What Is Thought Field Therapy?

Close up of woman having scalp massage

Sigrid Gombert / Getty Images

What Is Thought Field Therapy?

Thought Field Therapy

Thought Field Therapy (TFT) is the idea of tapping specific pressure points on the body to experience rapid relief from stress, anxiety, or pain.

These pressure points are referred to as meridians. Stimulation of meridians is suspected to balance the flow of energy within the body by transmitting impulses to areas of the brain associated with fear and stress.

Clients trained in TFT are told to focus their thoughts on the problem area they are hoping to treat. TFT derives from energy psychology and Chinese medicines similar to that of acupuncture. Meridian tapping has begun to be implemented into a range of healthcare practices, such as emotional freedom techniques (EFT).

Although TFT appears to be a verified psychological practice, it is in fact a pseudoscience with no concrete scientific evidence supporting its claims. TFT is not a legitimate therapy, so It is important to be conscientious of this and approach with caution if ever attempting to try it out because it is not based on scientific methods.

Techniques of Thought Field Therapy

Some TFT experts believe it is not important what area on the body to tap and that tapping any spot will offer the same benefits, but others insist that tapping specific pressure points for a particular amount of time is necessary for treating certain conditions. 

For example, in an attempt to lessen anxiety, it is suggested to tap pressure points a certain amount of times, and for trauma or phobias tap under the eyelids. 

TFT procedures may also involve the integration of other practices to aid in releasing stress, such as moving the eyelids, counting, or humming. TFT is taught at different levels of advancement, in which trainees learn a variety of different tapping sequences that equate to enhanced benefits.

These techniques are derived from unsupported claims and have no clear proof of accuracy.

What Thought Field Therapy Helps With

TFT may be beneficial to those experiencing the following symptoms, conditions, and concerns:

Benefits of Thought Field Therapy

TFT may offer benefits for symptoms related to anxiety, stress, fear, phobias, and pain. According to experts within the field, tapping specific pressure points on the body can instantly result in relief of these symptoms.

Stimulation of pressure points balances the body’s energy and sends signals to the brain which produces positive emotional responses. 

There is no concrete evidence that supports these benefits, only reviews from clients, which could possibly be related to the experience of a placebo effect.

Effectiveness

TFT was founded by clinical psychologist Roger Callahan to treat phobias and other anxiety disorders, eventually discovering the benefits for those experiencing trauma, pain and other conditions. Callahan found TFT to increase heart rate variability (HRV) in clients with low HRV. He has made claims about TFT’s effectiveness for multiple health issues without providing accurate evidence supporting such claims.

A few group studies and case reviews conducted by other clinicians reported significant benefits of TFT on various symptoms. A study particularly examining its impact on anxiety disorders found a significant reduction in anxiety symptoms with benefits that persisted for a 12-month period. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms were reduced in participants age ranging from age five to 48, with TFT’s impacts remaining after the course of a month.

Although TFT has appeared to be beneficial for many people, efficacy has not been scientifically supported, and it has yet to be considered an evidence-based practice. TFT skeptics within the field of psychology suggested that this therapy is a pseudoscience with no scientific validation. Pseudoscience is a practice believed to be based on scientific methodologies with no evidence to support the theory

There are no biological harms in trying this therapy, but it can possibly play with a person’s emotions and alter critical thinking by causing them to believe the therapy is effective when it may not be. An individual might experience false hope by believing that TFT does help relieve symptoms. However, the hope of it working is creating the appearance of effectiveness. This effect may happen because of the strong desire to find an effective treatment.  

Things to Consider

TFT has not been scientifically supported, evidence is only provided by subjective experiences from those who have participated in treatment. It is also possible for people to experience a placebo effect in thinking a treatment is working because they have high expectations for it to, but in actuality, it is not.

Expectations for this therapy shouldn't be too high since there is no reliable validation of TFT’s effectiveness, the only sources being testimonials and a few research studies, which could be distorted due to false hope in the therapy. It is also possible for this therapy to be more helpful for some conditions over others.

Although TFT may not have empirical evidence, it has been seen to offer some benefits to those with specific chronic symptoms, like pain and anxiety. There are also phone apps you can try that teach tapping techniques, this way you can gain an idea of how it works and if it benefits you.

Take caution when approaching this therapy. Have your defenses up a little, because it is easy to be confused in whether it’s actually helping relieve symptoms. Make sure to wait until you have invested an appropriate amount of time practicing this therapy before deeming it effective.

Sometimes we want to find a solution so badly we believe something is working when it actually isn’t. Also, try not to get your hopes up too. Again, there's no real harm in trying, but it may offer no benefits or may only offer temporary effects.  

How to Get Started

  • Do more research on the therapy and its efficacy. Browse the internet for reliable information regarding TFT and exactly how it works. You can learn a few tapping techniques and give them a try to see if you feel any benefits.
  • Try using a phone app to get an understanding of how it works. There are actually tapping apps out there that you can download and try right away. An app, in particular, is called “Tapping Solutions.”
  • Approach with caution. Remember that there is no concrete scientific evidence in the effectiveness of this therapy. It can be tricky to decipher right away if it is actually working. Consider viewing this experience as a new and interesting activity with some prospect of it helping symptoms.
  • Speak to a practitioner to seek further information: Ask your therapist or a clinician about the therapy to pick their brain on what they may know about it.
  • Search for an expert. If you do decide that you like this type of therapy and want to receive further experience and training in it, then start looking for a therapist that practices TFT. Begin your search online and if it is difficult to find someone, consider asking a mental health practitioner for a referral.
Was this page helpful?
6 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Mollon P. Thought field therapy and its derivatives: Rapid relief of mental health problems through tapping on the body. Primary Care and Community Psychiatry. 2007; 12(3-7):123-127. doi:10.1080/17468840701750836

  2. Pignotti M. Thought Field Therapy: A Former Insider’s Experience. Research on Social Work Practice. 2007;17(3):392-407. doi:10.1177/1049731506292530

  3. Folkes CE. Thought field therapy and trauma recovery. International Journal of Emergency Mental Health. 2002; 4(2): 99–104. 

  4. Irgens A, Dammen T, Nysaeter ET, Hoffart A. Thought field therapy (TFT) as a treatment for anxiety symptoms: A randomized controlled trial. Clinical article Original research. 2012; 8(6):331-338

  5. Callahan RJ. The impact of thought field therapy on heart rate variability. Journal of Clinical Psychology. 2001; 57(11):1153-1170.  doi:10.1002/jclp.1082

  6. Pignotti M. Callahan fails to meet the burden of proof for thought field therapy claims. Journal of Clinical Psychology. 2004; 61(3):251-255. doi:10.1002/jclp.20053