Tapping for Anxiety: How It Works and Tips for Doing It, According to an Expert

Tapping pressure points on the body can reduce anxiety

<p>Microgen / Getty Images</p>

Microgen / Getty Images

Medically reviewed by Yolanda Renteria, LPC

Tapping (emotional freedom technique, EFT), is a therapy type that combines features of psychotherapy with acupressure. EFT uses principles found in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy, alongside somatic stimulation (i.e., tapping) of pressure points throughout the body.

In other words, EFT involves literally tapping the places on your body where you feel anxiety or other uncomfortable emotions.

EFT is known as an effective treatment for stress, physical discomfort, self-esteem issues, and addiction. EFT is perhaps most widely known as a treatment for anxiety disorders, including general anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and phobias.

Tapping for works by pairing our somatic (bodily) sensations with our feelings and emotions, explainsKristen Curtis, a certified EFT practitioner. “When we are able to identify where anxiety is felt in our body, we are able to use tapping to see, process, and transform that emotion,” she describes.

Here, we’ll focus on how tapping can help with anxiety specifically, including how it works, how effective it is, how to do it, and how long it takes to see results.

Related: Therapy for Anxiety Disorders

Does Tapping Really Work For Anxiety?

There have been about 100 clinical trials showing the efficacy of tapping for anxiety. It has shown particular promise in the treatment of PTSD among war veterans, sexual violence survivors, motor vehicle accident survivors, prisoners, disaster survivors, and hospital patients. It has also been shown to be effective in the treatment of both general anxiety and depression.

Benefits of Tapping for Anxiety

Usually, it takes between 4 and 10 sessions of EFT tapping to see results. Besides decreased symptoms of anxiety symptoms, some additional benefits of tapping include:

  • Decrease in stress hormones, including cortisol

  • Decreased symptoms of pain

  • Decreased symptoms of traumatic brain injuries

  • Epigenetic changes in stress genes

  • Improvements in resting heart rate and blood pressure

Related: Generalized Anxiety Disorder Treatment

How Tapping for Anxiety Works

So how exactly does tapping for anxiety work? It’s simple, really. During a typical session, you start by describing a challenging or trauma event. Then, you come up with some encouraging words of self-acceptance that you plan to say. Finally, you tap on a series of acupressure points on your body, while saying the encouraging words that you decided upon.

Why Tapping Techniques Can Calm You Down

“Tapping allows our nervous system to be safe in processing the anxiety that lives in our body as well as change the thoughts that come with the feeling of anxiety,” Curtis explains. “Tapping creates new neural pathways in our brain while simultaneously regulating our nervous system to help us feel more calm and centered which creates a powerful and transformational mind/body connection.”

Curtis says that tapping for anxiety can be used as part of a treatment session with an EFT therapist, or on your own when you are experiencing heightened times of anxiety. But it can also be used as a daily maintenance practice—not just during times when you feel your anxiety increase.

“It is important to remember to tap when you are not feeling anxious too,” she says. “That way, the nervous system is better equipped to enter an anxious situation already with a sense of more calm and ease because you have trained it to do so.”

Related: How to Heal From Trauma

Where Do You Tap for Anxiety?

According to Curtis, there are nine different points on the face and body that you tap during a tapping session “round.”

The 9 Points on Your Body That You Tap During an EFT Session

  1. The side of your hand

  2. The inside of your eyebrow, where the hair of your eyebrow starts

  3. The side of your eye

  4. The area just under your eye

  5. The area under your nose

  6. The area between your bottom lip and chin

  7. Roughly two inches below your collarbone

  8. The side of your body, at the top of your ribcage

  9. The top of your head

Usually, you tap these points, in this order. You can tap these points with both hands on both sides of your body, or with one hand on each side of your body, Curtis explains. “Our energetic meridians work as mirrors so the effectiveness is the same with either option,” she says.

What Are Energetic Meridians?

You have acupuncture points located all throughout your body. These points are located along pathways. These pathways are known as "energetic meridians."

“All of these locations are important because they link to certain energetic meridians in your body which then link to certain organs.”

Related: Types of Re-Experiences in PTSD

What Do You Say When Tapping for Anxiety?

Typically, a tapping session involves saying a specific sentence or phrase as you tap each of the nine areas of your body. Most phrases contain an acknowledgment of the challenging feeling you are experiencing, followed by a note of self-acceptance that is said while you tap. Each person’s statement will be a little different based on what they are experiencing, and their own needs and approach.

Try This Script During an EFT Session

The basic script for what to say while you tap goes something like this, according to Curtis: “Even though I feel (insert emotion that you are feeling) in my (insert place you feel this emotion in the body), I love and accept myself anyway.”

Most phrases contain an acknowledgment of the challenging feeling you are experiencing, followed by a note of self-acceptance that is said while you tap.

Of course, there will be variations of the script above, and you should feel free to tweak it as you see fit. “It is important when we tap that we are speaking what is true for us,” Curtis says. “So if the statement ‘I love and accept myself anyway’ isn't true, you can change it out with ‘I am being present with how I feel.’”

What If I Don't Want to Say Anything or Can't Think of What to Say?

Curtis says that at first, you may not want to say anything at all, and that’s OK. “Tapping can be highly effective by not saying anything, which is a technique I encourage when beginning your own tapping practice,” she says. “As we begin to incorporate words while tapping on the points, the practice becomes more and more effective.”

You should also keep in mind that you don’t need to get too caught up in doing the script correctly. There’s no wrong way to tap, Curtis assures. “If it is easier for you to tap the points and express how you are feeling in a more fluid format that is great,” she says.

Kristen Curtis, Certified EFT Practitioner

Tapping can be highly effective by not saying anything, which is a technique I encourage when beginning your own tapping practice.

Related: What Is Self-Esteem?

What Are the 5 Steps to Tapping?

Curtis shared what a typical tapping session would look like. Generally, each session follows the five steps listed below.

The 5 Steps in a Tapping Session

  1. Start by identifying the emotion you are experiencing

  2. Next, identify characteristics of the emotion, including where you feel it in your body

  3. Rate the intensity of the emotion and characteristics on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being that you are barely experiencing anything, and 10 being that the emotion is as intense as it possibly could be

  4. Do a round of tapping, starting at the side of the hand and following the tapping script

  5. Finally, reassess how you are feeling, noticing if the energy moved or changed, and use the scale to rate the emotion again

Once a round is done, you can repeat as many times as you’d like. “The goal of tapping is not to get your rating to 0, but to a manageable place which can be a 3 or 4 depending on where you started,”

Curtis says. “Keep in mind the intensity of the emotion may get worse before it gets better.” She encourages people to continue paying attention to how they are feeling and repeating the script until the feeling becomes more manageable.

Related: How to Express Your Feelings

How Long Does It Take to See Results From Tapping?

Kristen Curtis, Certified EFT Practitioner

Changes in your energy, emotions, and thoughts can happen after just one round or three minutes of tapping.

Most people begin to see the effects of tapping within just a few tapping session rounds, Curtis says. So, this could mean that you begin to feel some relief in just a few minutes. “Changes in your energy, emotions, and thoughts can happen after just one round or three minutes of tapping,” says Curtis.

However, even if immediate relief comes quickly, sometimes trying to transform some of the more deeply embedded emotions takes longer.

“EFT tapping is not only used to regulate the nervous system and transform emotions in the moment, but it is also used to get to the root of that emotion which typically leads back to a trauma from the past,” Curtis explains.

“Depending on the severity of the trauma, how old it is, and how deeply rooted it is in our subconscious, it may be necessary to spend several sessions tapping with a practitioner," says Curtis.

If you are interested in working with an EFT practitioner, consider contacting EFT Universe or EFT International.


EFT tapping is considered an effective way to manage symptoms of anxiety. However, it isn’t meant to replace treatment by licensed mental health professionals. It’s especially important that you don’t rely solely on tapping if you are experiencing a psychiatric emergency.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

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