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Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any negative side effects or abreactions?

Important Note: This article was written prior to 2010 and is now outdated. Please use my newest advancement, Optimal EFT. It is more efficient, more powerful and clearly explained in my free e-book, The Unseen Therapist™.  Best wishes, Gary

Are there any negative side effects or abreactions?

By comparison to almost any other process, EFT is quite gentle and rarely has any serious side effects. It is often used instead of other procedures, such as EMDR, TIR or "Flooding" because of its gentle nature. In 1997, an informal questionnaire was put out to 250 therapists asking for descriptions of significant abreactions with EFT or TFT. Out of an estimated 10,000 applications of these energy tapping procedures only 20 such cases were reported. This approximates 2/10 of 1%. This informal questionnaire is not put forward as an official study and therefore does not suggest that there is minimal risk involved. Anyone using EFT must assume full responsibility for their results and is advised to mention to clients the possibility of abreaction or other negative effects.

Here is another article on this subject which appeared on our EFT email support list...

Don't go where you don't belong

Hi Everyone,

This is an important message and I have spent many hours writing and rewriting it to "get it right". Fortunately, what I have to say here is obvious common sense and 99% of you already understand what I have to say.

The bottom line here is that we need to use common sense with EFT and NOT apply it to people with serious issues UNLESS we have the appropriate experience to do so. While our fascination with these procedures gives us much cause for enthusiasm, we must weigh that enthusiasm against some common sense caveats. Let me explore both sides of this issue.

First, one of the delightful aspects of EFT (and its many cousins) is that, for the vast majority of people, it can be applied with little or no pain. Its gentle nature has prompted numerous psychologists to write books on the topic so that the lay public will have access to these procedures. And why not? Why deny the public access to tools that are so often transformative on so many issues...and...for most people is gentle and easy to apply?

Consider, for example, that....

Therapists are routinely teaching the process to their clients for use at home.

Teachers are learning it for use with their students.

Coaches are learning it for use with their athletes.

Parents are learning it for use with their children.

Physicians are learning it for pain management with their patients.

Massage practitioners are blending it with their existing procedures for longer and more lasting results.

Spiritual leaders are applying it to those in need.

Chiropractors, acupuncturists and homeopathy practitioners are augmenting their practices and teaching it to patients for self use.

And so on it goes...

I don't know for sure how many tapping enthusiasts are now using these procedures in behalf of others but I would estimate that it exceeds 100,000 and it has probably been applied over 1 million times worldwide.

This wouldn't happen, of course, unless (1) substantial results were being received and (2) perceived dangers, or negative side effects, were minimal.

While no experienced EFT'er can deny seeing substantial results, not everyone is aware that, infrequently, there CAN BE negative side effects--sometimes severe.

Let me explain.

Some people have been so badly traumatized and/or abused in their lifetimes that they have developed severe psychological problems.... such as multiple personalities, paranoia, schizophrenia and other serious mental disorders. While EFT has been helpful even in such severe cases, IN THESE INSTANCES IT SHOULD ONLY BE APPLIED BY A QUALIFIED PROFESSIONAL WITH EXPERIENCE IN THESE DISORDERS.

Why? Because some of these patients experience "abreactions" whereby they go out of control. During abreactions they can be harmful to themselves and others and may need to be sedated or hospitalized. This, obviously, is no place for the matter how enthusiastic one might be with the tapping procedures.

Incidentally, we don't know yet whether tapping actually causes such abreactions or if it is just the memory of one's troublesome issues that precipitates such problems. Nonetheless, if you have no experience in these areas, please don't go where you don't belong.

How often do these abreactions happen? In a psychiatric hospital they are common. In everyday society they are rare. I recently called several proficient tappers that have dealt with a wide variety of emotional problems and learned that less than 1 in 1,000 clients had experienced such a severe abreaction.

This minimal percentage is given for perspective only. It is not to suggest that EFT'ers should "play the odds" and "go where they don't belong". On the contrary, a novice EFT'er should use common sense and NOT TRY TO ALLEVIATE AILMENTS THAT ARE BEYOND THEIR CAPACITY OR TRAINING.

I am well known for the phrase "Try it on everything!" This phrase appears in the EFT manual, The EFT Course and on our web site. Its purpose, of course, is to open up our minds to EFT's possibilities. It is not meant as a license for irresponsible actions. Fortunately, people interpret this within a reasonable context and do not, for example, use EFT to get someone to fly off the Empire State Building.

On some occasions, people undergoing EFT have normal tears or other forms of distress that accompany the recalling of their troublesome memories. On other occasions some physical pains "get worse"--at least temporarily. The proficient and experienced professional will greet these responses as normal and appropriately apply EFT for their resolution. Again, when these responses occur, common sense must prevail. If the EFT'er is in over their head, they should refer the client to someone with more experience.

With this in mind, let me mention (1) my own approach to clients and (2) some gentler ways of using EFT. These are meant as guidelines for your possible use. You must, of course, take full responsibility for your own use of EFT (or any other healing procedure).

1. My own approach to clients: I NEVER ASSUME EFT IS TAKING THE PLACE OF MEDICINE OR ANY OTHER FORM OF HEALING PROCEDURE. While I am consistently astonished at some of the results with EFT, I recognize that there is much I don't know. Who am I to even remotely think that I know everything there is to know in the healing field? I may see astonishing results with EFT that are simply not explainable by the medical model, for example, and I may genuinely think that other disciplines should pay attention to what we are doing. But, in no case, does my observation mean the client should ignore other advice.

My mental set is that a problem may be relieved by approaching it energetically and I am often right....headaches vanish, nightmares disappear, phobias fade and so on. But it is never done with the thought that the client should discontinue their medications or not seek out the advice of others. That is up to the client and their advisors. My self talk, which usually comes out of my mouth as well, goes something like....

"Let's give this a try and see what happens."

My expectation is that we will get good results and my hope is that the client will tell their other advisors about it. In that way, the word spreads even faster. I WANT the other advisors involved. Everyone wins when this happens.

2. Gentler ways of using EFT:

For those interested, there are some sections on our web site that deal with some of these issues. Go to.....

Also, here are some specific techniques to add gentleness...

a. Use tapping to "take the edge off" before one gets into the issue. This, to me, can be very important and is described in detail in many places on our web site including...

b. The Tearless Trauma Technique which is described at....

c. Break down global issues (e.g. PTSD) into the SPECIFIC EVENTS in one's life (e.g. war memories) and tap on those individual SPECIFIC EVENTS one by one until the global issue collapses. Here is something I wrote on this recently...

"Generally speaking, the more specific the issue, the quicker the resolution. That is one of the reasons why I have argued for breaking down a broad issue such as PTSD or Anxiety into the SPECIFIC EVENTS that typically cause the more global problem. Each SPECIFIC EVENT is often resolved within 1 to 5 rounds of tapping and, after several SPECIFIC EVENTS have been collapsed, there appears to be a GENERALIZATION EFFECT that collapses the rest of the global problem."

Hugs, Gary

Also, here is another article I posted to another email list on this subject. It was written in response to Joaquin Andrade, MD, from Uruguay whose clients tend to be severely emotionally damaged and commonly abreact even without a healing method.

Dear Joaquin,

Upon reading of the abreactions that you, Maarten and others reported after using tapping techniques I became concerned. This was especially so because, after doing this for 11 years and applying it a few thousand times myself, I have never seen an abreaction. "Was I that out to lunch on this issue?", I thought.

So I called several EFT practitioners (both licensed and unlicensed) to explore their experiences on this regard. Altogether, these practitioners have used tapping procedures on over 5,000 people and have taught EFT to over 500 other practitioners (both licensed and unlicensed). NONE of them has ever experienced an abreaction and NONE of them has ever had a trainee call them with a reported abreaction. [Note: I defnined abreaction in these explorations to EXCLUDE tears of other forms of distress that normally occur in a healing session (and that subside with further tapping or the mere passage of time). I INCLUDED in the definition such things as uncontrollable panic attacks, incoherency, inability to perform their occupation for a few days or hospitalization.]

In addition, I noted that Dr. John Diepold and Dr. Phil Friedman reported to you (via an email list) that they have been applying tapping procedures consistently over a combined 14 years and, between them, they reported only 1 abreaction.

If you will permit my engineer's left brain to speak for a moment, this paucity of abreactions easily qualifies as a statistical non-event. It would be an unrealistic stretch to conclude that tapping causes abreactions when only 1 such abreaction is reported out of thousands upon thousands of applications spanning a period of over 10 years. Rather, this informal finding clearly falls into the "random event" category.

This is not to negate your experience. On the contrary, if someone of your stature and dedication finds abreactions and other "horror stories" (your term) while using tapping procedures, I think we are obligated to investigate why. I consider myself qualified to assess the statistical lack of proof mentioned above but do not consider myself an authority on the "why's and wherefor's" of abreactions. This is because (1) I have no formal training in this field, (2) I possess no conventional credentials or licensing and (3) I have never even seen an abreaction.

That being said, I would like to offer some thoughts along these lines for you and other learned readers to consider. The most obvious thought is that the population you deal with appears to contain an above average concentration of severely emotionally disadvantaged people. We are talking DID, BiPolar disorders, Schizophrenia and the like. These patients, in my understanding, abreact with great frequency and, at least in the USA, can often be found in psychiatric hospitals BECAUSE they abreact so often and so intensely. In many cases, members of this client population abreact while seeing something disagreeable in a movie or on TV. At other times they have "out of the blue" intrusive thoughts or flashbacks with no obvious trigger. Basically, they can, and do, abreact whether or not they are undergoing a tapping session.

Now, I don't walk in your shoes and have never been in a psychiatric hospital in my life (except, perhaps, the VA hospital in Los Angeles). Nor am I face to face with your patients when all this is happening. Thus any thoughts I may have on this matter must be speculative. However, it appears logical to me that many members of your client population would abreact under almost ANY form of therapeutic intervention. After all, these interventions, by their very nature, serve to tune the patient in to their troublesome issues.

Further, you have administered tapping procedures to nearly 30,000 patients and, if I understand correctly, approximately 30 have exhibited these intense abreactions. Percentage wise, that is only 1/10 of 1% out of a population that is much more prone to abreactions than the "garden variety" traumas, fears, etc. that constitute the clients of most practitioners. Even if you have witnessed 10 times as many abreactions, that is still a mere 1% out of a population that commonly abreacts. Unless there is something I'm not seeing (very possible) this is still statistically insignificant for this population.

The above are speculations of mine and I offer them as food for dialogue. Some questions that might arise here are...

1. Could this low percentage of abreactions be caused by something other than tapping (e.g. a random flashback that happens to occur while tapping, a reaction to a practitioner, a smell in the room, a phrase that triggers a memory and so on)?

2. What percentage of abreactions do you get with other therapeutic interventions and how does that compare with the percentage that occurs during a tapping session? Could it be that other interventions would trigger as many, or even more, abreactions?

3. If these abreactions occur while tapping (and thus tapping appears as the "obvious trigger"), why doesn't 75% or more of this abreaction prone population exhibit these intense behaviors? Why is it such a tiny percentage? What else may be happening? If, indeed, tapping causes abreactions, shouldn't abreactions show up most of the time while tapping an abreaction prone population?

I have much more to discuss on these issues and will write more soon.

With the greatest respect, Gary


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