5 Tips for More Effective Tapping with EFT

How to Avoid Common Mistakes People Make When Using Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) on Their Own

By: Christine McDevitt, MS, OTR/L


EFT is deceptively simple. At first glance, it seems like nothing more than tapping your fingers on your face or body while you’re talking. Yet many people who try tapping discover how powerful EFT can be.

However, some people try EFT on their own only to be unimpressed with the results they get for themselves. They wrongly conclude that tapping doesn’t work at all.

The truth is that EFT is more complex than it appears. EFT stands for Emotional Freedom Techniques – plural. The acupressure point tapping routine itself is just one piece of a larger puzzle.

While working with a skilled, certified practitioner is always recommended for more intense work, you can still use the tapping routine to address some issues on your own. (If you have more serious mental health concerns, always check with your doctor or mental health provider first to make sure EFT is appropriate for you.)

Here are five tips to make your tapping more effective.

Tapping on side of hand point during a round of Emotional Freedom Techniques. Tips for more effective tapping with EFT.

1. Choose only one issue or event to work on at a time.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when tapping is they choose something to work on that’s too big to tackle in one piece. EFT is less effective when done this way.

For example, let’s say you broke your leg in a car accident, and you want to use EFT to stop the anxiety that you feel when you think about it.

If you tap on “the accident” as one big event, you may feel some relief but won’t get to the key pieces of that event that are keeping your reaction to it (i.e., the anxiety) locked in your nervous system.

A more effective approach is to break the event up into smaller chunks and start tapping on just one of those chunks. The big event of “the accident” has many smaller pieces that form the entire incident.

Those pieces might include seeing the other car getting too close, feeling the impact when the crash occurred, or being removed from the car by first responders.

Working with one piece of an incident or issue at a time will get you the best long-term results.

2. Start with an issue that feels manageable when you think about it.

Some people mistakenly believe you need to start with the most intense, painful issues of your life for EFT to be useful. When people approach tapping this way, they often end up feeling completely overwhelmed and emotionally drained.

This is a preventable problem.

In fact, one of the benefits of using EFT is that – when done correctly – it provides a way to address painful issues without going down an endless emotional rabbit hole.

Addressing the most painful pieces of an issue on your own can be risky, especially if your starting level of distress when you think about them is greater than a 6 on a 0 to 10 intensity scale.

This is because every time you think about a memory that has a high emotional intensity associated with it – either positive or negative – the pathways in the brain that link the memory with that emotion get reinforced.

If this memory is associated with upsetting emotions, you increase the chances of re-experiencing those emotions while tapping.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But you don’t want to start tapping on a deeply upsetting issue only to wind up in a downward emotional spiral that you can’t easily get out of on your own.

That spiraling will reinforce the neural pathways that link the upsetting emotion to the memory – which is the opposite of what you want to do.

So, keep your tapping focused on issues within your window of emotional tolerance.

If you’re not sure that you can effectively use EFT on your own to address an issue without going into an emotional tailspin, consider working with a certified EFT practitioner to address it safely.

3. Be specific.

When using EFT, the more specific you are with your tapping focus, the more effective your results will be.

If you wanted to buy a car and did a Google search for “car dealer,” you would literally get millions of results that fit your inquiry. That’s not the most efficient way to meet your goal.

But, if you entered “Nissan car dealer” and your zip code, your results would be much more targeted and useful. When it comes to tapping, the brain works the same way.

Let’s say you start to feel anxious when you think about a car accident you had. That’s good to notice. But while tapping on the general feeling of anxiety will help you calm down in the moment, it won’t result in lasting change in the nervous system. You need to be more specific.

There may be several elements that cause the anxiety to show up. Choose one element and tap on that. An example might be the memory of seeing the other car getting dangerously close to yours.

The anxious feeling is linked to a specific trigger – seeing the approaching car. That link is a specific connection in your brain. Targeting specific connections makes tapping more effective at eliminating unwanted reactions or sensations.

Sometimes tapping in a more general way can be useful if you’re feeling overwhelmed and need to just calm down quickly. But if you’re looking to address the root cause of an issue, specificity is key.

4. Don’t force yourself to say anything that doesn’t feel true to you.

Being honest with yourself is important to getting great results with EFT.

Typically, to start a round of EFT you state the problem or issue you’re focusing on and follow it with a counterbalance or reframing statement. A common reframe statement is “I accept myself.”

So, an example of a full set up statement might be, “Even though I have this painful, burning sensation in my right hand, I accept myself.”

Here’s the catch: some people are uncomfortable using statements about accepting themselves because it doesn’t feel true for some reason.

Saying something that doesn’t resonate with you can cause an inner conflict: part of you wants the statement to be true, and part of you – for whatever reason – knows it’s not. This kind of inner tension increases stress and is counterproductive.

A better option is to choose a phrase that feels true in your body when you say it. Some alternatives to “I accept myself” might be “I have compassion for myself” or “I’m just noticing what’s going on, and, in this moment, I’m still okay.”

Truthfulness is more important than perfection when it comes to tapping statements. Choose something that feels right for you. You can always change it as you go.

5. Be mindful of your pacing when you tap.

If you’ve watched videos of someone doing EFT, you may have noticed that some people move through the points very quickly when they tap.

While moving quickly isn’t wrong, it’s also not essential for tapping to work. In fact, the increased speed can cause some people to feel rushed and more anxious.

There is no research supporting either fast or slow tapping speed with EFT, so go at a pace that feels good to you. Rushing through the points doesn’t make the process more effective.

Tapping can be an effective tool for stress management and for doing your own work on your known, manageable-but-unresolved issues. If you’re running into blocks or need to address more complex issues, it’s recommended that you work with a certified clinical EFT practitioner to get the best results in the safest way.