Attune-Explore-Lead: The Functions of the Words Used While Tapping

Attune-Explore-Lead: The Functions of the Words Used While Tapping

Posted July 22, 2021

One of the biggest challenges in being an effective tapping practitioner comes down to this question: What words do I use (or ask my client to use) to accompany the tapping process?

Choosing the right words, phrases, or sentences based on an individual's temperament, history, and target problem or goal is often the critical difference between an effective tapping session and one that fails to create desired outcomes.

To uncover the ins and outs of the words and language used in conjunction with tapping, clinical psychologist David Feinstein, Ph.D., presents the first peer-reviewed report to examine the wording used during actual acupoint tapping sessions. The report analyzes hundreds of videotaped statements that were judged as moving a session in a positive direction.

Language and Psychotherapy

Language is an essential element in all kinds of therapy, and studies have shown our emotional as well as physical reactions to words can occur more quickly than our conscious minds can track or control. The skillful use of language during tapping therapy is a potent element in shifting a person's maladaptive perceptions, feelings, and behavior.

While no research has been conducted to show the precise impact of the words that accompany acupoint tapping, bringing greater focus to your use of language can be a significant step toward enhancing your effectiveness.

7 Outcomes of Acupoint Tapping

Based on a survey that was responded to by 294 members of the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology (ACEP), 7 key intended outcomes for the use of acupoint tapping were identified:

  • Eliminating an unwanted physiological/ emotional response to a specified trigger
  • Eliminating an unwanted physiological/ emotional response to a traumatic or otherwise difficult memory
  • Eliminating a maladaptive belief about self or how the world operates
  • Eliminating a maladaptive behavior habit
  • Eliminating emotional obstacles to reaching the desired goal
  • Shifting an unwanted baseline affective state (e.g., depression, generalized anxiety)
  • Establishing and reinforcing beliefs and behaviors that overcome a problem or support the desired goal.

The analysis of the wordings in the videotaped sessions showed a strong correspondence between the meaning of the words used and the intended outcomes reported in the ACEP survey. 10 major functions of the words used during the tapping sessions were identified. They fall neatly into 3 groupings: “attune,” “explore,” and “lead.”

10 Functions of Words Used While Tapping

These 3 therapeutic activities are well represented in clinical literature. As a therapist, you attune yourself to the client and the client's desires and experiences during your work together. You explore the issues related to the client's needs and goals to deepen your own and your client's understanding of them. And you lead the client toward more effective ways of addressing the pertinent issues.

Within these 3 broad categories, the 10 functions of effective wordings during a tapping session that were identified, worded as guidelines, include: 

ATTUNE yourself to the client's understanding of the issue and experience of the therapy:

  1. Restate the problem from multiple angles.
  2. Keep the process safe and attentive to the here and now of the therapeutic relationship.

EXPLORE to deepen this understanding for both yourself and the client:

  1. Identify, examine, and address the roots of the problem, its aspects, and related symbolism
  2. Investigate the problem's costs or double binds it creates
  3. Articulate dilemmas around overcoming the problem.

LEAD toward more effective ways of addressing the issues:

  1. Enhance emotional safety and self-acceptance
  2. Bolster confidence
  3. Build positive meaning or otherwise come to terms with aversive life events
  4. Particularly as arousal decreases, establish effective mental strategies for resolving pertinent issues
  5. Move toward desired outcomes.

Tapping during the "Attune" and "Explore" phases can reduce excessive emotion around targeted issues, while the "Lead" phase further drives psychotherapeutic change by introducing new or enhanced strategies for addressing and resolving pivotal situations and challenges in the client's life.

In Actual Practice

Of course in an actual treatment session the order of the wordings do not necessarily follow the "attune-explore-lead" sequence. Instead, a tapping session will likely move freely among statements designed to "attune," "explore," or "lead." However, it's worth noting that the attune-explore-lead triad does still represent a logical sequence that emerged as new topics were introduced into the treatment process.

While the paper provides a map for doing the detective work that is necessary for effectively treating tough conditions, an implication of the study is that tapping somehow embeds positive affirmations into the nervous system.

The Full Paper and Next Month’s Topic

This post is based on the research and discussion from David's paper, “Words to Tap By: The Use of Language in Energy Psychology Protocols."

The full paper is published in the journal Energy Psychology and includes detailed examples of beneficial statements in each of the 3 groupings -- Attune, Explore, Lead. The full paper is now available to you, our reader (by special arrangements with the journal, which is not usually "open access") as a free download.

If you have thoughts, ideas, insights, or experiences you'd like to share on this post or the full paper, please comment below. David will regularly review the comments and reply to those that move the discussion forward.

Next month's feature will focus on the use of tapping to address the psychological roots of physical illness and to promote the healing process. 

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A Very helpful and wonderful Essay! Thank you so much, Dr. Feinstein.

Vij Richards

I can see I have used your model with my clients as I attune to their issues and explore the different aspects that arise with each round of tapping. I’d also like to add that I consciously or sub consciously go back to attune before I lead. Just a check in to assess their readiness to reframe a thought, let go of a belief or emotional attachment to their story. Thank you David for always providing us with ways to take our practice to a new level of understanding.

Antonia Pfeiffer

Wow! I love this article! This is one of the best and insightful EFT articles I have read so far. As a Tapping professional from a different tapping technique I have always wondered what is the structure that is used with words in EFT? I watched many videos, listened to the summits and felt that I really “got it” on a nonverbal level. I could sense what was happening when the best of the best were applying it but it was hard for me to grasp with words. I am in love with how you captured it and also that it is put into the big 3 parts of the process. This makes it so easy to remember.

Thank you!

Marianne Hommel

This is wonderful and so useful. Thank you so much.


This is FABULOUS!!! Thank you!!!!