A Comparison of EFT and TFT  

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The two most prominent “meridian techniques” in the world are the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and Thought Field Therapy (TFT).

The Emotional Freedom Technique was developed by Gary Craig in the early to mid-nineties based on the earlier technique Thought Field Therapy which was developed by Dr. Roger Callahan. In 1991, Gary was one of the first people to study under Dr. Callahan to the highest TFT level (known as "Voice Technology") and used TFT for some time before he developed his "streamlined version" of the original technique.

It is important to note that TFT and EFT have both continued to develop and evolve independently since the emergence of EFT in the early-to-mid nineties. Gary Craig openly acknowledges in his EFT Manual that EFT is directly based on Dr. Roger Callahan’s pioneering and insightful work. The TFT web site is at www.rogercallahan.com

There are two parts to this article. The first section is a general comparison of the two techniques, their primary differences and similarities. The second part is more technical and detailed and may be of more interest to those who already have some familiarity with one or both of these techniques.

General Comparison

TFT and EFT are very similar in many respects, but they are different enough to stand alone as two separate techniques. There is room for both.

Both techniques involve (amongst some other things) tapping on specific acupressure points (known as “acupoints”) while tuning into or focusing attention on a particular emotion or emotional problem. The acupoints used by both techniques are mostly the same points.

The biggest difference between the two techniques is that TFT uses a different tapping sequence (known as an "algorithm") for each of a number of problem categories (such as anger, guilt, anxiety, etc.), whereas EFT employs the same tapping sequence (or a shortcut version of it) for every emotion or emotional problem. In TFT, each problem category has its own unique algorithm or set of algorithms (as some categories also have alternative algorithms within the same category such as obsessions, which has three algorithms).

In TFT, there is a HUGE emphasis on only tapping on the prescribed acupoints for a particular problem category (such as anger) and only in the prescribed sequence. Each unique sequence (algorithm) is likened to “a code that opens a combination lock”.

In EFT, the sequence is not considered to be important at all. It is the tapping itself that is seen as important, not the sequence. You tap on the same set of (about 14) acupoints (or a sub-set thereof) regardless of the emotion, trauma or problem being worked on. This is usually in the same sequence, but only because it's easy to remember. It can be any sequence or in any order. If all the points are tapped on, the acupoint or acupoints that are relevant to the current problem/emotion get tapped on by default.

TFT is more complex because of these multiple tapping sequences, one or more for each of the prescribed problem categories. Consequently, it is harder to learn, remember and apply than EFT. TFT also requires more skill to apply as there are over 20 problem categories to choose from (as taught in the level I and II TFT training available in Australia) and you can only tap on the specified acupoints using the prescribed algorithms - unless you are trained to Level III or IV which are confidential, rather expensive (e.g. $100,000 US for level IV) and are reportedly not available in Australia.

Feelings and emotions that are not specifically covered by any of the prescribed categories (such as disappointment, confusion, feeling rejected, and many others) can not be directly addressed with TFT as there are no prescribed algorithms for them (if you are only trained in the level I and II TFT algorithms). This can make it much more challenging to apply and self-apply TFT unless you are well trained and experienced. Please note that this is not a comment on the effectiveness of TFT.

Based on the officially approved TFT manual (for Levels I & II only), TFT does not allow you to tap on “presenting problems” such as “my money problem” or anything else that does not have its own algorithm(s) such as “tension in my shoulders” or “feeling shaky”. And, there are no algorithms for negative beliefs or attitudes. A skilled TFT facilitator would discuss these and “ask the right questions” to locate what categories are applicable (which can require a reasonably high skill level) and then do the appropriate algorithm(s).

By comparison, when using EFT, you can directly tap on literally any negative emotion or feeling, problem, condition, belief or event using the EFT tapping sequence. In EFT, the motto is to “try it on anything” and you can tap on virtually anything that has some emotional or energetic intensity (including a headache or “my money problem” or “feeling shaky”). EFT is a fully open and accessible subject with no expensive and confidential levels.

Having a single tapping sequence makes EFT simple and remarkably versatile. It is relatively easy to learn and apply which makes it suitable for self-applications. The EFT techniques for dealing with trauma are extremely effective and appear to have no parallel in TFT (in the TFT Levels I and II materials). EFT's flexibility allows it to be used for a wider variety of issues and also lends it to also be used for personal growth and to improve performance.

Preliminary Conclusions

Both of these energy techniques are highly effective and are state of the art as far as emotional healing is concerned.

Does the use of specific algorithms really make a difference? The answer to that depends on who you talk to and also on the skill of the practitioner. Based on my experience with and observations of these two techniques so far, they both work and EFT works as effectively and quickly as TFT. I have seen no evidence to date to support the idea that the use of unique targeted tapping sequences (algorithms) makes any difference at all.

After having used EFT full time for over two years in my practice, I paid for and did a level I & II TFT workshop to ascertain for myself (rather than take someone else's word for it) if the use of precise tapping sequences (algorithms) made a difference and, if so, to be better able to help my clients resolve their problems - especially those that are particularly resistant. I have seen no evidence to date that supports the idea that the use of algorithms is any more effective than the catch-all tapping sequence used in EFT. The assertion expressed in the TFT manual that if you don’t use the prescribed TFT algorithm(s) "it simply won't work” is an absurdly untrue statement and is easily disproved. On the few occasions when EFT did not work on a particular issue and I used the appropriate TFT algorithm(s), in each case, they didn't work either on any of those same issues.

I use EFT the bulk of the time (95%), but occasionally "throw in" a TFT algorithm, or tap randomly on acupoints for awhile, for good measure - but have still seen no evidence that the algorithms make a difference or are better in some way. EFT's flexibility allows both the practitioner and client to focus more on the issues or emotions being addressed (rather than on which algorithm to use) and to follow and work with the emotions or feelings that arise - as they arise, often one after the other (which is called a "daisy chain" in EFT). This is a HUGE advantage.

Some Technical Terms

To make sense of the technical comparison below, an understanding of the following terms will help. They also help to show the similarities and differences between the two techniques.

Polarity Reversal or Psychological Reversal (PR) is where the polarities in a person’s energy system is reversed, which can block progress. There are several corrections for PR (such as tapping or rubbing certain acupoints or “release points”) which, if successful, then allows the tapping to be effective.

The Nine Gamut sequence is a sequence of nine actions including eye movements, humming and counting while tapping on a point on the back of the hand called the “gamut point”. It is like brain gym and is believed to mobilize the brain’s resources and balance the right and left side of the brain.

The Gamut Spot or Point is a hollow on the back of the hand (near the two small knuckles) which is tapped on continuously while doing the Nine Gamut sequence or the Floor-to-Ceiling Eye Roll or as part of certain tapping sequences.

The Floor-to-Ceiling Eye Roll is a roll of the eyes upwards from the floor to the ceiling while tapping continuously on the gamut point. It is done to finish off when the intensity is low or to consolidate the work just done.

In EFT, the technique consists of two parts, the Setup and the Tapping Sequence. The Setup is done first and then immediately followed by one or two rounds of the tapping sequence. The setup includes making a statement like "Even though I have this problem (or emotion or whatever), I deeply and completely accept myself" while tapping or rubbing continuously on a specific acupoint (such as tapping the side of the hand or rubbing the "tender spot" below the collarbone). During the tapping sequence, the client usually expresses (out loud) the problem or feeling while tapping on each and every point throughout the sequence. Thus, the setup is done first and then followed by the tapping and the feeling/problem is spoken repeatedly throughout the whole sequence.

In TFT, the tapping is mostly done in silence and corrections for PR are only done after doing some tapping and only when the tapping has not worked or there was little reduction in intensity.

Procedural Examples

If you examine how the two techniques are actually done, as outlined below, you will see how similar they are and also how they differ.

A typical example of the TFT procedure is as follows (having already identified a category that most closely fits the problem or event):

  1. Tune into the emotion, problem or event (i.e. think about it).
  2. Rate its severity (at this moment) on a scale from 1 to 10.
  3. Do the tapping sequence (algorithm) for that particular category.
  4. Check the severity rating again. If little or no change, do an appropriate correction for Polarity Reversal (PR) and repeat the algorithm (step 3). Note: There is more than one "PR correction" that can be used if needed.
  5. When the severity has dropped adequately, do the Nine Gamut sequence while tapping on the gamut spot.
  6. Do the tapping sequence (algorithm) again.
  7. Check the severity rating. If still not a 1, do some more PR correction and repeat all the steps (from step 3).
  8. To finish off, do the Floor-to-Ceiling Eye Roll while tapping the gamut point.

The above was summarized from the TFT book "Tapping the Healer Within" by Roger J. Callahan, Ph.D.

A typical example of how the full EFT technique is done follows:

  1. Locate a negative emotion, feeling, problem, belief or event.
  2. Rate its intensity on a scale of 0 to 10.
  3. Do “the Setup” (see above) while continuously doing a PR correction, and then
  4. Do the full EFT tapping sequence, followed by the 9-Gamut sequence and the full tapping sequence again.
  5. Now, rate its intensity again (as it is right now) on a scale of 0 to 10.
  6. Do the steps 3 to 5 again on “the remainder” (if needed) to further reduce it.
  7. Do the Floor-to-ceiling Eye Roll if the intensity is below 2 to finish it off.

The above example was summarized from the EFT manual from Gary Graig.

Note: Many EFT practitioners use a shortcut version of the above, which speeds the application of the process up somewhat. The parts that are sometimes left out are: (i) Only doing part of the full tapping sequence (specifically, not including any of the finger or hand points), and/or (ii) Not doing the 9-Gamut sequence, and/or (iii) Only doing the tapping sequence once before re-checking the intensity. The parts left out (such as the 9-Gamut sequence) can be included later if they are considered needed (such as when a particular feeling is only reducing slowly). More often than not, only a shortcut version of EFT is required to resolve most emotions or feelings.

Technical Comparison

This section is more for those who are familiar with the nuts and bolts of one or both of these techniques and how they are done. It is somewhat technical.

The similarities are many:

Overall, the two approaches are very similar (which is not surprising). Even though they look very similar, especially in the mechanics of how each is done, there are significant differences in what is emphasized and in HOW they are done or used in actual sessions.

The main differences include:

My Experience

My practitioner and counselling background goes back over thirty years and I have used many different techniques over that time period. My experience with EFT and TFT is as follows: I did my initial EFT workshop in November 2000 and a more advanced EFT workshop in January 2001, and have been using it consistently with my clients since then. I have used EFT over 10,000 times with over 1000 clients so far and have also been teaching EFT in workshops since June 2001.

I purchased Dr. Roger Callahan’s TFT book “Tapping the Healer Within” in mid-2002, read it thoroughly and experimented with it intermittently thereafter. In April 2003, I did a two-day "Approved TFT Seminar" and am now certified to Level I and Level II. Since then, I have tested both techniques extensively but now use EFT almost all of the time due to its ease of use and consistent results, especially with self-applications of EFT and with trauma and complex problems. When I observe an emotion or problem that neatly matches a TFT category, I occasionally also "throw into the mix" the appropriate algorithm(s) and see if that helps. However, I have also found random tapping to be just as effective.

The bottom line is, the Emotional Freedom Techniques and Thought Field Therapy both work and both are amazingly effective when skilfully, and sometimes persistently, applied. It is my view that it is best to learn EFT first and get confident at using it, and then, if you want to expand your "toolkit", do a TFT workshop and/or to learn another energy technique such as the Tapas Acupressure Technique (TAT) or Be Set Free Fast (BSFF). EFT is easier to get into and gives you a solid foundation to further build your confidence and skills on. I am trained in and use all four of these energy techniques and each has its own angles or emphases, which all add to our toolkits (regardless of which one is being used). And, all of them can be self-applied.

I welcome any comments and feedback on this comparison. Just click here to email me. So, far the feedback has acknowledged that this is generally a fair comparison, except for one somewhat fanatical TFT practitioner.

Peter Graham

August the 8th, 2003. Last revised: 22nd of December 2011

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