Tapping, or the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). What. The. Fuck.

OK, buckle up space-cadets, this is a weird one.  The Emotional Freedom Technique is a kind of psychotherapy, developed in the 90s, that draws on a variety of pseudoscientific bollocks, including accupressure, our old friend NLP, various kinds of laying-on-of-hands-type ‘energy’ therapies and a good dose of very confused neurobollocks.

Essentially, what happens in an EFT counselling session is that you discuss your problem, while stimulating the ‘end points of the body’s energy meridians’. This stimulation takes the form of tapping yourself; on the head, the face, wherever.

Here’s a demonstration video from this site. Forget the bullshit at the beginning and skip through from about 2 minutes in, where she starts literally hitting herself in the face:

She’s hitting herself in the face! What is she doing? If you saw someone doing this in the street you’d assume they were having some kind of psychotic episode.

There are lots of ‘tapping’ sites out there (like this one), but this one is by far the most egregious in terms of neurobollocks. Projecttapping.com appears to have some serious money behind it, and is chock-to-the-brim with teeth-grinding neurobollocks:

“According to Neuroscience, every memory you have is encoded in your brain with an emotional charge. This charge then creates a neural pathway to signal an appropriate physiological response every time you’re reminded of an experience relevant to that memory. For instance, you might start trembling every time you’re faced with the possibility of public speaking. Tapping helps you rewire these neural pathways, so you can eliminate both the subconscious and conscious fears that cause negative reactions in you. After just a few sessions you’ll already notice the difference: fears that once caused you to doubt yourself, reject wealth or avoid change will begin to melt away.”

Also, apologies for the extensive quotes, but this one is just too good not to share too:

Tapping positively modifies your DNA
A study conducted by the Heartmath Institute showed that when a study participant evoked strong positive emotions like love and appreciation through practices like Tapping, their DNA unwound and increased in length. Negative emotions, on the other hand, caused strands of their DNA to shorten and in some cases disappear. In other words, working with your emotions allows you to change your genetic make-up and your life.

There you have it folks, positive emotions unwind your DNA, negative ones make it disappear! There’s also a weird undercurrent on that site about money and wealth – apparently if you’re poor, it’s probably because you’re ‘afraid’ of being wealthy and pushing money away. Riiiight.

There’s plenty of ridiculous stuff on the internet of course, so this is nothing too remarkable. What’s slightly weird about this particular site is that projecttapping.com is published by a company called Mindvalley, who describe themselves as ‘Pushing humanity forward through innovations in education and culture-hacking’. They seem to be a really weird blend of very up-to-date marketing and some really hackneyed new-age bullshit. The kind of company that California just seems to be so good at producing for some reason. Take a look at their ‘about’ page, if you have a chance. Have you ever seen a more self-satisfied bunch of touchy-feely hipster twats? Piss off with your bullshit ‘culture-hacking’ and ‘online meditation portals’. Do some real work.

29 responses to “Tapping, or the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). What. The. Fuck.

  1. On their ‘about’ page they say that they want to ‘move the planet forward.’ I hope they’ll keep us in orbit.

  2. Hahaha nice post. I had to look the emotional freedom technique up as I was recommended it by someone, needless to say, I was not impressed. One research study found that a group of participants who were tapping a doll had the same effects as those who were tapping these ‘energy points’ on their own body. So I’m speculating that it is the actual repetitive movement associated with all the other techniques involved that actually helps.

    What are your thoughts on the eye movement therapy?

  3. To be honest 99% of the benefit of this is probably due to just talking about it and going through it in your head. The tapping makes you feel like a tool and I’m sure that probably helps alleviate it…

    I’m a little worried about the shrinking DNA, surely that’s why we have telomerase. If my DNA shrinks will I get Cancer?

  4. I went to the Priory in 2001, suffering from PTSD and social anxiety, and the therapist there told me to tap my forehead and my hands every time I felt anxious, while repeating something like ‘I am a strong and healthy person’. Didn’t work – gave me a sore forehead!

  5. Great post! I nearly ruined my monitor reading this over cereal this morning.

  6. It’s from my favorite in “I [Heart] Huckabees” — the ball thing! Best bit in the movie: Jason Schwartzman and Marky Mark are smacking each other in the face with a big inflatable ball, and noticing that for a second, it silences the reflective anxiety and brings you to a pure and unreflective awareness. Marky Mark says “So we just need to do the ball thing all the time.” The “existential” mentor says “Don’t call it ‘the ball thing’; call it ‘pure being’.”

  7. Carey Mann's - The Bridge

    what do you think about this video then neurobollocks? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6vVTXnGFYo. This is not the only video that i have using Tapping for chronic pain. Can’t be a Placebo either as the technique looks plain ridiculous and nobody in their right mind thinks it’s going to work (including me when i first saw it). Just setting up a clinical trial using brain imaging machines to see what is going on in the brain during an EFT session when treating CRPS sufferers. Let me know if you’re interested in the results. Carey Mann

    • Hi Carey,

      Thanks for getting in touch and sharing the video – I see you also have quite a few more on youtube, with some different patients. I’m glad that you manage to help your patients with their chronic pain issues – I’ve worked with such patients myself (briefly) and know how debilitating it can be.

      I have to remain skeptical about the treatment though. You say that it can’t be a placebo effect, but I would say it’s very hard to rule out a placebo effect on the basis of anecdotal evidence like this. Placebo effects can be amazingly powerful, and very pervasive, and the only way we know of ruling them out is a properly conducted placebo-controlled clinical trial. Lots of people have had positive experiences and believe very strongly in things like homeopathy, reiki, accupuncture etc., but time and again, these things have been shown to be ineffective (when proper clinical trials have been performed) compared to placebo.

      Another requirement in fully establishing efficacy of a treatment is defining the mechanism. As EFT/tapping is based on principles of energy meridians in the body (which is demonstrably false) I’m curious as to what the mechanism might be by which the tapping effects positive clinical change? Do you have any insights on this?

      I’d be very interested in hearing further details about the clinical trial you’re setting up, and/or the results when they’re available. If you have any information on it, please send it to neurobollocks [at] gmail [dot] com. Thanks! I have some expertise in functional MRI research, so I promise to evaluate it objectively and well… basically not be a dick.

      You have to admit though, the DNA stuff I quoted in my original post is pretty far-fetched, right?

      Thanks again,


  8. Bet you didn’t know how those Magical EFT Therapy Bears work (you did know about the bears, right)…. well it’s mirror neurons!

  9. Oh, yeah, when I was in rehab a few years ago, this was all the rage. I felt totally ridiculous when we would be encouraged to do this during group therapy. When one of the counselors asked something like, “Don’t you find this sooo helpful?” I honestly replied that I thought it was silly, and it wasn’t doing anything for me. Of course, I was then informed that because I felt it was silly and didn’t believe in what we were doing, I was blocking it from working, so it was my own fault that it was ineffective! *sigh* In a lot of ways, the place I went was really helpful, and some of the classes (it was a duel-diagnosis facility) taught me skills (like DBT) that I still use to handle life. But some of it was pure silliness.

  10. The mindvalley website gives me the creeps. I tried to find out where the money comes from but couldn’t find anything, which isn’t confidence-building. But they list the Silva Life System (you’ll LOVE this one ;-)) among their ‘Brands and Companies’: http://www.silvalifesystem.com/. That might explain some of the assets…

  11. You’re right – it IS creepy, isn’t it? They all look like a bunch of smiley pre-programmed plastic hipster-droids.

    The Silva system – missed that one. Oh. My. God. *face-palm*

  12. Pingback: Emotional Freedom Technique – Tapping – Makes Other Psychotherapy Look … - NLP

  13. Gee. It’s free, and it does help some people. Not for everyone, but then neither was lobotomy. Yes. It looks absolutley ridiculous. But for some, so is endless drug and talk therapy, which nets billions for a relative few. It’s one tool. Calm down, people.

  14. Pingback: Further thoughts on EFT – Tapping as a safety behaviour? | NeuroBollocks

  15. Pingback: A brief experiment for Tappers | NeuroBollocks

  16. Thanks, Barbara. The most intelligent comment I saw here as I skimmed.

    EFT and other energy psychologies work, but very possibly not for the reasons their proponents think.

    It would be better, I agree, if people stopped trying to make things sound scientific. Basically, I think tapping works because you become aware of accumulated stress around certain events or beliefs.

    In other words, you are increasing your awareness of how your body reacts to your thoughts; and once aware of your thoughts, you can change them. Release the stress, breathe through it, once you have identified it.

    I don’t think the actual tapping is necessary, but it gives people something to do with their hands — people who still have to root things in the physical. For them, it helps shake the dirt loose, so to speak.

    It’s an awareness tool – a tool for self-observation. It’s not magic. All you need is awareness, but this is a good way to get started. And it doesn’t cost anything to learn.

    Like Anthony De Mello said, it’s all about “Awareness, awareness, awareness.”

    Here’s the story:

    HOW HAPPINESS HAPPENS (from Awareness — Anthony De Mello)

    “Come home to yourself. Observe yourself. That’s why I said earlier
    that self-observation is such a delightful and extraordinary thing.
    After a while you don’t have to make any effort, because, as illusions
    begin to crumble, you begin to know things that cannot be described.
    It’s called happiness. Everything changes and you become addicted
    to awareness.

    There’s the story of the disciple who went to the master and said,
    “Could you give me a word of wisdom? Could you tell me something
    that would guide me through my days”? It was the master’s day of
    silence, so he picked up a pad. It said, “Awareness”. When the
    disciple saw it, he said, “This is too brief. Can you expand on it a bit”?
    So the master took back the pad and wrote, “Awareness, awareness,
    awareness”. The disciple said, “Yes, but what does it mean”? The
    master took back the pad and wrote, “Awareness, awareness,
    awareness means — awareness”.

    That’s what it is to watch yourself. No one can show you how to do it,
    because he would be giving you a technique, he would be
    programming you. But watch yourself. When you talk to someone,
    are you aware of it or are you simply identifying with it? When you
    got angry with somebody, were you aware that you were angry or
    were you simply identifying with your anger? Later, when you had the
    time, did you study your experience and attempt to understand it? ”

    Best, you guys.

  17. Such a pity that such bias comes from “debunkers” who have never tried it for themselves. This is the mark of the ‘ultimate sceptic’: one who, as the hippies once had it, doesn’t ‘knock’ it until they have tried it.
    I am an ultimate sceptic: I tried EFT before ‘knocking’ it – on my wife who had been suffering chronic morning headaches for about two years. Now, as it normally takes her a while to surface properly, I used the technique on her instead of giving her the three paracetamol tablet she requested as she had being doing for that time. In other words, she was completely in the dark about what I was doing, but she let me tap gently on her face before she went back to sleep, which, again, is quite normal for her.
    She awoke about a half-hour later, flew out of bed, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, with nary a trace of the headache … that was five years ago and she has never had a morning headache, or any other kind for that matter, since that morning. All I had done was read the original manual … I had had no training of any kind, nor have I had any to this day, yet it still works.
    I have since used EFT for a variety of different ailments, even on some of my pets, when they needed intervention that I thought EFT could fix. I have yet to find a situation in which it has not reversed the condition. After due testing, I suggested its use to some of my family and friends and those who actually bothered to TRY EFT now swear by it. We have all saved a packet due to the fact that we use EFT instead of running to a “professional” for every little (and some quite large) issues. We also do not have to resort to buying “over-the-counter” medications, but use EFT instead.
    One of my miaxims is: “If you want to learn to swim, get into the water”. You can read books, watch others and study fishes for the rest of your life, but without getting into the water, you will never learn to swim. It is the same with everything else: to fnd out whether or not it actually WORKS, DO IT! Anyone who stands on the sidelines and jeers at things about which they know sweet Fanny Adams can have a label attached to them: ignorant, hypocritical idiots.
    Thank you.

  18. We can either be scientific or realistic
    I have taught tapping for years
    My results have been an easy and permanent weight loss of 50 pounds without dieting or distress
    tapping has improved my health to the point where I rarely need to take medications or pay for doctor’s visit
    Using tapping I am able to help business people make more money because they are more relaxed and creative.
    simply the tapping reduces the stress response and increases the relaxation response. The relaxation response has been researched by Dr Herbert Benson to cause improves wellness measures.
    So I will tap and be healthier and wealthier while the critics enjoy their sarcasm and intellectual superiority!!! HA HA HA

  19. People who say ‘it’s only placebo’ are way off beam. Placebo works. Placebo works powerfully. In numerous double-blind trials placebo has been shown to work for many purposes better than generally prescribed pharmaceuticals.

    Of course EFT doesn’t do what it does for the flaky reasons cited by new-age nincompoops… but it does work, all the same. Perhaps it’s just a pattern-interrupt, perhaps it relies entirely on placebo. But in some (not all) cases, it can make a valuable difference. To dismiss it because we don’t know exactly how it achieves results is simply fatuous.

  20. “Tapping helps you rewire these neural pathways, so you can eliminate both the subconscious and conscious fears that cause negative reactions in you.”
    Absolutely! It is safe, gentle, non invasive technique that utilizes a combination of ancient acupressure techniques as well as modern psychology to treat an impressive list of common problems and medical conditions. By the way, I have joined the workshop called EFT for Wealth Creation and Financial Success. This workshop will be focused on applying EFT to money, wealth and financial beliefs and patterns. So excited!

  21. I know this is old but I couldn’t resist. I wasn’t a fan of EFT a few years ago then recently read a book (written by a neuroscientist) that linked to lots of studies done of the effectiveness of EFT. Now I’m open-minded about it.

    I can’t even tell what the credentials (if any) the author of this article has (or doesn’t). Her about page has nothing about her. And the article has no linked evidence to support her claim. In fact her entire claim is based on scammy-sounding sales pages. If someone claims that they can cure cancer in one counselling session does that then mean that counselling is a scam? No. It means that the person making the claim is the scammer. Or how about if I design a vibrating belt that when people go running it directs vibrations into the belly reducing belly fat? That doesn’t then mean that running/aerobics is a scam.

    Let’s not forget too, that science doesn’t have all the answers. I follow 10 or so neuroscience blogs regularly and there are always new learnings, things that are unknown, etc.

    And why is it that placebo is always thrown around when people are looking for ‘evidence’ to debunk something? It’s been proven countless times that the brain is the best healer. We should be testing placebo effects for consistency of results (to reduce luck/variability) not just disregarding results because they may not be a direct result of the treatment.

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