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Articles & Ideas


Three Keys to EFT Mastery

Important Note: This article was written prior to 2010 and is now outdated.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

Hi Everyone,

Here is a truly outstanding article by EFT Master Nancy Gnecco. Studying it will help you graduate into masterful uses of EFT.

Hugs, Gary

By Nancy Gnecco, LPC, EFT Master

Almost anyone can learn to practice EFT successfully, and even teach it to others with phenomenal success.  Mechanical EFT which is taught in the Basic EFT Course Instructional Video Set, plus study of the free manual downloaded from the EFT website ( are all that is needed to get started.  You don’t have to be a therapist, counselor, or social worker to be successful with Mechanical EFT.  You don’t even have to believe that the techniques will work.  You will still get results for yourself, family, friends, and, if you are in any of the helping professions, you can use EFT effectively within your current practice whether you are a life coach, a doctor, or clergy.  Why, then, the focus on “mastery”?  The answer to that is simple.  Once you have experienced initial success you will want to improve your skills.  Success breeds success, and I guarantee that you will want more of it. 

The second part of The Basic Course will take you through what to do when EFT doesn’t appear to work.  You will want to revisit the “Overview” on the first CD reminding you about “aspects”, psychological reversal, the importance of persistence - even Energy Toxins and The Collar Bone Breathing Procedure which are seldom used, but are valuable to know about on the rare occasions when you experience impediments to success.

But MASTERY!  What are the keys, the skills, knowledge and techniques that will take your work from mechanical to clinical to mastery?  The keys really aren’t secrets at all.  They are stressed over and over in all of the Instructional CD’s. Mastering the concepts in these and the Tutorials on the EFT website will give you all the skills needed for mastery. Three of the most important concepts in EFT are being specific, the mind-body connection, and testing your results.



Clients generally come to us with “global” issues – general complaints such as anxiety or depression, or even chronic pain.  In order to learn to be specific we need to look at what has happened in the person’s life that has brought them to therapy.  Rarely is the presenting problem the real issue.  More often it is a symptom of something much deeper and more profound.  Natalie presented with an eating disorder totally unaware of repressed memories of sexual abuse as a child.   Rene came in wanting to work on her abusive relationship with her husband, a very real and present issue, but based in an extensive history of witnessing her father demean and abuse her mother.

Before someone develops chronic emotional distress of any kind, there have been many, sometimes hundreds, of specific events that have contributed to the disorder.  Usually, there is a “core issue” , often something that happened a long time ago, maybe even in utero that traumatized the Being.  When this happens the body is thrown into a primitive response of fight, flight, or freeze.  This original issue may be a huge trauma, or something as simple as the look on a parent’s face, or the feeling of abandonment by a baby who cries and no one comes.

 A “core issue” effects a part of the brain called the reticular formation which regulates arousal, attention, and awareness[1], setting up the energy system to become extra sensitive to any trauma or event that is reminiscent of the original one.  Due to the Law of Attraction[2], what we focus on we get more of, so the person grows up with a pattern of “attracting” or being sensitized to events that are reminiscent of the original one.  Each successive episode contributes to the pattern which eventually leads to the emotional disorder:  the anxiety, the depression, the insomnia, the “mother issues”.  This pattern is what is referred to in EFT as the “table top”, or the global description of the problem.  The “table top” is held up by all of the specific events that have contributed to the emotional disorder.  These are the “table legs”.  When one lives with a dysfunctional emotional pattern, negative core beliefs are formed about one’s self and about the world. These dictate the way the person interacts with the world.  In Palace of Possibilities[3] these negative core beliefs and learned limitations are called the “Writing On Our Walls”, and they are the “truths” by which we live.  Common negative core beliefs are: “I am not loveable.  I am not good enough.  I don’t have enough (money, time, energy, health).”

A core belief is the accumulation of the “writing on our walls.”  A pattern, or psychological disorder is not specific.  It is the “table top”.  When you hear the words “always, all, never, recurring, constantly, all the times that…” you know the client is telling you about a “table top” – a global issue that is being held in the energy system by many “table legs” or specific events that have happened over time.  In order to collapse the “table top” and receive emotional freedom on the issue, we need to collapse the “legs” that are holding it up.

A specific event is one in which the client can fill in the blank in the following sentence:

THE TIME WHEN…………………………………………….

Sometimes clients have difficulty with this request.  The pattern, verbal abuse for example, was so prevalent in Irene’s childhood that no single specific event stands out.  Often memories have been repressed, and clients need our help in narrowing down a specific event. “The time when my parents always fought.”  is not a specific event.

Here is an example from a woman who was date raped in college.  Her presenting issue is a global “fear of men” conflicting with the desire to be in a loving, intimate partnership with a man.  One of the negative beliefs she carries is that “All men want is sex”.  She says, “I can’t maintain a positive relationship with a man.”  Leah wants to have a nurturing, permanent relationship with a man, but whenever a relationship starts to become intimate her fear of men kicks in.  This is the “table top”:  the fear of men.  I ask her to come up with a specific event that could have contributed to her fear, and she responds, “My dad was a scary man.  He hurt my mother a lot and she always ended up crying.”  When I ask her again for a specific event, and she responds that it happened constantly.  Here are some questions that can be asked at this point to lead Leah to a specific event:

“Do you remember the first time it happened?”

“Is there one time that stands out in your memory as being the worst?”

“Forget about the childhood stuff for now, and think about the most recent time.”

“You said that ‘all men want is sex’.  What does this remind you of?”

“When was the last(first) time that you had the feeling a man wanted sex from you?”

“If the memories are all mushed together, imagine a scene as if it were a movie of the abuse happening.  It’s okay if you make up parts of it, and, it’s okay if it’s a combination of several events.  Make the movie be of one scene only.  Who was there?  What happened?  Where were you?  Give the movie a title. View the movie in your mind as a single event.”  This, of course, leads to The Movie Technique which gently forces the client to become more and more specific.  Read about The Movie Technique on the EFT website in Tutorial #3 at

Together we build a list of specific events.  Things that happened to Leah that are serving as “table legs” holding up her belief that she can’t maintain an intimate relationship with a man.

THE TIME WHEN we were eating dinner and my father didn’t like the food, and threw his plate across the room and my mother cried.

“Even though my father threw the plate across the room because he didn’t like the food, and my mother cried, I deeply and profoundly accept myself.”

THE TIME WHEN I went to the prom with Billy and we made out in the back of his car, and he put my hand down to feel his penis, and I didn’t want to. 

“Even though Billy wanted me to feel his penis and I didn’t want to, I deeply and completely accept myself.”

THE TIME WHEN my boyfriend offered me a back rub, and I didn’t realize that there were strings attached.  My backrub was supposed to lead to sex for him.  “Even though my boyfriend offered me a back rub and then wanted sex, I deeply and completely accept myself and the fact that I didn’t want to do it.”

THE TIME WHEN my father hit my mother and gave her a black eye, and she told us she had run into a door, but I knew she hadn’t.

“Even though my father hit my mother and gave her a black eye, and she told us she had run into a door, but I didn’t believe her, I deeply and completely accept myself.”

Eventually, by collapsing a number of “table legs” or specific events with a common thread, there will be a generalization effect, meaning that the pattern of fear will have been interrupted.  When enough of the “table legs” have been cut off,  Leah’s fear of men will greatly diminished.  She will then be ready to allow her desire for a kind and loving male partner to manifest.  If the fear of men returns, we know that we are not complete with the treatment as new triggers, “aspects”, or “table legs” have presented themselves.

The ability to tease out specific events and craft set up statements to accurately represent them assures thorough treatment of the problem, and can make the difference between mediocre results and outstanding, masterful results.



Anyone who has been involved with EFT for any length of time is familiar with the benefits available for physical pain and illness.  The mind, the emotions and the body are all connected, and work together to promote health and well being.  Even the American Academy of Family Physicians now states that “your body responds to the way you think, feel and act. When you are stressed, anxious or upset, your body tries to tell you that something isn’t right.” 

When any of these three aspects (mind, body, emotions) is compromised physical dis-ease can manifest. We now know that most physical problems, diseases and ailments have an emotional component, which, when released, can bring relief of pain and other physical symptoms. Sometimes that emotional component is the actual cause of the physical problem, as when unexpressed anger manifests as a headache; and sometimes it is a result of how a person feels about having the disease, the pain, the ailment, as in the depression one might experience when facing a life threatening diagnosis.  Emotional Freedom Techniques is being used very effectively every day on the emotional components of physical problems, providing relief for many sufferers of pain and illness.  The reason it is so effective is that it treats the true cause of the symptoms which is in the body’s energy systems.  See for a tutorial by Gary Craig on using EFT with serious diseases.

            The concept of “Chasing the Pain”, first introduced in the Steps Toward Becoming The Ultimate Therapist Workshop, also on DVD, is a very simple procedure that can be used with any pain or discomfort.  Simply stated, “Chasing the Pain” is the process of doing EFT for the presenting physical complaint and then treating whatever comes up during treatment.  Often, the pain will change location, quality or intensity.  When it does, it is a good indication that there is at least one emotional cause or contributor.  It is believed that as we reduce each pain we are collapsing the emotional issues behind it.   “Chasing the Pain” can take two forms.  The first is to just follow the pain, tapping the EFT sequence whenever it changes location, or whenever the quality of the pain has changed.  The second is to investigate the emotional contributor.  Some leading questions that can redirect the focus to the emotional components are:

“If there were an emotional cause for this pain, what might it be?”

“If your pain/symptom could speak to us what would it say?”  Joanne Skywatcher has written an excellent case study using this question and its success with a woman who has shoulder pain.[4]

“If this physical problem were a metaphor for something going on in your life what would the metaphor be?”  An example of this is the client who presented with a stiff, painful neck.  When asked, “Who in your life is being a pain in the neck?” he was easily able to recall a recent incident in which his wife had been badgering him to complete a project at home that he had been resistant to doing.  “She’s a pain in the neck.”  We treated the statement, “My wife is a pain in the neck.” and the tension in his neck went from an intensity level of 7 to a level of 3.  To get the intensity to 0 required only one more round of EFT this time tapping on, “My wife in my neck.”  To see an example of this watch Video 8 in the Mastering EFT Instructional Video set.  You will see Gary working with Baerbel who has pain in her face “like a claw”.  An experienced EFT practitioner, Baerbel understands the mind-body connection and talks about her paralyzed arm as her body’s message to her to “Slow down, or else.”

            When the emotional contributor has been cleared, very often, we can check back in with the original pain and find that it has disappeared entirely or has greatly diminished.  An excellent illustration can be found in the last example of Physical Issues on the 3rd video in the second part of The Basic Course.  The woman develops sudden, extreme pain while driving home after one of the EFT workshops. She has been speeding and sees a police car with lights on coming up behind her car.  She thinks she is being pulled over for speeding, but the police car passes her.  The fear that she was about to be stopped for speeding has caused her pain, even though it didn’t actually happen. At home she is able to release a significant amount by herself, but arrives at the workshop the next day with residual pain in her neck and shoulders, all of which is handled by addressing the anxiety and fear she felt the day before with the incident with the police.

There is another very important use of the mind-body connection in EFT.  When a client presents with an emotional issue sometimes we don’t think to investigate how that issue is manifesting in the body.  Just as we can eliminate pain and other physical symptoms by tapping on the emotional contributor, we can also relieve emotional issues by tapping on the physical symptoms those emotional issues are creating in the body.

I was working with a woman recently who identified a trauma related to an event in which she had to bail her husband out of jail.  The predominant feeling was fear and the intensity was an 8.  When the fear came down she reported that what she felt now was anger.  Noticing her restricted breathing, I asked her to drop her awareness down into her body to see where her attention was drawn when she thought about the anger.  She reported difficulty breathing and compression in her chest.  We tapped on these two physical sensations and then checked back in with the anger which had gone to a 0 without ever addressing it directly.  I asked her to try to get the anger back, and she couldn’t.  She was then able to tell the entire story of the event without any distress.

An example of being specific and utilizing physical sensations to relieve emotional issues can be seen on tape # 14 in the instructional video series entitled, Steps Toward Becoming The Ultimate Therapist.  You will see Gary Craig working with a man complaining of “Bashful Bladder” – the inability to urinate in public restrooms.  Looking for a “core issue”, Gary asks the participant to pick out a single event that may have contributed to this problem and make a movie of it. The movie brings up physical sensations and Gary spends a lot of time tapping on them.  First there is tension in the chest.  The tension in the chest becomes constriction in the throat, which then becomes sadness, moving back to the emotional realm.  Ultimately, the participant is able to tell the story of being teased by other boys in the locker room, and the extreme shame he felt because he had developed slowly in puberty.  Having carried this shame with him for more than 20 years, he reports that he now has emotional freedom on that event.

To summarize:

    If the client presents with a physical problem and you want to move to the emotional components of the problem, ask:

“If there were an emotional contributor to this symptom, what might it be?”

“If your symptom could talk, what would it say?”

“If your symptom were a metaphor for something going on in your life what might it be?”

If the client presents with an emotional problem, especially if the emotional problem is

too intense to talk about, and you want to “Sneak Up on the Problem”, you can move to the physical realm with these questions:

“Where do you feel this emotion in your body?’

“Drop your awareness down into your body and see if your attention is drawn to any place in particular.  What is the sensation like?”

Always remember, when working with physical illness, that it is essential for the work be done in conjunction with qualified health care professionals. Although we “try it on everything”, often with astounding results, we are not doctors, and though we can balance the body’s energy system, this does not take the place of medical care.


      Testing our results is one of the primary skills taught in all the EFT instructional videos and one that tends to be most under-used.  Traditional psychotherapy seeks to have the client gain insights into their problems, symptoms or behaviors.  Traditional therapists were not taught to test their results, because once we got the person calmed down we didn’t want to trigger them again.  I remember being taught in Polarity Therapy never to allow the client to talk about distressing issues after the session, because once we have the energies balanced we don’t want the person going back into thoughts that could disrupt them again.  The truth is that if we have truly balanced the energies, nothing that we do or say will be able to bring back the distress.  The ability to bring back the distress is evidence that the issue has not been balanced energetically. 

        With EFT we are constantly testing to let ourselves, the practitioners, and the clients know where we are.  By testing we mean that we monitor the level of intensity during treatment, and we deliberately try to have the person get upset again once we believe we have collapsed the issue to an intensity of zero.

        During treatment we want to monitor the level of intensity, so we ask for an initial rating on a scale of 0 to 10 with 0 being no intensity at all and 10 being the worst it can be.   After each round of treatment we ask the client to check the intensity.  “If your anxiety was an 8 when we started, what is the level of intensity now?”  If it is not zero we know we have more work to do, so we complete another round of EFT on the remaining intensity.  “If it started at an 8, and went to a 3, where is it now?”  If the client reports that it is zero, or that they can’t find it, we want to know if we have truly collapsed the issue so we ask the client to literally try to get the intensity back up.  If the client can, we have more work to do; if not we want to move to a different level of testing just to be sure that the person truly has emotional freedom on the issue.

        If we are using the Movie Technique[5] , we may ask the client to run the movie again, making it as detailed as possible, or we may ask that the client tell the story of the event, stopping if there is any intensity at any point. The “Tell the Story Technique”[6]is a very effective way to test our thoroughness, and to be certain that we have addressed all aspects of the distressing incident.  This technique can be seen demonstrated on many of the EFT Instructional Videos, but perhaps the most dramatic is in The Basic Course: Part 1, Video 3, entitled 6 Days at the VA.  The last example on this video is of Robert, a Viet Nam Vet, who tells the horrific story of having killed a child during the war.  He has carried the memory of this event at an intensity level of 10 for over 20 years, one of many intrusive memories that comprise his PTSD.   Using EFT he is able to get emotional freedom from this memory in a very short amount of time. 

        Of course, the best way to test anything is to test it in real life, and you will see excellent examples of this in many of the instructional videos.  You may want to review “Dave and his Fear of Water” in the EFT Basic Course (CD Part 1 – 1b).  This video shows an entire session with Dave, who had a complex phobia of water, dating back as far as he could remember.  “Core issues” are uncovered, multiple aspects are addressed, and the results of the EFT treatment are tested until Dave can actually go into the pool and dunk his head under water. 

        In the May 26, 2006 issue of the EFT Newsletter Gary Craig gives a “Helpful Hint:  One key trait of EFT Masters is the tendency to test their work before assuming they are done. For example, have the height phobic look off the top of the tallest building in town ... or ... have the trauma victim repeat a graphic sentence like,  "There was blood all over the place and I can still hear those constant screams" ... or ... ask the headache sufferer to shake his or her head ... and so on. If any of these tests show residual problems then you have more to do. This is important to know. Otherwise, your work is incomplete and your client has been shortchanged.”

        To conclude, mastership of EFT is about the approach and the art of delivery:  getting specific, utilizing the mind-body connection, and testing our work being three of the most important concepts. 

Nancy Gnecco, LPC, M.Ed



[3] (also on DVD)





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