Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) for coping with cancer
The art of tapping.
When we say "tapping" we are referring to Clinical EFT or Emotional Freedom Techniques. It is a gentle, self touch technique in which we use our own fingers to tap on specific acupressure points around the face and upper body. Based on the ancient technique of acupuncture from Traditional Chinese Medicine, EFT has been combined with modern psychology and contains elements of Mindfulness, CBT, ACT, Exposure Therapy and Positive Psychology.
Mindfulness practices and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction have been extensively studied in various medical and psychiatric settings, and are being applied to Oncology. There are a number of difficult aspects of the cancer experience that benefit from psycho-social intervention, and Mindfulness practices including EFT provide a helpful tool for patients with cancer to learn and apply in their own home and routine. It provides a sense of empowerment as the self-help version can be used without assistance of someone else or a practitioner, and can be applied in any situation, whether acute or chronic.
Is there clinical evidence?
Yes. Overall, EFT has been found to improve various physiological markers of health, including heart rate variability, blood pressure, resting heart rate and cortisol. Psychologically, significant declines were found in anxiety, depression, PTSD, pain and cravings, whilst happiness increased.
In a 2014 clinical study of breast cancer sufferers using Tamoxifen or Aromatase Inhibitors, EFT showed effective improvement in mood, anxiety and depression, and significantly reduced the hormonal side effects associated with the drugs.
What is Tapping useful for when it comes to cancer?
A cancer diagnosis is often associated with significant stress, even trauma, not to mention the incredible psychological burden of coping with cancer. EFT is a calming, practical body-based tool that sends signals to the mind and body and helps you to acknowledge and release long-held or intense emotions safely.
The scope of EFT is endless. Here are some applications for EFT that you might find helpful:
- The diagnosis - how it felt, what the Dr said, what it meant for you at the time
- Not wanting to worrying the family and loved ones and telling people or not
- Learning how to listen to your body and intuition - what is your body trying to tell you?
- Being able to rest - letting go of having to be busy and useful
- Considering your impermanence, your purpose for living and the legacy you want to leave.
- Releasing the emotional memory of other past traumatic events
- Side-effects of treatment and medication
- Fatigue and fogginess
- Overcoming the unpleasantness of treatments, medications or supplements
- Financial burden, not working, relying on others for financial, in kind and emotional support
- So many treatment options - which way to go?
- Rigorous Regimes - can't do it all - getting clarity around what is important for you right now
- Tapping with family or loved ones - worry and coping, opportunity to release built up emotions making way for more peace and clarity
- Listening to your body and knowing how to support it
- Learning how to notice, allow and acknowledge emotions so they don't get stuck and stored in your body
- Anxiety about scans and tests, Fear of recurrence
- How do I want my life to look and feel now?
Discovering your purpose and joy
- Find something that you enjoy doing just for you
- Find something that gives you moments of peace, awe or stillness
- What have you always wanted to do but couldn't for some reason? Didn't have time? Everyone else's priorities got in the way?
Can I just tap away?
Research on the mechanisms of Clinical EFT has shown that tapping on the specific acupoints is an important component to EFT's efficacy. You can use the self-help technique on anything and everything, however if you find something you've been tapping on is not shifting long-term, or you're avoiding tapping on something in particular, then it is worthwhile engaging the support and guidance of a practitioner. Seeing a trauma-trained practitioner might be particularly helpful if you are wanting to address past-trauma or life-long patterns, habits, and beliefs safely and calmly. It does take some personal practice a few sessions with a practitioner to learn and master this technique and get the most out of your tapping practice.
MIOG has recently partnered up with Lou Coles from Mind Body Health Solutions (pictured above), and she ran a fantastic webinar as an "Introduction to EFT" in which she taught the self-help version of EFT. She has extensive experience using EFT to support people with emotional traumas and chronic illnesses including cancer, and can be contacted for personal EFT sessions (in person in QLD or remotely via videoconference). You can access the webinar again here.
Lou was recently featured on "SBS Medicine or Myth?", where she tapped with Dr. Charlie Teo on pain. It is a great episode to watch that will give a bit of an understanding what EFT looks like. Have a look at it here.