How Tappers See Tapping

How Tappers See Tapping

Posted June 24, 2021

Tapping on acupuncture points while saying specific statements aloud is a powerful tool for resolving mental, emotional, and physical difficulties. More than 120 clinical trials show the approach (which falls under the category of “Energy Psychology”) to be fast and effective in producing strong outcomes.

But how can tapping on the skin make a difference? It looks strange and seems like wishful thinking, yet informed estimates suggest that millions of people worldwide have experienced substantial positive change!

To unravel the mysteries of tapping, a new in-depth analysis by psychologist David Feinstein, Ph.D., examined the reports of more than 800 practitioners and clients who participated in 15 studies based on interviews or online surveys.

One of the least surprising but most encouraging findings was that the majority of the practitioners (therapists, counselors, and life coaches) agreed with the research demonstrating that tapping protocols are unusually rapid.

Single session cures of longstanding phobias and other conditions are not uncommon. In fact, one of the complaints expressed by the practitioners is that because improvements are often so fast, the technique is being oversold in some of the materials promoting it. This sets unrealistic expectations for clients and gives professionals reason to be suspicious.

Nonetheless, studies show significant improvement in serious conditions like PTSD in fewer sessions than conventional treatments like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as well as higher success rates.

To put the speed of the approach into perspective, one of the therapists reported that before he introduced tapping into his practice, he would spend up to 4 years working with clients struggling with the effects of childhood sexual abuse. But with tapping, he estimated that equivalent types of progress “can be completed in 6 months.”

Any treatment that works with those who have experienced severe trauma may risk retraumatizing the person and doing more harm than good. However, the participants in these studies reported that tapping provided the most powerful tool available to them for guiding clients through trauma and the emotional wounds caused by abuse, assault, and even warfare, without retraumatizing them.

For instance, 12 licensed psychologists who use tapping were asked in a detailed survey about patients who had undergone severe emotional trauma in childhood. All 12 reported that although they might use other methods to help teach topics like assertiveness or coping skills, of the many approaches available to them, they found tapping to be the most effective not only for reducing fear, stress, anxiety, sleep difficulties, and the frequency of flashbacks, their clients were able to safely recall their traumatic experiences without being re-triggered.

An interesting theme that was highlighted in the analysis was the use of tapping for addressing physical illnesses. One of the cases reported was of a woman who was diagnosed with cancer in the area of her throat. She sought the services of a tapping therapist in part to help with her terror about the radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

This was accomplished in just a couple of sessions, but the treatment also uncovered a lifelong pattern of her not speaking up or speaking her truth.

In order to examine the links between her suppressed verbal expression (“shoving my truths down my throat,” “keeping what I need to say under my tongue”) and the cancer in the area of her throat, tongue, and vocal cords, the therapist asked her to imagine what was happening in and around her throat.

At first, she saw heavy black tar and cobwebs. As the emotional charges began to lift, the imagery changed until she had a sense of spaciousness and light moving through her throat area . . . the tar and cobwebs were gone.

This was reflected in her CT scans, which far exceeded her oncologist’s expectations, particularly since she had discontinued radiation against his advice and also refused a recommended course of chemotherapy. Rather than increasing in size, all the masses had shrunk, some up to 50%!

Besides speed, safety, and working with physical illness, other themes addressed in the analysis included where to focus the treatment, the use of language, the client-therapist relationship, dealing with resistance to tapping, suggested cautions, what to do when the therapist is triggered by a client’s issues, integrating tapping with other modalities, and the enhanced intuition and spiritual attunement that therapists reported after learning the approach.

This post is based on research and findings from David’s recent paper “Perceptions, Reflections, and Guidelines for Using Energy Psychology: A Distillation of 800+ Surveys and Interviews with Practitioners and Clients.” The full paper is published in the journal Energy Psychology and available to our readers (by special arrangements with the journal, which is not normally “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 article will address one of the trickiest skill sets for tappers, and that is: What words do you use or ask your client to use to accompany the tapping?

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Diane D

Thank you for this comprehensive review. I greatly appreciate the extrapolations from well-documented survey results with professional analysis that also includes therapeutic alliance points and the spirituality aspects. I look forward to more of your articles.

Antonia Pfeiffer

Wow! I did not know yet that there was work done on safety in tapping. I always suspected it to be less retraumatizing than other techniques but still it amazes me. I also love the highlight of the comfort for the therapist. That is such a big theme!!! Because we are all humans and can get triggered and it is so important that the therapist stays or returns to a feeling of comfort.
Also I am super interested to learn more on how to adress physical issues. And to start working with this. In your experience: is it “better” to start focusing on the symptom or on the overall life situation? Do you recommend a book for this question? Thank you for all the effort you put into this! So great we get the goodies in this very digest able way!

David Feinstein

Thank you Antonia. Yes enhanced safety for the client and comfort for the practitioner seem to be special strengths of an energy psychology approach, in part, I feel, because you can modulate the intensity moment by moment. As to addressing physical issues, that is a large topic and will be the theme of our August article. Whether it is “better to start focusing on the symptom or overall life issue depends on the situation and the flow of the session. In my experience, however, wherever you start, what needs to happen will emerge. If you focus on the symptom and unresolved emotional events from the past need to be addressed, they will come up, usually quite explicitly, often when the person is giving the SUD rating between rounds.