Repeat your setup statement three times while tapping the point on the side of your hand. Then, staying on the same side of your body, tap on each of the nine meridian points in the sequence listed above. As you tap the other meridian points, repeat your issue out loud (for example, just say “stressed at work”) to focus on your problem as you keep tapping.

Step 5: Test the issue again

After you finish tapping, measure how badly you still feel about your issue, again using a scale of 0 to 10. Notice if the negative feelings have decreased. Repeat the tapping sequence until your feelings rate a zero on the scale.

Seeking treatment

Which traditional therapies use EFT?

Tapping can work surprisingly well with other, more conventional forms of therapy. Common therapies that can incorporate EFT include:

How can you use tapping in your daily life?

Most people can incorporate tapping into their daily routine fairly easily. It can be done at any time in any place—though it’s worth keeping in mind that it does require speaking out loud. You can use EFT as an at-home strategy for a number of reasons, including:

  • Self-regulation: Tapping can help you self-soothe and calm your body’s stress response during intense situations.
  • Stress management: You can use EFT as a way to prevent or manage stress in a number of settings, such as work or school.
  • Self-care: You can incorporate tapping into your regular self-care routine to address any physical or emotional pain you may be carrying.

Many people find tapping helpful for managing stress, anxiety, and other kinds of physical or psychological pain. If you’d like help managing your mental health, browse our directory to find a licensed therapist near you.

About the author

The editorial team at works with the world’s leading clinical experts to bring you accessible, insightful information about mental health topics and trends.