Tapping Into Emotional Freedom Technique (CS27)

This week on Cracked Science: can tapping
your body at specific points heal you? I�ll tap into the principle of charity to
look at the evidence we�ve got. Hey, this is Jonathan Jarry and you�re watching
Cracked Science, the show from the McGill Office for Science and Society that separates
sense from nonsense on the scientific stage. Today, I want to discuss tap. No, sorry, I should�ve said �tapping�! No� this t� No, that�s Amanda Tapping. Tapping as in the healing practice. It is a technique that consists in tapping
with your fingertips on specific meridian points while talking through traumatic memories
and a wide range of emotions There are various flavours of tapping, so
you may have heard it called �acupoint tapping�, or �emotional freedom technique�, or �thought field therapy�, �EFT�, �TFT�, and it�s part of a general umbrella called
�energy psychology�. In its simplest form, it consists of 5 steps,
and I�ll use a very pertinent example to guide you through them. Step 1: Identify the issue that ails you. Some people think I�m dismissive, so I�ll
focus on that. Step 2: Rate your issue on a scale from 1
to 10, 10 being the most severe. My dismissiveness is probably at an 8 right
now. Step 3: Repeat the following phrase, �Even
though I am dismissive, I deeply and completely accept myself.� Step 4: Tap out a very specific sequence at
specific points on your body while repeating the mantra. �Even though I am dismissive, I deeply and
completely accept myself. Even though I am dismissive, I deeply and
completely accept myself.� Step 5: See if your issue went down in intensity. Oh, look, my dismissiveness now feels like
it�s a 5. If you type in �EFT tapping� into YouTube,
you will see the following kinds of claims being made right in the thumbnails: clearing fear and worries, losing weight,
clearing money blocks, and even using tapping for serious diseases And I could easily tap into my smug dismissiveness,
crank it up to 11, and say, �Bah, this is obviously quackery, come on, people, wake
up and smell the vulture poo� (because they eat rotting meat, so the smell
can only get worse at the other end), but here�s the delicious twist. Putting aside the most egregious claims of
tapping and focusing on its potential to help with anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and depression,
the evidence actually *looks* quite convincing. First, you have many testimonials from people
who have tried it and claim that it has helped them Then there have been observational studies,
where scientists look at people who naturally gravitate toward tapping versus people who
try something else for their psychological problems, and there too there is evidence that tapping
works well. But even better than this, there are randomized
controlled trials�and we love RCTs� that also show tapping is superior to whatever
it was being compared to and, most frustrating of all for skeptics, there are meta-analyses that look well done
and that analyze all of the studies, weigh them according to their worth, and also come
to the conclusion that tapping works. I mean, this is exactly the type of evidence
that I often lament isn�t available for esoteric pseudosciences and yet, here it is
for tapping. But, you know what, I love a challenge, and
I bet you do too, so let�s figure out together what�s really going on. From 2000 to 2009, there was an initial wave
of skepticism against tapping, on blogs and specialty magazines, like Science
Blogs and the Skeptical Inquirer But even more interesting than that were peer-reviewed
publications by Danny McCaslin and by Gary Bakker that pointed out all that was wrong
in those early studies of tapping. There was a study where patients were allowed
to exit and re-enter the study, and that hadn�t been declared or corrected for. Another study looked at the phobia of small
animals and compared tapping to a type of breathing exercise that is not an established
therapy for phobia, so it�s a bit like me comparing tapping
to adding more windshield fluid for a flooded car engine. Windshield fluid is not a recognized solution
to a flooded car engine! A much better study for tapping was the �Waite
and Holder Study�, I am not making this up, though if they had
reversed the authors, it would have been �Holder and Waite�. Because there, the researchers compared tapping
on the right parts of the body with tapping on the wrong parts of the body with tapping
on a doll and with a control group that had to keep its tapping fingers to themselves. And lo and behold, compared to the control
group, every tapping group lowered their fear. McCaslin, who authored the meta-analysis that
looked at this study, concluded quite pithily that, �If we remove the tapping element, EFT is
nothing more than exposure therapy.� And what Waite and Holder or Holder and Waite
showed is critical here, and it has applications for all sorts of bizarre techniques we may
see online to help us deal with psychological issues, and it�s the importance of dismantling. Dismantling is removing pieces from a system,
one at a time, until it stops working, to see which pieces were essential to its functioning. So when it comes to tapping, we can dismantle
the whole procedure into three parts. The first part is all the non-specific stuff,
what we call the placebo response. It�s the fact that people want to please
the tapping therapist, the fact that they feel cared for by being part of a study, the
fact that symptoms naturally fluctuate. The second part is the psychological intervention. It�s the confronting of the problem and
the repetition of the mantra��I deeply and completely accept myself�. And that�s stuff that we know can help,
but it has nothing to do with tapping. And the third part is the tapping itself which,
by 2013 or so, didn�t look like it added anything to the benefits. This, by the way, has been called the �purple
hat fallacy�. If you have a headache and I give you aspirin
while wearing a purple hat, and your headache goes away, I say, �See? It�s because of the purple hat�. In this case, the tapping yourself on the
face would be the purple hat� or is it? Because since that initial wave of skepticism,
there have been better studies and better meta-analyses, and here�s a conclusion that
I see in them again and again: �Clinical EFT was highly effective�� �a significant decrease in anxiety scores� �an efficacious treatment for PTSD with
a variety of populations� And there�s even a study of studies conducted
by Dawson Church that looked at the purple hat fallacy: is tapping an active ingredient
in this whole technique or not? His conclusion? That it was an active ingredient. But here too, experts have looked at this
new wave of evidence. And here�s a long list of problems that
Dr. Edzard Ernst and the website HealthyButSmart found in these analyses: As you can see, these issues may not be obvious
to the casual reader who sticks to the conclusion, but an expert can see through the fog. It�s like if you�ve never owned a house
and you visit one that looks nice on the outside. A professional house inspector might find
flaws that you wouldn�t have noticed. And the thing to remember here is that, with
studies of studies, it�s garbage in, garbage out. If the studies are of poor quality, the meta-analysis
runs the risk of being misleading. If a house is built with low-quality material
using unqualified builders, it will look good from a distance but not so good upon closer
inspection. So what do we do when we have positive results
coming from weak studies that have been thoroughly criticized, but where there is no direct harm
to the person? Well, we look at plausibility. Given what we know about the human body, can
this work? Tapping is said to rely on meridian points
and, if you haven�t seen my video on traditional Chinese medicine, have a look after but, to summarize, meridians
were always a philosophical idea. The Ancient Chinese thought that, because
humans and nature resembled each other, the human body must have a circulatory system
similar to rivers. Of course, there is zero credible evidence
for the existence of meridians or qi but, even if there were, I find it particularly funny that acupuncturists
need to pierce your skin with needles to restore the flow of this mystical energy, whereas proponents of tapping have somehow
figured out that you don�t need needles! And I haven�t even mentioned laser acupuncture! It seems to me that these non-existent meridians
can be modified in whichever way is convenient to the therapist. If tapping is all it takes, I have to wonder
how many qi points we inadvertently mess with when we shower, work out, have sex, and dance! I have tried to look at the best evidence
for tapping that we have, but if we scratch that surface, you�ll notice that the whole
thing starts to smell more and more of quackery. If you look at studies on tapping, you will
notice a name that pops up again and again: Dawson Church, whom I mentioned before. This guy has a Ph.D. in natural medicine from
the famous Universal University, and is a Doctor of Theology in Integrative Healthcare
from a university that is mostly a distance-learning institution. And a quick look at his website should be
enough to understand that this guy has skin in the game. Combined with advice that watches can interfere
with tapping because of the electromagnetic field, and with the disclaimer at the bottom
of the website of the founder of tapping which states that �Gary Craig is not a licensed health professional
and offers EFT and all other methods on this website as an ordained minister and as a personal
performance coach� � I can�t take this seriously. So if you�re tempted to attend the 11th
Annual Tapping World Summit and to �Put Away the Skepticism� because �This Really
Works� Remember that skepticism is not a dirty word. It should always be on tap. If you worry I wasn�t fair to tapping and
want to read a much more comprehensive take on the technique, I would refer you to Nicolas
Ferrara�s article for HealthyButSmart entitled �Does Emotional Freedom Technique Do Anything?
A Review of the Research�. In it, he looks at the quality of studies
that tested tapping for stress, PTSD, headaches, weight loss, and athletic performance. The take-home messages are highlighted in
blue and you can find references for every study mentioned. Highly recommended. If you haven�t subscribed to our YouTube
channel, do click that button and ring that bell to get notifications. Don�t forget to join the thousands of people
who subscribe to our weekly newsletter by going to mcgill.ca/oss. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter
at cracked science and join us next time for science that may or may not be all it�s
cracked up to be.

2 thoughts on “Tapping Into Emotional Freedom Technique (CS27)

  • Someone just gave a speech about this at my work's Toastmasters club. Was a bit out there, but I figured, hey, whatever works. If you're feeling stressed, and you use this as a means of taking a time out, then great! But I'm thinking that tapping is as effective as anything else. When people are nervous, they pacify themselves by face touching, hand wringing, thigh rubbing, women touch their necks and men fix their ties. So, tapping seems like a nervous tic used deliberately to pacify stressful situations. In that regard, I'd say it does have merit, just not enough to have an annual tapping conference, which seems like essentially a conference dedicated to developing nervous tics.

  • Tapping (patting) a baby's back comforts them when they're upset and crying. It has been working to quiet babies for millennia.

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