What to Say When You’re “Tapping” with Energy Psychology

Beyond the Talking Cure: Talk and Tap

The practice of guided change has its foundation in psychotherapy, once dubbed the talking cure.

After more than one hundred years of psychotherapy history, we count many success stories, yet the question becomes: Is talking enough? Many are turning to body and mind interventions to increase the odds of successful outcomes. 

One mind body approach to healing, called energy psychology, employs the use of talking about problems or goals found in conventional approaches, while simultaneously engaging the body as a change agent. Energy psychology methods are quite varied, involving many of the body’s energy systems and diverse ways of working with them. Emotional Freedom Techniques and Thought Field Therapy are the most commonly known. They’re sometimes referred to as “tapping,” since the client holds, taps or rubs areas on the face, trunk and hands, on the endpoints of the meridians.

Rapid, effective, and lasting change is being reported for energy psychology protocols (see ACEP’s research section for information about peer-reviewed studies on energy psychology). Preliminary evidence shows that tapping while talking about issues sends signals to the brain’s executive regions, increasing arousal. This activation mediates limbic responses to stressful stimuli, thus downregulating activity of the brain associated with fear (DiRienzo, 2019; Stapleton, 2019). It is then possible to rewrite a practiced and undesired pattern by establishing a novel and desired one. Research has found that, by itself, talking is not enough. In one study, energy psychology sessions outperformed sessions that didn’t use acupoint tapping. Sessions were otherwise identical, including use of the same words (Church et al., 2018).

What to Say When You’re Tapping

Many practitioners use their client’s words when tapping, offering specific and personal expressions for optimal change. Other times, practitioners may want to paraphrase the client’s words, while maintaining the spirit of their client’s intention. There are ways you can craft the words you use in sessions to optimize results for your clients.

When in sync, practitioners and clients share a common focus and build trust, giving the client courage to face uncomfortable or difficult material. Still, it is up to the practitioner to choose what to emphasize in a tapping session, and the “tapping words” will be influenced by the goal for that part of the session. For instance, building rapport, identifying an aspect of change that is desired, or integrating experiences call for different phrases.

While each session and client are unique, common themes and processes of change are universal phenomenon that you can reference when choosing what to say. Psychologist David Feinstein created an initial framework for choosing words to tap by, based on observing his clinical sessions (See “Words to Tap By: The Use of Language in Energy Psychology Protocols”, 2019, Energy Psychology Journal, 11:1. You don’t have to sign up to access the article unless you want to. Just click download). Using this framework, you can create phrases that address these different aspects of a session: attuning, exploring and leading.

Create an Enhanced Alliance with Your Client: Attuning

To create an enhanced alliance with your client, it may be helpful to use phrases for attuning or harmonizing the relationship. Ideally, your client feels safe enough to share with you because they feel seen, heard and acknowledged. Words to tap by can focus on what is happening in the present, reducing emotional reactivity or arousal, such as I can’t seem to stop shaking, restating the problem from new angles, I never thought I’d get help for being alone, or recognizing the benefit of the issue Maybe my pain can become my growth.

Describe Issues/Needs that Cause the Problem: Exploring

When you and your client describe issues and needs that cause and maintain the problem or goal, you are in the exploring phase of treatment. This leads to a deeper understanding of associated dilemmas, binds and obstacles. The focus is typically in the past, looking at the roots of problems, such as I am afraid of becoming ill now because I was sick and scared as a child. Energy psychology techniques famously combine desired and undesired statements at the same time, creating an acceptance for what is, rather than fighting reality. One example is Even though the world seems upside-down, I deeply and completely love and accept myself. Double binds can be named, like When I stay in this relationship, I am miserable, but when I leave, l can’t forgive myself. Sometimes the focus is placed in the future, such as fears that arise from reaching a goal: If I stand up to my boss, I might get fired.

Resolve a Problem, Achieve a Goal: Leading

The third type of phrase is focused on achieving a goal, resolving a problem, or creating greater acceptance of life. Words to tap by in the leading phase focus on what can be, so they are often future oriented. Your client can also bolster self-confidence, thus finding their own solutions to problems. Examples may include I can eat a normal sized meal without cravings; Even though I’ve made mistakes, I don’t have to be perfect to be loved; I’ve been through worse and survived.

Use these guidelines to shape your own creative use of language while tapping. You may discover new ways to move toward greater freedom, healing and self-awareness. Case examples of what to say while tapping can be found online and in print for various energy psychology methods, including Thought Field Therapy and Emotional Freedom Technique.

David Feinstein, Ph.D. and Peta Stapleton, Ph.D. are invited presenters at ACEP’s 22nd International Energy Psychology Conference on May 16, 2020. Now online via livestream! Learn more and sign up.


Lori Chortkoff Hops, PhD, DCEP is a licensed psychologist in Westlake Village, California, USA. Lori is President-Elect of ACEP (www.energypsych.org), and Chair of ACEP’s Communications Committee. She is certified in Comprehensive Energy Psychology, and is a Reiki master. Learn more about Dr. Hops at www.drlorihops.com. You can visit her Facebook page for A Tip A Day for Wellness Program at Lori Hops.

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