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EFT / SET and the Role of Energy in Therapy

By Dr David Lake and Steve Wells
The presence and flow of energy around and within the body has been extolled by ancient cultures, notably the Indian and Chinese, although single-word definitions can't begin to illuminate innate subtle meaning.

The Hindus call it prana and the Chinese call it Qi. While Western science has found no conclusive proof of the organisation of energy systems, bioenergy has been discovered to be vital to pain perception, healing and regeneration. Authorities regard it as belonging to the Universal energy field as well as to the organism; there is connection and flux.

Bioenergy paradigms conceptualise disease as a "disruption" of energy exchange, and "intoxication" of the body, especially through stress. Healing is based on the principle of conducting cosmic energy through the healer, in particular the hands, eyes, thoughts and words. Qi creates order out of chaos as it flows toward the "higher concentration" (unlike entropy, where energy flow is toward dissolution).

In the Chinese system of energy, there are 12 main meridians (circulation channels), while the Hindu system emphasises 7 energy centres called chakras.

As Fred Gallo states in his book "Energy Psychology":

" energy resides at the most fundamental level of being.... if all is essentially energy, it follows that this holds true for the hardware of our nervous system, the neuro-chemistry and even thought and cognition. "
He goes on to suggest that one can assume that "psychopathology can be treated by addressing subtle energy systems in the body".

Recently, a new group of behavioural interventions called "meridian-based therapies" or "energy psychology" have been proposed to do just this, based on a growing body of clinical evidence which indicates that these approaches can produce rapid improvement in negative emotional states.

These "energy therapies" owe their origin to a discovery by US Clinical Psychologist Roger Callahan who was studying the meridian system while treating a woman - Mary - with a severe water phobia. Callahan took note when Mary said her fearful feeling was located in her stomach and had her tap on a meridian point under the eye linked to this region. She stated excitedly that the feeling was gone and proceeded to test this by rushing to the pool and splashing water on her face. Her life-long phobia was gone - all from a few simple taps under her eye!

Following many similarly startling clinical results Callahan hypothesised that emotional problems are caused by "thought fields" which have "perturbations" that disrupt subtle energy flow. Negative emotions result from these blockages. Tapping on the energy system releases the blocks, allowing the energy to flow more freely.

Gary Craig (who trained with Callahan) identified a comprehensive set of energy points that could be applied to treat any emotional problem. Rather than having to use complex diagnostic procedures or remember numerous sequences, his one sequence 'covers all the points'. Craig found this approach, Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), to have an excellent clinical success rate and has since developed several improvements to enhance its results.

Steve Wells and Dr. David Lake developed Simple Energy Techniques (SET) through their experimentation and clinical work with EFT. They were able to progressively pare the techniques down to the essential elements and put these together into a package which represents perhaps the most user-friendly and accessible of the Energy Techniques available in the world today. The name Simple Energy Techniques (SET) represents the biggest feature of the approach, as it is very simple to use, yet the results can be as profound as any of the approaches which preceded it.

EFT and SET are a true combination of Eastern and Western medicine. They can be thought of as psychological use of the acupuncture meridians. They are both body-energy techniques that can have profound psychological effects. The techniques can also positively influence body symptoms of distress, pain and suffering from disease states.

EFT and SET have been successfully applied to treat a wide range of emotional problems and issues, including anxiety, fears, phobias, trauma, PTSD, grief, anger, guilt, etc. They have also been applied to enhance performance and improve relationships.

Using SET or EFT, many problems can be resolved very quickly, with most general anxiety-based problems responding in 1-4 sessions. Other problems may require persistence over a number of sessions with the client doing the tapping at home on a daily basis. This persistence frequently results in complete relief - although results with addictions and depression are often less spectacular.

The scientific validation of Energy therapies has lagged behind such extraordinary results, although validating research is appearing. A study by Wells, Polglase, Andrews, Carrington and Baker (2000) found EFT to effectively treat specific phobias in one 30-minute treatment session, and results were superior to an alternative treatment. A study on auto accident victims suffering PTSD (Pulos and Swingle, 2000) found significant reductions in symptomatology following 2 sessions of EFT treatment, and a study on children diagnosed with epilepsy found significant reductions in seizure frequency and extensive clinical improvement in EEG readings after 2 weeks of daily EFT treatment (Swingle, 2000). These and other studies in progress indicate a very high success rate for the approach.

The idea of tapping on acupressure points will disturb many therapists as it both provokes and requires a shift in some of our deepest beliefs. Only those who can tolerate the resulting uncertainty will contemplate embracing Energy therapies. Nevertheless they do work whether we believe or not. They also invite healing and integration on many levels as body and mind work together.

In the future the role of the body's energy system in emotional and physical healing will be widely acknowledged and respected. In the meantime, this idea is still quite revolutionary and as Gary Craig points out "We are on the ground floor of a healing high-rise".


Gallo, Fred (1999) Energy Psychology, CRC Press: New York
Lake, David and Wells, Steve, (2003) New Energy Therapies: Rapid Change Techniques for Emotional Healing (Second Edition) , Waterford Publishing: Inglewood, Western Australia.

Wells, Steve and Lake, David (2001), Pocket Guide to Emotional Freedom, Waterford Publishing: Inglewood, Western Australia.


Pulos, L. & Swingle, P. (2000). Effects of a meridian-based therapy, EFT, on symptoms of PTSD in auto accident victims. *

Swingle,. P. (2000). Effects of the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) method on seizure frequency in children diagnosed with epilepsy. *

Papers presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology, Las Vegas, NV.
Wells, Polglase, Andrews, Carrington and Baker (2003), Evaluation Of A Meridian-Based Intervention, Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) in Reducing Specific Phobias of Small Animals. Journal of Clinical Psychology, Volume 59, No. 9, September 2003, pages 943-966. To read a pre-print of this article click here

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