The reality of living as a human exposes us to experience many traumas.
These traumas come as “big T’s” — like the death of a loved one — and “little t’s,” like the daily experience of enduring subtle racism or sexism. Over time or in the moment, we can develop trauma symptoms such as hypervigilance, panic attacks or chronic pain.
Sometimes, although the body is trying hard to take care of us and help us survive, trauma responses become maladaptive: they may cause us to feel anxious all the time, develop insomnia or even change the way we think. Certain somatic techniques, like deep breathing or other forms of mindfulness, have been shown to slow our body’s natural response to stress and increase feelings of stability.
What is EFT?
One of those techniques is called the emotional freedom technique, first introduced in 1995. Although it sounds fancy or even idealistic by title, the technique is simple and merely requires you to tap your fingers on different pressure points called “acupoints” on your body while acknowledging a problem/stressor. There are nine acupoints on the body on the face, neck and chest areas. By tapping on these acupoints while speaking or thinking of a meaningful stressor or memory, we are somatically interrupting a conditioned fear response and reintegrating with a new, more regulated response. The basic recipe for using the emotional freedom technique can be viewed here. You can follow the videos and instructions to try it at home or the technique can be incorporated into therapy.
How Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) can help you
Using the emotional freedom technique (EFT) for anxiety or when experiencing a trauma response or panic attack can help reduce distressing feelings in a similar way to acupuncture or acupressure. However, it is currently supported by empirically sound research and endorsed by the American Psychological Association as an evidence-based treatment. In randomized control trials, the emotional freedom technique has been shown to significantly reduce self-reported anxiety, depression and overall symptom severity. Further, the emotional freedom technique has been shown to improve the daily experience of chronic pain by reducing pain perception. For some, a reduction in pain perception can greatly lift feelings of hopelessness and improve the subjective quality of life.
The emotional freedom technique has also been shown to decrease overall levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in the body and, in combination with other psychotherapies, decrease symptoms of PTSD across all domains. By reducing the body’s overall level of stress via cortisol, studies are finding that EFT is a useful tool in general stress management. By reducing overall stress, overall physical and mental health may improve. Thus, when a trauma or stressor occurs, not only can we be healthier in the face of it; we can be more resilient.
Psychological or neuroscience jargon aside, the emotional freedom technique is a cost-effective treatment for individuals who want to reduce anxiety, fear, depression, chronic pain and/or trauma/PTSD symptoms.
Learn more about EFT here.
EFT Links and Resources
About the Author
Lucy Moore is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist (aMFT) at Well Clinic in San Francisco. In her words, “I am here to help you build on your strengths, cultivate resilience, and provide tools for communication and conflict resolution.”