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Frequently Asked Questions

When it doesn't work....???

Important Note: This article was written prior to 2010 and is now outdated. Please use my newest advancement, Optimal EFT. It is more efficient, more powerful and clearly explained in my free e-book, The Unseen Therapist™.  Best wishes, Gary

When it doesn't work.....???

Introduction to this extensive answer: When progress with EFT seems stopped--or it seems like "it doesn't work"--EFT is usually not the problem. Rather, the reason for the lack of progress can most often be traced to the inexperience of the user. Why do I say this? Because those who master EFT don't miss very often. They not only get their share of "one minute wonders" but, compared to conventional techniques, impressive progress is also made for just about any problem with an emotional cause--including many physical ailments. In those cases where the masters are stumped, however, they don't point the finger at EFT for "not working."

Rather, the masters ask themselves questions like....

"What's in the way here?"
"What have I not seen yet?"
"What core issue have I been unable to find?"

I'm not saying here that EFT is a panacea for everything. It won't paint your toenails, for example, nor will it allow you to drink gasoline. But just about anything that has an emotional cause--including many physical ailments--is a clear candidate for EFT. It often works beautifully, even in the hands of a beginner. But that doesn't mean we have perfection here. We are still learning and should give thanks for those "tough cases" that challenge us to perfect our skills.

Those who want to achieve mastery of EFT will be interested in the following reasons why it sometimes appears that EFT "doesn't work."

Menu for reasons why "it doesn't work"

The EFT Course was not completed properly.
The problem is being approached too globally.
The Setup was not performed completely enough.
The client is switching aspects.
A core issue is interfering.
Sometimes all that's missing is the human touch.
Some other procedure (e.g. 9 Gamut, Collarbone Breathing) is called for or some other points need to be tapped.
Although relatively infrequent, there may be an "energy toxin" involved which is thwarting the process.

The EFT course was not completed properly. I know it is tempting to skip through all those video tapes and audio tapes to get to "your topics." Many people do this despite the instructions given on the first page of the EFT Manual. This often results in taking the EFT Course out of order or, even worse, ignoring parts of the course altogether. When this happens, the importance of certain topics (e.g. aspects, psychological reversal, being specific, persistence, etc.) go unappreciated and are ineffectively used.

You can learn The Basic Recipe from reading the manual and watching the first EFT videotape. From there, many people go out into the world and apply it to clients, friends & family--often with superb results (including some "one minute wonders"). However, if they don't study the rest of the EFT Course (in proper order), these practitioners are certain to scratch their heads in some instances and say "it doesn't work."

Maybe Psychological Reversal needs to be done more emphatically. Maybe the client is actually making progress but is shifting aspects behind the scenes. Maybe the core issue hasn't been discovered yet. Maybe the problem is being approached too globally. Maybe, maybe, maybe. These topics, as well as many of the other topics in this Question and Answer section, are covered in the EFT Course.

The EFT Course not only teaches The Basic Recipe in great detail but it also goes on to display the "art of delivery" with over 80 people in live sessions. You see and hear how people respond. You are taught ways to get at core issues and how to deal with aspects, Psychological Reversal etc. And because it's all on videotape you can watch it repeatedly to pick up more fine points. The more fine points you pick up the more masterful you will be and the less you will say, "it doesn't work."

I can't emphasize this "take-the-EFT-Course-properly" suggestion too strongly. Therein lies the foundational problem beneath almost every "it doesn't work" claim I've ever heard. In the hands of an artist, EFT can restore clients' lives into the living masterpieces they were meant to be. For a practitioner to fall short of that is to miss the real "juice" in this procedure.

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The problem is being approached too globally. The EFT Course stresses the value of being specific where you can. Some people tap on generalized anxiety (a VERY global problem) and wonder why their results are either temporary or non-existent. The reason is because global items such as generalized anxiety, self image problems, persistent anger, childhood abuse, etc. are comprised of numerous specific past events. The sum total of ALL of one's specific fears, rejections, traumas, guilt, etc. evolve into such global problems as generalized anxiety and self image problems. Approaching the problem too globally is a fairly common error by newcomers. To illustrate, here's a letter I just received along these lines...

"...... I cannot successfully treat my own Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I have used EFT while focusing on "my anxiety problem" or the binge eating, or generalized mental paralysis that sometimes ensues, and I feel slightly better following, but there is no lasting effect."

Usually we need to break a global issue down into its specific parts and neutralize each of them independently. This is clearly illustrated on "6 Days at the VA," a videotape in our EFT Course wherein EFT is applied to our Vietnam Veterans. Rich, the first vet on the tape, had "over 100 war memories that were 10's." These contributed to his more general ailment known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). We used EFT with a couple of specific events on film and Rich worked with 3 or 4 other specific events on his own. As a result, all 100 of the memories faded and ceased to bother him.

You can tap on a global issue, of course, and still make headway. However, the progress will usually seem gradual as the process will tend to chip away at the various aspects of the larger problem. One advantage of working with specific events is that we can usually provide relief for them rather rapidly, thereby allowing the client to recognize the result immediately. Another advantage is that, after knocking down a few of those negative trees in that negative forest, the whole forest tends to fall. It's as though each of the individual specific trees have items in common with all the rest of the trees. A generalization effect tends to occur and the whole problem becomes cleared. I have seen this many, many times.

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The Setup was not performed completely enough. The Setup is that procedure within The Basic Recipe that corrects for Psychological Reversal (PR). When PR is present it blocks the whole process from working. So, if you aren't getting anywhere, you would be well advised to "start from the top" and perform The Setup more thoroughly.

By this I mean to tap the Karate Chop point harder or rub the Sore Spot more vigorously while emphatically saying (even yelling) the affirmation. On many occasions I have been stuck and, after having the client rub that sore spot with great vigor and literally YELLING the affirmation, we broke through the PR barrier and proceeded to get our normal results. One example of this is on our Steps toward becoming The Ultimate Therapist tapes where one participant, Richard, was having difficulty getting EFT to "hold" on a stomach distress that he had suffered from for years. A few moments of an emphatic Setup (including yelling) and the problem lifted. Richard wrote me months later that his stomach ailment went away and stayed away except for rare occasions when he had unusual emotional stresses. All previous efforts with tapping (of any form) produced only temporary results at best.

Also, let me extend a thank you to Dr. Fred Gallo for introducing what he calls Criteria Related Reversals. In his experience, people who are stuck in reversal may find it useful to focus the affirmation more specifically. Examples might be...

"Even though I don't deserve to get over this _________"
"Even though it isn't safe for me to get over this _________"

I have used this myself with good success and recommend it as a useful tool.

Another way to approach PR is as evidence of a major secondary gain or loss--that is, a much larger issue hiding beneath the presenting problem. This is the presumption I make when I am making no progress. I start looking for core issues. Once found, the reversal problem seems to fade and the client reports relief. We are still learning here and I'm not sure if this theory is correct. It works well in practice, however.

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The client is switching aspects. Often, the client makes good progress but doesn't report it because s/he keeps switching to new aspects of the problem. The original aspects are actually relieved but the remaining aspects still cause distress. The client is not at fault here because s/he is often unable to distinguish between the relief already obtained and the stress still remaining. This happens frequently and serves to fool both the client and the EFT practitioner into thinking "it doesn't work."

Here's an example. Suppose a client still exhibits trauma symptoms from an auto accident of 20 years ago. When asked what bothers them about the accident the client says, "The headlights!! The headlights!! I can still see them coming at me." EFT is then applied to the headlight emotion and the client is then asked if the accident still bothers them. The client says, "Yes."

Unless one investigates further here, it would appear that the client is making no progress and that EFT "didn't work." If, instead, the client is asked, "Do the headlights still bother you?", the typical response will be something like, "No, but I can still hear the screams in the car." Do you hear another aspect? Sure. Now it is the screams in the car. Once that is relieved you may run into other aspects such as guilt for going too fast, anger at the other driver, etc.

Many emotional issues are single-aspected and it only takes one or two rounds of EFT to give them relief. They are among our "one minute wonders." Others, of course, have many aspects and require more diligence.

How do you find these aspects? The process is usually simple. Just ask the client to describe the problem after each round of EFT and notice how their language changes. They may start out, for example, talking about the problem in terms of fear and, after one round of EFT, discuss the problem in terms of guilt. Also, the events they focus on may change (e.g. from headlights to screams). Further, the physical sensations in their body may change from, perhaps, a "tightness in the stomach" to a "constriction in the throat."

The alert student might notice here that this "aspect switching" problem, while appearing to give evidence that EFT "doesn't work," actually gives resounding evidence of the opposite. The reason the client switches aspects is because the original aspect was given relief. The headlights are no longer a problem (EFT success) so now the client focuses on the screams (the next aspect in line).

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A core issue is interfering. This was covered above under the section on The Setup but bears elaboration here. When an important core issue is "hiding" behind a lesser presenting issue, the whole process seems to falter. This is because the real issue is not being addressed. Finding the core issue is what therapists are trained to do, of course. It is the centerpiece of the therapeutic art.

One way to find the core issue is to listen to how the client describes the problem. The keen ear will pick up the clues leading to "the bottom line." Another way is to develop the intuitional ability to hone right in on the real issue. This is demonstrated in great detail in our Steps toward becoming The Ultimate Therapist tapes.

Before I began to develop (trust) my intuitional skills, I would just simply ask the client questions like, "If there was a larger emotional issue here, what might it be?" I know that question seems elementary but I found it to be quite successful. I would ask them the question and often they would say, "I don't know." Then I would gently prod them to give me an answer. I might just ask them to guess or I might use my favorite NLP question and say, "If you did know, what would it be?" Eventually, they give an answer and it almost always takes us in a useful direction.

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Sometimes all that's missing is the human touch. There is something about the "connection" between two people that sometimes allows the process to work more efficiently. I know this is an intangible item that doesn't lend itself well to scientific scrutiny. Nonetheless, I have seen plenty of anecdotal evidence for it. Sometimes, I find, the process will appear not to work UNTIL the practitioner physically taps on the client. Then, almost magically, the problem fades away. This is fairly rare but it DOES happen.

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Some other procedure (e.g. 9 Gamut, Collarbone Breathing) is called for or some other points need to be tapped. As you recall, a short cut to The Basic Recipe was introduced in the EFT Course wherein (1) only half of the points needed to be tapped and (2) it was suggested that the 9 Gamut and Collarbone Breathing procedures could be put "on the shelf" until needed. So, if you aren't progressing, these previously omitted points and procedures could be reinstated. The need for this is infrequent, however. I would pursue the above avenues first.

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Although relatively infrequent, there may be an "energy toxin" involved which is thwarting the process. I have seen clear evidence of this phenomenon, especially in cases of depression and hyper kinetic children (Ritalin users). In fact, it appears to me that often these latter maladies are CAUSED by the offending food or substance and that the only thing necessary to give relief is the removal of the item(s) from the person's environment. Once that is done, tapping may not be necessary.

Generally, I find the interference of "energy toxins" much less pervasive than do those who practice Dr. Callahan's TFT. To me, persistence in looking for the core issue (the boil beneath the surface) is more likely to be effective than trying to search for an energy toxin.

Energy toxins (if they REALLY are the problem) can be discovered by muscle testing. However, to do the job thoroughly, one would have to painstakingly test an imposing list of things people eat, drink, breathe, wear or otherwise come in contact with. Another way to go about this is to have the client eat ONLY the following ORGANIC foods for one week: Fruits, vegetables (except corn), rice, nuts, seeds and filtered water. NOTHING ELSE!!!. No sugar, bread, pasta, coffee, tea, ice cream, salad dressing, tobacco, alcohol, etc. This allows the system to "clean house" as the items included in the above diet are rarely toxic. In the vast majority of cases, if toxins are indeed a problem, you will be able to proceed much more easily with the tapping after several days to a week of this diet. If this doesn't work, proceed to eliminating perfume, deodorants, soap residues and other items that are in one's environment.


Explore our newest advancement, Optimal EFT™, by reading my free e-book, The Unseen Therapist™. More efficient. More powerful.