The Evolution of EFT from TFT – By Gary Craig

EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) is an offshoot of TFT

(Thought Field Therapy), a meridian based energy psychology technique developed by Dr. Roger Callahan in the 1980’s.

Both methods employ light tapping of the meridian end points accompanied by special verbalizations.  EFT differs from TFT in many respects.  To distinguish between these two methods we suggest you read the definitive discussion on this subject by Gary Craig, founder of EFT (see below).

By Gary Craig, Founder of EFT

Since bringing out EFT, I have been questioned often about how its comprehensive algorithm can be as good as (actually better than) the series of individual algorithms that make up TFT. How can this be? Do we, for example, just ignore Dr. Callahan's adamant statements about the individual algorithms and their theoretical validity? Do we also just ignore the much heralded presumption that the "order" of tapping the points is critical to success? Further, how can we turn our nose up at the presumed importance of muscle testing diagnosis and expect to get adequate results?

Funny thing about science. Someone comes along with a useful idea and builds a theory to explain it. Later on, someone else plays with the same idea, finds a way to improve it and builds another theory to explain the new findings. Then more improvements are made, new theories are built and on and on it goes until eventually the original idea or product reaches a state of near perfection. This story has been told repeatedly throughout scientific history. The Wright Brothers would be astonished if they could see the modern day evolution of their original "flying machine." Other examples are telephones, cars, computers and almost every product we use. Energy tapping therapies are no different.

The fact is, one who masters EFT can do everything that TFT does while covering a far wider variety of problems without having to use muscle testing. Does anyone deny that? This flies in the face of the theories underlying the individual algorithmic approach, of course, and makes this a rather uncomfortable series to write. I'm bound to take gas for it because the old theories have brought us much healing and great insights. But it is time to put them under scrutiny in the name of progress. Dr. Callahan deserves every accolade we can give him for his diligence in getting the word out there. Without his most laudable efforts in these matters, you and I would not even be discussing this. That doesn't mean, however, that his theories are necessarily sacrosanct. He is human. Same goes with my theories or anyone else's. We must stay open if progress is to be made.

But the reality is, if the present theories are accurate, then EFT could not possibly work as elegantly as it does. It would only work once in a while but sputter miserably most of the time as the presumed requirement for "order" is consistently violated. The only "order" involved in the EFT Sequence is to go down the body. This makes it easy to memorize. There is no other reason. It's the same "order" for every case. You can do it backwards if you want and it will still work. "Order" might have some theoretical importance but it is certainly not critical in practice. Further, the theory that certain tapping points are important for certain problems (e.g. the little finger for anger, the index finger for guilt, pounding 30 times on the gamut spot for pain) is of questionable validity because EFT's shortcut sequence gets great results on these issues even when ignoring these presumably important tapping points.

In line with the above you might find this interesting. Night before last I spoke with Dr. Larry Nims who was referred to me regarding EFT. As it turns out, we had met in 1992 at Dr. Callahan's home for an informal seminar on what was then called The Callahan Techniques tm. We have not seen each other since then. Since that time Larry has
developed his own comprehensive algorithm (very similar to EFT) and reports using it quite elegantly for years with great results. He has totally ignored the requirement for "order" in tapping and uses the same algorithm for everything (sound familiar?). Basically, Larry and I have been doing the same thing, independently of one another, and have both gotten remarkable results. Interestingly enough, Larry also ignores the 9 gamut procedure and builds the Psychological Reversal procedure into the Sequence. This takes less time. I have been experimenting with this myself recently and the results have been very good. I will spend more time testing the idea and will let you know my results as time unfolds.

Another interesting fact. I have received reports from TFT'ers that on occasion they have, mistakenly, had the client tap in the "wrong" order and still got the result. On other occasions they have erroneously applied the wrong algorithm to a particular problem and, to their surprise, the client gained relief anyway. Strange indeed and highly unlikely if all of the reigning theories are accurate. I think these "mistakes" give glowing testimonials to the overall power of energy tapping. However, one must scratch their head a bit because they certainly seem to violate some of the theories involved. I'm convinced there is something else going on and will elaborate on this in another part of this series.

Tapping on the energy system while being tuned to an emotional problem is an extraordinary healing technique that is deserving of the Nobel Prize. Its impact on the healing sciences is bound to be enormous. Quite clearly, we are on the ground floor of a healing high rise. Fortunately, there are many people experimenting with this idea and some fascinating finds are being unearthed. In time we will learn much more and will be discarding old notions in place of new theories.

Before this series continues, I think it appropriate to make a distinction. Most of the people doing research on these energy tapping therapies are psychotherapists. To my knowledge, I am the only non-therapist researcher who is putting his results/theories in the public domain. While other researchers are dedicated therapists choosing to become scientists, I am a scientist (Stanford engineer) whose passion is psychology. Clearly, we come at this subject from different backgrounds/angles and our conclusions are bound to collide somewhere along the line. What makes perfect sense to a psychologist can be scientific nonsense to me and vice versa. This is how it should be. This is how science marches forward and this is the spirit in which this series is presented.

In Part I of this series I suggested that the "order" of tapping in the Sequence was of no practical significance. There is a bit more to say on this before going on to the related subject of diagnostic muscle testing.

The only practical evidence I have ever heard regarding the validity of the "order" concept involves people tapping in what seems to be an "out of order" Sequence. For example, Dr. Callahan and other TFT'ers report asking a client to tap the Sequence in a given order (e.g. UA, UE, CB). The client then taps and reports no apparent relief for the problem. It is then discovered that the client mistakenly tapped in the "wrong" order (e.g. UE, UA, CB). The client is then asked to tap in the "right" order and, upon doing so, relief for the problem is attained. From this it is concluded that order is important.

To me, this is a logical conclusion only if there are no other feasible explanations. However, there are at least 3 other perfectly logical possibilities which have somehow (to this scientist's amazement) been disregarded. For example:

1. In the first round the client may not have tapped enough times, or solidly enough, to do the job. Thus no result. In the second round the tapping was completed more proficiently and the result was thus achieved.

2. With some clients, Psychological Reversal comes and goes with great rapidity within the same session. It can and does change in seconds. It is entirely possible (I think likely) that PR was present on the first round thereby blocking an otherwise effective tapping procedure. Then, on the second round, the PR vanished and thus allowed relief for the problem.

3. The first round may have been effective (good probability here) but the effect was not noticed by the client because s/he switched to another aspect of the problem. The second round then addressed, and relieved, the remaining aspect thus prompting the client to report relief.

Any or all of these could have taken place in any session where "order" appeared to be important. Tapping out of "order" is only one out of 4 possibilities and, in my experience, the least likely of the bunch. It is scientifically inaccurate, to conclude that 1 out of 4 explanations is the answer without thoroughly examining the alternatives. Yet no such examination has been done in this regard and the notion of "order" has been accepted as the "truth" here. No trained scientist I know would buy this.

In addition, I brought out the fact in Part I of this series that ignoring the presumed necessity for order appears to have no practical effect whatsoever on results. EFT, for example, would not work if order was really important. Further, some TFT practitioners report occasions where relief was attained despite the Sequence being tapped in the "wrong" order. This leaves me rather stumped as to why order is deemed necessary at all. It seems to have no real effect in practice and is the least likely out of four possible explanations.

This part of the series explores diagnostic muscle testing and a related mathematical fallacy. For newcomers, diagnostic muscle testing refers to a technique whereby the practitioner tests the changing strength of a muscle (by pushing down on an extended arm, for example) while the client makes certain statements or holds certain thoughts in his/her head. By this means it is thought possible to discern the necessary tapping procedures for a given client with a given problem. I'll get to the mathematical fallacy in a bit but first we need to explore the practice of muscle testing.

Muscle testing is an art. It is a skill that is learned and perfected over months and years. It is not something one becomes proficient at in a seminar. Many readers of this series are extraordinarily good at this technique and use it as the centerpiece of their practices. Despite its clear usefulness, however, muscle testing cannot be considered absolutely accurate. I don't know of a single muscle tester, for example, who would rely on the technique for a decision as to whether or not to have brain surgery. Rather, muscle testing, in the hands of a skilled practitioner, provides good guides or strong clues leading to healing techniques which are often very helpful to the client.

Even the most proficient practitioners come up against problems inherent in the procedure. I list some of these problems below while pointing out that these problems are even greater for the beginner:

1. The practitioner can easily influence the result by injecting his/her own attitudes or preconceived ideas about what the "answer" should be. Maintaining neutrality in this regard takes much practice.


2. Either the practitioner or the client can become Psychologically Reversed regarding the process. This can influence results. Indeed, it can give you an answer which is the exact opposite of the truth.

3. Clients can sometimes influence the result by consciously shifting their thoughts so they won't be "found out" on some issue.

4. Some clients are very difficult to test because they are massively reversed and/or ill.

My main point here is that muscle testing, especially in the hands of a beginner, is loaded with potential for inaccuracy. This inaccuracy problem adds to a mathematical fallacy underlying TFT diagnosis. We turn to that subject now.

Let me acknowledge first that Dr. Callahan is mathematically correct that the number of possible combinations of the 14 tapping points (meridians) is 87 billion. In formal mathematics, this is known as 14 factorial or 14!. Where I have a serious scientific question is in the idea that muscle testing will allow a therapist (even a beginner) to find the appropriate sequence for that client's problem out of the 87 billion possibilities. Mathematically, that is like asking a therapist to walk into 100 acres of clover and go right to the only four leaf clover therein …OR… asking a therapist to solve Rubik's Cube on the first try in one minute.

I happen to believe that a few people have developed their psychic abilities well enough to perhaps pull this off now and then. But even given this, it stretches credulity to think that one can teach hundreds of therapists (most of whom are inaccurate beginners at muscle testing) to do this consistently. Yet they "apparently" do it. They do get results and people are helped.

So what's going on here? Is this result really because these inaccurate beginners magically diagnosed the critical sequence (in the "right" order, no less) out of the 87 billion possibilities? Do you honestly think they (you) really find the four leaf clover in the 100 acre patch? Doesn't that push your nonsense button just a little?

There is, of course, another explanation that easily passes scientific reasonableness. It's hard to see at first because it is hiding behind the erroneous notion that order is important in the tapping Sequence. If you still believe that order is important then you must necessarily buy into this mathematical fallacy. You are stuck with it and all the "science" surrounding it. Think about it. Only if order is truly important (which it isn't) do we need concern ourselves with the 87 billion possibilities.

On the other hand, if order is not important (and I hope I have made my point on this by now) then you are left with a mere 14 meridians to contend with. This being so, you need only tap on each one to balance it. No order. No magic. No muscle testing. No diagnosis. What a relief. Just very straightforward logic that stands up to scientific scrutiny. That is the essence of EFT and that is why it works so well. In fact, since the meridians are so intertwined, you need only tap on half of them because doing so sends balancing energy down all of them. That's the essence of the EFT shortcut.

When therapists do muscle testing, they come up with a series of tapping points that balances the same meridians that EFT (or most any other comprehensive algorithm) does automatically. Muscle testing has the advantage of leading directly to the disrupted energy meridians so that fewer of them need to be tapped. In contrast however, by the time a muscle tester diagnoses just one such disrupted meridian (and there are usually two or three), another therapist could have completed the entire EFT shortcut Sequence once or twice and be off working on the next problem.

It is always dangerous to challenge someone else's beliefs and I know I have done just that for some of you. Muscle testing diagnosis may have worked for you and, if so, you are very pleased with your results. I do not deny that. Indeed I support you and your results and send a mighty salute your way. I am not suggesting here that muscle testing is useless or to be abandoned. To the contrary, in the hands of the highly skilled technician it can be a very useful tool and it may lead to some helpful new theoretical findings. It may even give you a better "feel" for your client. I do suggest, however, that you examine the theoretical basis from which you are working for an enhanced understanding of your procedures. I also suggest that, for the vast majority of therapists, the job can be done much more efficiently with the EFT procedures.

We turn now to the "science" behind the individual algorithms taught within TFT. They are put forward as exhaustively tested Sequences that can be used for specific problems (e.g. grief, guilt, anger, phobias, trauma, pain, depression, etc.) thereby avoiding the need to muscle test in these specific instances. Some (but not all) users are quite impressed by them and indicate a high rate of success with their use. I applaud them as well because they have been responsible for many remarkable healings. I tip my hat to all the TFT trainers and Dr. Callahan for bringing them to the public. My comments here have nothing to do with their effectiveness, however. Instead, I am exploring with you the science behind them. I think it needs help.

For a starting point, let's choose the specialized TFT algorithm for grief. Grief is a label for an emotional state that might be evident in someone whose spouse has recently died. Under such circumstances, the TFT practitioner pulls out the grief arrow (algorithm), aims it at the grief target and, if successful, appears to hit the bullseye … at least in theory.

But who says the target is really grief? Depending on where the person is coming from, couldn't one re-define the same emotion as the fear of being alone? I'm not talking about aspects here. I mean grief could be easily re-defined in terms of fear. Further, grief could also be re-defined in terms of guilt for what the "griever" did or did not do regarding the deceased during their lifetime. So who is to say that the grief algorithm is the right one? Why not use a fear algorithm or a guilt algorithm?

This thread continues. Someone's anger over what someone said about them could quite logically be re-defined in terms of the fear of what other people will think. If so, then which algorithm do you use? Anger or fear? Further, where do addictive urges end and compulsions begin? Aren't both of them related to, or driven by, anxiety? Couldn't depression be re-defined in terms of fear, guilt, hopelessness or shame? Many years ago I spent an evening pondering these labels and found it quite easy to re-define 50 or so emotional problems in terms of the fear of something. For example, guilt is the fear of being "found out." Hand washing compulsions are the fear of germs, disease or death. Trauma is the fear of the traumatic event happening again. And so on it goes.

The obvious point here is that the targets at which these algorithmic arrows take aim are imprecise. How can one proceed to cure a problem if they don't know what the problem is? Why give someone medication for mumps when the problem is measles? Further, if the emotional targets defy accurate description then how can one expect to develop a precise algorithm for them? These algorithms must be developed based on what patients or therapists are labeling as grief, guilt, depression, etc. Since the labels aren't accurate, how can we trust the accuracy of the "precise" algorithms based on them? Strange science indeed.

Interestingly enough, these algorithms, however imprecisely developed or applied, have been responsible for many successful emotional healings. There must be a reason for this because these results do not occur by mere chance. But do we just simply accept the existing explanations and overlook the obvious hole in them? Do we overlook the fact that some TFT practitioners report that applying the "wrong" algorithm often solves the problem anyway? Do we also overlook the fact that purposely avoiding the tapping points in the specific algorithms (while tapping other points instead) gives results that are just as good as for the touted algorithm?

I don't pretend to have the last answer on any of this (research on these matters is just beginning) but I do have a plausible explanation for why these individual algorithms work despite the questionable science behind them. Here it is: The one thing all these algorithms have in common is that they tap on 3 or 4 of the meridians. Since the meridians are intertwined, it is quite logical that tapping on 3 or 4 of them will often send enough energy throughout the whole meridian system to do the job regardless of the problem. This also explains why I get reports from EFT'ers that EFT tends to do the job when the individual algorithms falter. The EFT shortcut Sequence taps on 7 meridians, not just 3 or 4. Accordingly, it is more thorough and more likely to do the job. This is common sense. Reasonable science. It explains everything to date and doesn't stretch one's imagination at all.

Given the logical explanation above, I now propose a possible belief boggler for many TFT'ers. Couldn't we persuasively argue that the TFT algorithms operate under the same concept as EFT but are inferior because they don't tap as many points? I could be wrong, of course, and I'm certainly open to arguments to the contrary. But, for now, the results certainly support this theory.

Summary: bringing it all together

When I first brought EFT to the public, my original statements about it were that:

1. EFT was built largely upon things I learned from my experience with TFT. This is still the case, although I have discarded some parts of TFT that I consider poor science.

2. EFT is an improvement over TFT in that it covers a far wider variety of problems with one elegant routine.

3. EFT is the next step up from TFT. This seemingly bold statement is becoming more obvious every day.

Not everyone believed me, of course. Why would they? I am but a "student of the master" and, to make matters worse, I am a non-therapist, a mere engineer. Nonetheless, EFT has blossomed impressively with most of its growth coming from word of mouth referral. There are a few detractors (as might be expected) but the ratio of supporters to detractors is at least 50 to 1.

One's beliefs, even if they are wrong, are often difficult to move aside. It was hard enough for therapists to accept the bizarre looking TFT even though the results were obvious. Now EFT comes along, pokes holes in the TFT theories and suggests you restructure your thinking to accommodate an improved version that is confidently labeled "the next step up."


In this series, we hammered on the erroneous requirement for "order" in the tapping Sequence and showed that it has no practical significance. If it did, EFT would sputter most of the time. Instead, EFT handily outperforms TFT by more elegantly addressing a far wider variety of problems with but one simple routine. I am open to the fact that "order" may have theoretical significance but that avenue, in my opinion, should be left to the theoreticians. Why should the practicing therapist be burdened with numerous algorithms when one will do the job routinely?

Further, the whole concept of individually designed algorithms aimed at specific emotional problems collapses under the realization that the labels for these problems (grief, guilt, fear, etc.) are imprecise and overlap each other. Under TFT, one can never be sure which arrow to aim at which target. With EFT, this problem vanishes as the same algorithm is applied to everything.


Also, the bit about diagnostic muscle testing allowing even the beginner to discern the proper tapping Sequence out of 87 billion possibilities is absurd on its face. Since "order" has no practical significance, the 87 billion possibilities reduce down to a manageable 14 meridians. Since these meridians are intertwined, tapping on a few of them is likely to send balancing energy down many, if not all, of them. The individual TFT algorithms tap on 3 or 4 meridians and that is why they work. In many instances this is enough to do the job. EFT, on the other hand, is much more thorough and taps on 7 of them (the shortcut Sequence) and thus is much more likely to get the job done. This bears out in practice, as one would expect.

EFT is, indeed, the next step up. This is not because I have made some grand discovery. Rather, it is because previous research has gone down the wrong avenue and made things far more complex than they need to be. This often happens in scientific endeavors, especially when the research is on something as new and far reaching as these energy tapping therapies. EFT is obvious. It is the next step up. It had to come along as a common sense alternative to efforts that were proceeding down what seems to me like Busywork Boulevard.

If anyone still questions this, consider the following contrast. It has been quite easy for TFT'ers to shift from the multi-algorithms of TFT to the one algorithmic approach of EFT. They no longer have several algorithms to memorize (and teach clients) and they don't have to muscle test for things the individual algorithms aren't designed to address. This gravitation from the overly complicated to the elegantly simple is a natural one. By contrast, however, how easy do you think it would be for a therapist to switch from EFT back to TFT? Would someone who started off learning EFT find it easy to abandon their highly effective algorithm in favor of 10 or 15 individual algorithms that only address a fraction of the problems? Wouldn't they be taking a backward step if they did so? By further contrast, EFT is freely discussable/teachable and does not require the signing of restrictive agreements.

Again, I am not the last word on this and I am wide open to your questions and challenges. I search for the truth and am quite convinced that EFT is the next step up from TFT. But that doesn't make me right and, if I'm wrong, I would love to have it proven to me.

In time I expect others to improve upon EFT. But, until then, EFT is providing a streamlined, easy to use technique that is providing relief to people every day. I'm pleased to have had a part in it. It's what makes my motor run nowadays.

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