The Emotional Freedom Technique refers to a putative therapeutic process meant to heal the mind and cure a host of psychological and physical maladies. The method through which this is allegedly achieved is akin to acupuncture but without needles. During sessions, the practitioner attempts to manipulate the client’s undefined energy field by tapping on make-believe meridians while the client focuses on a specific bad memory.
According to the primary EFT website, the practitioner will tap on “end points of the body’s energy meridians,” a vacuous term and an undefined concept. The purported aim is to stimulate acupressure points by pressuring, tapping, or rubbing these points while focusing on situations that represent personal fear or trauma. This is unsupported by any evidence, in addition to being unfalsifiable. Stopping a random person at the street, pressing on a random place on their body, and seeing what post hoc reasoning one could arrive at would produce the same results.
Gary Craig created the technique, which he considers to be energy healing. There is no way to define, license, or regulate such a healer, and there are no standards or uniform training methods. Put another way, if you say you’re an energy healer, you are.
Craig’s website claims EFT “applies to just about every emotional and physical issue you can name and often works where nothing else will.” Such a wide-ranging claim is a pseudoscientific giveaway. Genuine medicine will treat a specific condition through a means or product that is the result of research and double blind studies. For example, Tylenol can help with a backache because of the healing properties of acetaminophen, which has been shown in repeated double blind studies. It will not help with a wide array of physical and emotional issues, nor will any other actual medicine.
Though not quite as telling, the claim that it can work when nothing else will is also a alternative medicine red flag. Because of the cyclical nature of some illnesses and conditions, a person may have already tried three techniques or medicines when they get around to giving EFT or other alt-med idea a shot. It might seem to work, but perhaps only because the condition has run its course. Without multiple double blind studies suggesting efficiency, there is no way to know if a medicine or technique is working.
When my middle child was a Kindergartner, there was an evening where he was experiencing body aches and a fever. It was midnight so all the stores were closed and we were out of medicine, so we gave him absolutely nothing. In the morning, the pain and fever were gone. Had he used EFT or a similar unproven idea, we could well have credited the technique, raved about it to our friends, and made our anecdote one of many on an EFT-promoting website. This highlights one of the reasons double blind studies are crucial and, as James Randi put it, why the plural of anecdote is not data.
Proponents claim EFT works by balancing, blocking, and rerouting energy. They do not explain what type of energy, how this energy is accessed, how it would be balanced, blocked, or rerouted, or why this would be beneficial.
Elsewhere on the site, there is this appeal to antiquity: “Gary’s discovered what traditional healers have known for millennia.” To balance this out, there is an appeal to novelty highlighting quantum physics, again without explaining how it would be used to help. Craig also tries to piggyback on one of the all-time greats by including an Einsteinian reference to energy. Completing this logical fallacy romp, Craig employs the Galileo Gambit, chastising doctors, especially those in the West, for ignoring energy healing.
The website also gloats about EFT’s the lack of side effects. That’s because there are no effects of any kind since it is not medicine. Any genuine medicine by definition is going to be impacting the body in some way. If someone claims a medicine could never have side effects they are either lying or misinformed or it is not medicine.
EFT might have value as relaxation technique but one could get that for free by lying on a couch at home, burning incense, and listening to flute music.