Phil Mollon Ph.D. DCEP
Is there a difference between Thought Field Therapy and Emotional Freedom Techniques?
This question is often asked - especially by those who have learned only EFT. Both involve guiding the client to tap on acupressure points whilst focussing on the target problem. Some of the material presenting EFT, including that by its founder, Gary Craig, gives the impression that EFT is an improved version of TFT - whilst Dr Callahan is known to have described EFT as "TFT for idiots".
In Gary Craig's original account of EFT in his manual, there is nothing included that is not part of TFT - but some parts of TFT have been excluded in order to create a simplified version. These excluded parts are the more difficult and subtle aspects - the diagnostic testing for sequences of meridian points and for reversals - the very features that Dr Callahan considers central and crucial to TFT.
Despite the arguments of some to the contrary, the sequence of meridian points does matter. In the diagnostic muscle testing procedure developed by Dr Callahan, the sequencing of meridians underpinning the target problem is tangible and visible - it can be seen and felt. Once reversals are identified and cleared, the correct meridian sequence will often result in dramatic drops in experienced distress. One of Dr Callahan's analogies is with a combination lock - when the correct sequence of points is tapped, the perturbation is released. Commonly occurring meridian sequences have been found to contain the perturbations behind a variety of states of distress, such as anxiety, trauma, guilt, humiliation, depression, and so forth. The common sequences, which can be used without the skilled diagnostic procedure, are called algorithms. Many of these are described in Dr Callahan's book Tapping the Healer Within.
Dr. Callahan considers 'psychological reversal' to be one of his most important discoveries - and this is undoubtably the case. Although these are addressed in EFT, they are given less emphasis than in TFT, where they can be detected, corrected, and the results observed.
EFT, with its standard 'non-sequence' and embedded correction for reverals in the 'set-up', does work, but it is less efficient and precise [in my experience] than TFT. Some of the material on Gary Craig's 'EFT course' is actually TFT. For example, in the sections on work with Vietman Veterans with PTSD, he actually refers to the work as 'Callahan Techniques Thought Field Therapy' in conversation with the Veterans. Although the full treatment segments are not shown, it is apparent that TFT sequences are used. Again, in the audio section where Craig is working with people by phone, he states that he is using Voice Technology, a TFT procedure used to generate precise sequences. On the other hand, Gary Craig and others have shaped EFT in distinct ways that are different from TFT - particularly in the way language is used, such as in the skillful reframing of the client's problem that Craig undertakes in what he calls his 'rambling' during the 'set-up' phase. Craig has also developed an elaborate and clearly valid framework for targeting the work most effectively on the detailed aspects that underpin the presenting problem. His encouragement of experimentation - "try it on everything" - has also been highly beneficial and has led to new discoveries and observations. Some of the research with the best methodology has been carried out on EFT.
Within TFT, there is a level of skill known as Voice Technology. The precise nature of this was, for many years, a closely guarded secret and until recently only a handful of people had undertaken this training. I have long assumed that it most likely is a form of skill in intuitive discerment whereby one person's energy system is able to read that of another, perhaps assisted by proxy muscle testing. With practice, this is not difficult to learn. Gary Craig teaches a variant of this on his 'Steps towards the Ultimate Therapist' DVDs.
In summary, there are indeed important differences between TFT and EFT. The former is more precise, engaging more directly with the field of information encoded in the energy system. This is why Callahan called his method 'Thought Field Therapy' - as opposed to something like 'Thought Blockage Therapy'. It is a field of information, expressed in the body's energy system, generated by the thought in the mind. This formulation is subtly different from the EFT idea of a blockage in energy system. On the other hand, there have been important contributions within EFT, in terms of the use of language and the targeting of the method on specific aspects. Both approaches have something of value - but if a person learns only EFT then he or she may be unaware of some important details that are taught within TFT.
These complexities and subtleties are discussed in my book Psychoanalytic Energy Psychotherapy. One theme that runs through my approach to energy psychology is that we are dealing with reality - not with theory - and the clinical energetic phenomena that we explore cannot be trademarked or copyrighted or restricted to brand name therapies.
Ian Graham, of the British Thought Field Therapy Association, has compiled a detailed account of differences between TFT and EFT, countering some of Gary Craig's arguments. This can be found here: