A Tipping Point for Tapping?

tippingpointA recent article in The Huffington Post  by Dr. Larry Burk  makes a case that we may have reached the ‘tipping point’  for tapping.

The concept of a ‘tipping point’ was described in the international 2000 bestseller, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.  Author Malcolm Gladwell described three major factors that determine whether a trend may “tip” into a wider-scale appeal:

  • The Law of the Few (key people need to back the idea)
  • The Stickiness Factor (an undefinable quality that compels people to pay attention)
  • The Power of Context (minute changes can unexpectedly shift an environment toward a new idea).

So, has Tapping reached a Tipping Point???

A little background:

EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques), TFT (Thought Field Therapy) and other meridian tapping techniques are part of a new movement in psychology called Energy Psychology (EP).  EP is a family of evidence-supported psychotherapeutic approaches that integrate established clinical practices with somatic methods derived from Eastern healing traditions. EP is rooted in the observation that psychological problems are a reflection of disturbed bio-energetic patterns in the mind-body system. By addressing these mental-emotional disturbances while engaging the body’s energetic systems, EP assists people in resolving emotional issues more rapidly, while enhancing peak performance and higher awareness.

For much of the past 25 years these new tapping therapies have been controversial.  The l’enfant terrible of modern psychotherapy has been alternately praised and criticized, acclaimed and ridiculed. Tapping techniques have been called ‘a major breakthrough,’  ‘the power therapies for the 21st century,’ and ‘the most significant development in personal growth since the Buddha taught meditation.’  Critics have labeled them a ‘sham,’ ‘therapeutic snake oil,’ and worse. The Journal of Clinical Psychology devoted a whole issue to Thought Field Therapy in 2005, which ignited a firestorm of protest and denunciation (some of it admittedly deserved, as many of the early studies lacked control groups and had other design flaws). Some practitioners of EP modalities such as TFT have been practicing “in the closet,” and many psychologists have avoided these techniques altogether. In 1998 the American Psychological Association took the unusual step of instituting a ban on CE credits for psychologists for any trainings in TFT.

The Law of the Few

The ‘Law of the Few’ contends that before widespread popularity can be attained, a few key types of people must champion an idea, concept, or product before it can reach the tipping point.

Notable speakers with considerable media following such as Iyanla Vanzant, Jack Canfield, Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Louise Hay, Cheryl Richardson, Bruce Lipton and others have endorsed Tapping. The video, “The Tapping Solution” has sold more than 90,000 copies. Last year the Tapping World Summit organized by Nick Ortner attracted over 500,000 viewers, and his recently released book The Tapping Solution is currently listed on Amazon’s list as a #1 overall best-seller.

The Stickiness Factor

Gladwell defines the ‘Stickiness Factor’ as the quality that compels people to pay close, sustained attention to a product, concept, or idea.  ‘Tapping’ appears to have captured the interest of hundreds of thousands of people.  Articles on tapping have appeared in popular magazines such as Men’s Health, Women’s World and Spirituality and Health (to name but a few), and air time has been devoted to the subject on radio, TV and YouTube.

But although it is growing in popularity with the general public, and has been receiving continuing media attention, there have been questions re: whether there has been any ‘real research’ on these modalities.  To this date there have been over 50 research studies on EP modalities published in peer-reviewed, scientific journals.  Last year (2012) the Review of General Psychology published a major survey article by David Feinstein, which reviewed the evidence for the efficacy of tapping methods. (All of the methods surveyed, including studies conducted by skeptics, demonstrated efficacy).  A study on treating PTSD with EFT was published earlier this year (March, 2013) in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease.  Co-authored by Dawson Church and colleagues, the study showed that PTSD could be effectively treated in only 6 sessions of EFT, delivered over the telephone.(!)   Another study co-authored by Caroline Sakai and Suzanne Connolly, published in the International Journal of Emergency Mental Health demonstrated effectiveness in treating survivors of the Rwandan genocide with only one TFT session; these results held over a one-year followup.

Last month a Canadian journal, Psychology Progress, selected the Feinstein review, “Acupoint Stimulation in Treating Psychological Disorders: Evidence of Efficacy” as a ‘significant contributor’ in the study of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  (Psychology Progress alerts the scientific community to breaking journal articles considered to represent the best in psychology research. Psychology Progress is viewed almost 40,000 times each month and has an audience of academic and clinical personnel from the top 20 major academic institutions.)  An addendum to the feature discusses the use of Energy Psychology in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

The Power of Context 

The ‘Power of Context’ can be enormously important in determining whether a particular phenomenon will tip into widespread popularity. Even minute changes in the environment can play a major factor in attaining a tipping point. In order for a trend to tip into massive popularity, large numbers of people need to embrace it. Gladwell points out that groups of certain sizes and certain types can often be uniquely conducive to achieving the tipping point. Even minute changes and small variations in an environment can cause a new idea to ‘tip.’

Last year, the American Psychological Association reversed its position on CE’s for psychologists studying EP modalities. A recent newsletter of the American Psychiatric Association’s Caucus on Alternative and Integrative Medicine recommended an Integrative Medicine track for scientific programs at their annual conference and also suggested including more information about Complementary, Alternative & Integrative Medicine in webinars and periodicals. These recommendations will increase the focus on meridian tapping and related approaches in mainstream journals and organizations.

Has Tapping hit the Tipping Point?

While media attention and research evidence for meridian tapping modalities continue to grow, we believe it is premature to answer this question.  There are many factors, of which Gladwell has identified only a few, which determine whether a new idea or innovation captures the mainstream’s interest in a sustained way.  Only time will tell whether tapping has reached a true tipping point, or not.

John Freedom, CEHP
Suzan Thompson, PhD
ACEP Research Committee


  1. This is very good news and an excellent article. Many thanks, Michael Wolff

  2. Madeline Falcone says:

    If tapping hasn’t reached the tipping point yet, it will very soon. When children demonstrate to parents success with a methodology, change happens!

  3. Maria Heretaki says:

    As a student/practitioner and a firm beleiver of Alternative/vibrational Medicine who has used a number of techniques to cure depression, I must say that EFT has saved me from ending my life recently. The effect was as quick as 10min video session; the need to end my life was replaced with peace and a good night sleep. I now continue to tap on the underlying issues causing the de-pression……..

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