The Full History of EFT and EFT Cultural Appropriation



 Most people credit the creation of EFT to Dr. Robert Callahan, Gary Craig and George Goodheart, among others. Really though, tapping's roots extend back centuries to ancient Chinese traditional medicine.

The Story

As the story goes, EFT began with a bolt of inspiration in the mind of psychologist Dr. Robert Callahan. Callahan had been working with a patient named Mary. Mary struggled with a phobia of water which either paralyzed her or sent her into a panic. The two had discussed and explored many techniques to help Mary overcome her phobia. Unfortunately, no amount of talking seemed to shake the powerful grip her fear held over her body.

A Burst of Inspiration

One day as they sat outside overlooking the pool, Mary mentioned how the sight of water made her stomach hurt. In this moment, Callahan was reminded of the teachings he’d learned with acupuncture. He recalled how energy flows through the meridian systems and how applying pressure in one spot could alleviate pain elsewhere.

Callahan decided to tap on the meridian point on Mary’s cheekbone (associated with the stomach). After tapping, Mary said she felt completely unburdened of her phobia! She even went so far as to run up to the water and splash her feet in it.

Transforming into the EFT You Know Today

Over time, Callahan developed a complex process for tapping called Thought Field Therapy (TFT). He later collaborated with Gary Craig, who simplified TFT so people could use it effectively on their own. With Craig’s adjustments, Thought Field Therapy evolved into the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) you know today.

Other Contributors to EFT

Among others who played fundamental roles in the development of EFT is George Goodheart. Goodheart was a chiropractor who designed a process largely based on acupuncture, called Applied Kinesiology. Goodheart found that he could produce similar results as acupuncture by applying pressure to acupuncture tapping points.

Australian psychiatrist John Diamond also contributed to EFT’s beginnings, preceding Callahan in combining tapping with affirmations to relieve emotional distress.

Today, although more are seeing the potential of EFT, some are still quick to dismiss it as “woo.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. EFT is evidence based, and growing research in energy psychology suggests the effectiveness of EFT could rival other popular therapies.

Research has found EFT can be effective in relieving symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, depression, phobias, pain, insomnia, and more.

So that's what you've been told. 


Let’s Dig Back a Little Further in History…

When many people think of tapping, they think of EFT. The two seem pretty much inseparable in the eyes of many westerners. We believe Tapping = energy healing = EFT.

However, this equation doesn’t really represent the full picture of EFT’s evolution…

Aside from acupuncture and acupressure, many EFT practitioners and westerners alike don’t know tapping’s real history.

Really, the art of tapping has been practiced for centuries, originating from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a complete medical system that’s evolved over thousands of years. It has its own set of philosophies and practices for returning the body to balanced wellbeing. It’s TCM that located the meridian points on the body.

Where the west tends to focus on treating disease symptoms as they arise (which doesn’t always get to the root or stop the problem from popping up in a different part of your life), TCM takes a more holistic approach. TCM appreciates the mind-body connection as a core component in health. It is based upon the belief that mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health all impact each other. These aspects of health are expressed as energy running through our bodies on meridians (a concept original to TCM).

Put simply, Traditional Chinese Medicine believes that health results from balance across all aspects of our lives. This includes our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energy bodies. When distress occurs, these energies become unbalanced.

Health is restored by bringing harmony and balance to the body’s opposing yin and yang forces. When out of balance, these opposing forces can block the free flow of life energy (called qi) and cause disease.

 Practices that are rooted in TCM include: Tai Chi, Qigong, Acupuncture, Acupressure, Herbal Medicine, Bone Tapping, and more.

Paying Respect to EFT’s Roots

When I first discovered the similarities between EFT and the ancient practice of qigong, I was upset. I love and respect how EFT has adapted tapping and merged it with modern psychology to make it more potent, but I’m not a fan of the clear cultural appropriation and erasure of tapping’s history.

Luckily, more and more EFT practitioners are learning about EFT’s roots, and the clear appropriating and fetishizing of asian culture. For example, the “karate chop point,” which we’ll refer to as the “side of hand point.”

When we erase a part of something’s history, we often lose fundamental aspects that add richness and depth to it. And the way we’ve “forgotten” tapping’s history speaks to our habit as westerners for taking and fetishizing certain aspects of eastern culture without due appreciation of the richness of the practice, and “improving” upon it.

Although EFT is certainly a fresh adaptation of tapping that can support powerful healing, EFT could not be where it is today without the essential work done by thousands of tapping and Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners over the centuries.

Putting our money where our mouth is. 

 Appropriation of the beautiful, rich, and ancient histories of Eastern cultures has unfortunately become fairly commonplace by many Western cultures.

We need to do more to pay our respects, give credit where credit’s due, and support the cultures and practitioners who originated the systems of medicine that led to the creation of  EFT and other powerful healing techniques.

I believe this starts with addressing inequality and racism these cultures are still facing today.

After all — we wouldn’t have the techniques we know and love today, if not for the work of these cultures who paved the way throughout history.

That’s why I’ve decided to donate 1% of every sale at Tapping with Dani to the Stop AAPI Hate Coalition.

You can feel good knowing that a portion of each purchase you make with Tapping with Dani,  goes to connecting Asian American and Pacific Islander  with essential support, educating communities and organizations on how to deal with hate, and developing long-term strategies to make meaningful change and help turn the tide on hate, inequity, and appropriation.


Click here to Learn more about the AAPI Hate Coalition