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May 20, 2019

Acupressure, Meridians and “Tapping”

The Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology (ACEP; categorizes energy therapies by the energy systems of the body: chakras, meridians and biofield (aura). In another blog, we will review the chakras and biofield; this post will provide an overview of the meridians.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is among the oldest health and healing systems in the world. Its been considered an “alternative” medical system by U.S. standards, but in most other countries, it’s a traditional and long-standing approach. As a system, TCM includes the use of acupuncture (needles) or acupressure (applying pressure) to specific points on the body, as well as herbal remedies, T’ai Chi and other movement-related processes. There is evidence that TCM has evolved over thousands of years. Modern-day researchers do not completely understand the mechanisms behind the approach or practices, but are finding that there is value in discovering their uses.

Modern science has recognized that we are electromagnetic beings, using EKG and MRI devices to measure it. Acupressure and acupuncture are founded on the concept that the body is made of energy, which has pathways. Health and healing, revolves around balancing the energy that flows through our bodies, ensuring our ability to move, digest food, think and feel. Disease (or dis-ease) is a disruption of the energy flow and the body shows symptoms of the blockages. To create health, then, it’s important to go to the source of the disease: energy. In recent years, there is a growing body of research related to the primo-vascular system that points to it being the same as the meridians.

There’s no distinction, in the meridian system approach, between the body and the mind --it’s all interconnected. In acupuncture, sterile needles are used by a trained professional to treat a variety of physical and mental health concerns. T’ai chi, Qigong, Shiatsu massage as well as yoga also stimulate the acupressure points.

So what do you do if you’re not into needles?

Try tapping!

First developed by Roger Callahan (Thought Field Therapy; TFT), then adapted by Gary Craig (Emotional Freedom Techniques; EFT), the broad term of “tapping” includes TFT, EFT and derivatives of the approach. There’s a growing body of research that supports its use for what’s considered mental health concerns: anxiety, depression, phobias, stress reduction and PTSD. I’ve had the honor and pleasure of participating in ACEP’s Research Committee for more than five years now and am excited about the studies that are being conducted and published.

I first learned about EFT in 2001, when a friend introduced me to Gary Craig’s training videos she had discovered. At the time I was going through a rough patch and decided I would tap along with the training sessions. And I took Craig’s advice to “try it on everything!”

At first I didn’t notice a difference. But I was committed to learning and what helped me learn was to teach other people I laugh now when I tell the stories of trying to introduce this really strange technique to friends and strangers (yes, strangers!) in 2001.

There was the time when a teller at the bank who said she had a migraine -- I can’t believe she was willing to try tapping then -- but it worked! So I had more courage to invite others to tap along with me.

After months of watching the training videos, I discovered that I was able to successfully manage a MAJOR life event in a way that surprised me. I attribute that to learning EFT Tapping.

It actually took me YEARS to begin to integrate tapping into my private practice work. I had to get results for myself first -- proof that it could be helpful -- because it was SO different than what I had learned as a counseling student.

And it wasn’t until 2014 that I actually was formally trained in EFT.

I’ve seen results -- with clients that I never saw with the techniques I learned in graduate school or in other training programs. I love the flexibility and adaptability of the approach. It’s easily combined with cognitive therapy (in fact, Gary Craig has a great explanation of why he thinks EFT works that is a perfect echo of how CBT practitioners describe that form of therapy), mindfulness, choices, and more.

It’s not for everyone, though. Ethically, it’s important to discuss the approach, it’s newness to the field and how it can be applied FIRST. I’ve had quite a few clients let me know that it was just too strange or it didn’t work for them. That’s ok! I have plenty of tools in my counseling toolkit.

When I talk about tapping with my clients, I outline the essence of tapping, which includes nine steps:

  1. Focus on the issue.
  2. Identify aspects -- thoughts, feelings and body sensations -- that are impacting you and the issue.
  3. Assess and rate the intensity on a 0-10 scale, where 10 is the most intense it could be.
  4. Create a “set-up statement”: a statement of the issue along with an affirmation. (There are recommended ones to make this simple.)
  5. Apply steady pressure or tap gently on a sequence of 9 specific acupressure points. This can include several “rounds” of the sequence.
  6. Pause and take a deep breath.
  7. Reassess using the 0-10 scale. Notice any new thoughts, feelings or body sensations.
  8. Tap more rounds if the intensity is more than zero.
  9. Repeat as necessary to get the relief you desire or until the intensity is zero.

Simple, right?

It CAN be!

But there are so many adaptations these days -- and to be honest, it can be a challenge to sort through your own “stuff” to make it effective.

So, I’ve compiled some great resources for learning this approach:

  • Gary Craig’s website,
  • (I’ve written scripts for their new app)
  • by Dawson Church, one of the leading researchers on clinical EFT
  • Pat Carrington’s site (; she was an early adopter who also integrated tapping with a variety of traditional therapeutic techniques
  • Peta Stapleton conducted many research studies, recorded a TED talk and recently published a new book (2019), The Science Behind Tapping: A Proven Stress Management Technique for the Mind and Body

In truth, EFT Tapping has become a sort-of life passion for me. It snuck up on me, too. I’m the kind of person who LOVES to learn, so in the nearly-30 years that I’ve been a counselor, I’ve learned MANY approaches, tools and techniques to help clients feel better. And I keep coming back to EFT Tapping. I offer a monthly group in my area that has been growing as more people find out about tapping. I find new ways to teach it and integrate it into the counseling process.

These days I’m not afraid to admit it: I LOVE EFT! And I’ll try it on everything (still).

I hope you’ll give it a try, too. (And let me know how it goes!)

Dr. Christine Berger is an assistant professor of counseling and is licensed as a professional counselor in Maryland and Virginia. She received her Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision from Loyola University Maryland in 2009. Her research interests focus on the mental health applications of complementary and integrative therapies such as Emotional Freedom Techniques, energy healing, yoga, meditation, and mindfulness and she has published nationally on these topics. She is also a member of the executive board of the American Counseling Association division, the Association of Creativity in Counseling, and has been the Secretary of the Virginia Association of Counselor Education and Supervision. As a joint endeavor with Old Dominion University and the Integrative Therapies Institute, she offers training in complementary and integrative therapies to licensed professional counselors.

Suzan K. Thompson, Ph.D. is a licensed professional counselor in Virginia with over 30 years’ experience. She helps adults learn practical tools and strategies to manage anxiety, depression and trauma. Dr. Thompson also offers training in supervision as well as complementary and integrative therapies to professional counselors. Please visit:

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