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  • Writer's pictureCheryl Cunningham

Thought Field Therapy - Collapsing Negative Emotions

Updated: Mar 17, 2021

Thought Field Therapy (TFT) is a therapeutic technique used to treat psychological problems. This method has been developed and refined over the last thirty years by Californian psychologist, Dr. Roger Callahan (1925-2013).

How does it work?

In TFT, the client is asked to think about a specific issue that is causing them concern. This is commonly an anxiety, a phobia, a trauma, a loss, or a feeling of anger or of guilt. The client is then asked to quantify the feeling of discomfort on a scale of 0 to 10. 10 represents the most intense feelings of upset, and 1 represents a very low level of concern. The client is then guided through a simple tapping sequence. The sequence is adjusted depending on the negative emotion that the client would like to collapse. The tapping is done using one or two fingers, on specific places, or energy points, in a specific order. "The client typically tries, but cannot get back the original feelings of upset around the identified issue" (Callahan, 2002).

What are we tapping on?

In Traditional Chinese Medicine energy meridians have been used to treat the body for thousands of years. The tapping points used in TFT are at or near the ends of the energy meridians. The tapping point for anxiety is under the eye, on the stomach meridian. Often when we are anxious, we feel nervous and experience "butterflies" in our stomachs. When we are extremely nervous, we feel nauseous or "sick to our stomach". This was what first helped Dr Callaghan identify the effectiveness of tapping on the meridians. His first patient was Mary, who had an extreme phobia of water, so much so, that she was unable to take a shower. She described her fear as making her "sick to her stomach" and this gave Dr Callaghan the idea to get her to tap under the eye at the end point of the stomach meridian. Following treatment Mary was able to put her hand into a swimming pool and even stood out in the rain during a storm. Dr Callaghan went on to identify tapping points for various negative emotions and produced his algorithm of tapping points, which we use today.

Is it effective?

The technique is very effective. In approximately 80% of cases, treatment is likely to be successful and the problem eliminated. In the year 2000, a group representing The Global Institute of Thought Field Therapy travelled to Kosovo. 105 subjects were treated for extreme Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. 249 traumas were treated, 247 of them successfully. Kosovo’s equivalent of our Surgeon General has made Thought Field Therapy the official trauma treatment of Kosovo (Johnson, Shala, Sejdijaj, Odell, & Dabishevci, 1999).

TFT as a treatment for PTSD

Thought Field Therapy has been used successfully following:

  • The genocide in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo

  • Discrimination in South Africa

  • Hurricane Katrina at Charity Hospital in New Orleans

  • The shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton Colorado

  • 9/11 in New York City

  • The flooding in Tabasco & Chiapas in Mexico

  • The hurricanes in Haiti

Do I have to talk about the trauma that caused the negative emotion?

The great thing about TFT is that you do not have to disclose details of the event that triggered the issue that you would like treatment for. Unlike counselling, where you are encouraged to talk in detail about the event, in TFT you will be asked to name the emotion that you would like to collapse, but not the event behind it. It is therefore much less confronting. In addition, you are able to retain the learning or wisdom that you gained from the experience, but not the upset or trauma associated with it.

How long does treatment take?

Treatment sessions are for an hour initially. It very much depends on what you would like treatment for, but it can be quick and simple. Often something that occurs in childhood, an incident or comment, can stay with us and be carried into every similar situation, impacting our self esteem or anxiety levels. A fear of public speaking could stem from an uncomfortable experience from reading aloud in class. Other traumas can be more complicated and it may be a question of peeling back the layers to get to the root of the issue, with multiple emotions being involved. Treatment in this case may require a few appointments to collapse all of the negative emotions involved.

Positive energy supports positive thoughts

Just like a battery that has a positive and negative side, our body also has a positive and negative side. Tapping the side of the hand is an effective way to balance that polarity. Performing the tapping "Triangle" is a simple way to ensure that you are not in psychological reversal (PR). When we are in PR we muddle our words and thoughts. We put something in the microwave when we meant to put it in the fridge. We move in and out of PR several times per day. Every time we have a negative thought, we affect PR. Adding a daily energy practice into our day can help keep us in balance. Talking to ourselves in a kind and positive way can also help. We are often our harshest critics and would not talk to a friend the way we talk to ourselves, with our critical internal dialogue. We also need to understand how our left and right brain work and influence our thoughts.

It is important to ensure that you are in a positive mindset for your TFT session and you will be shown how to "clean" your energy and to correct your polarity. Where a negative emotion is removed, you will be shown how to replace the negative feelings with new, more positive ones. You will be given some techniques to help encourage cross hemispheric energy, which is the crossing over from left to right brain and vice versa.

Do the benefits last?

For the majority of clients treated the benefits hold. It is possible that you might be encouraged to carry out a regular tapping sequence at home to ensure the benefits of treatment last. For more complex cases, further treatment may be required.

Even in the most traumatic of situations the benefits appear to last. In 2006 and 2007, a pilot study was conducted in Rwanda with orphan survivors of the 1994 genocide (Sakai, Connolly, & Oas, 2010). The results demonstrated dramatic improvements. A follow-up two years later suggested that the improvements had held for the two years following the initial treatment.

What clients are saying about TFT

"Thank you. I enjoyed that and am amazed at the instant results."

"Extremely happy to recommend to anyone thinking of trying this therapy after experiencing very positive results"

"Having trained Cheryl in TFT I can absolutely recommend her as a therapist, she is intuitive and skilled which is the perfect combination. If you are lucky enough to be treated by Cheryl you could not be in safer hands." Janet Thomson MSc.

Let me help you move on from the negative emotions that are holding you back!

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