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What is Thought Field Therapy TFT?

The person who created thought field therapy TFT is a doctor of psychology in the United States. His name is Dr Roger Callahan.

He has a background in conventional psychology. However, he was always searching for a quicker and more effective way of getting results for his patients. He used concepts from acupuncture and applied kinesiology to develop what he called Thought Field Therapy TFT.

It started in 1979. Dr Roger Callahan was treating a lady with a water phobia. After many months of conventional psychological approaches, like systematic desensitisation and cognitive behavioural techniques, there was no progress. He then had the idea of tapping on one specific acupuncture point which related to where she felt the phobia symptoms in her body. She was dramatically cured! Her water phobia had gone. Dr Roger Callahan, and his patient, were both amazed by the result.

Dr Roger Callahan subsequently developed various tapping sequences over the following months and years. Each tapping sequence corresponds to particular conditions like anxiety, stress, fear, other negative emotions, cravings, phobias and traumatic events.

Thought field therapy TFT, is simple, yet very effective.

It is quick, and provides lasting results.

However, it does not fit with our conventional way of thinking and expectations.

The technique is to tap on acupuncture points on your body in a particular sequence.

It sounds too simple to work. Or too ridiculous to work. Or you might think; how could that possibly help me? I would say those are reasonable initial thoughts.

But it does work. It works well for anxiety, both mild and severe. It works well for other things like stress, fear, phobias, emotional traumas and so on.

One of the failings, in my view, for the acceptance of thought field therapy TFT, is the explanation as to how it works. Now the explanation might be completely true, I don’t know. But the explanation does not fit with a scientific, mainstream medicine, conventional view of the world.

The explanation goes along the lines of correcting ‘energy’ blockages by tapping on meridian lines on our body. It particularly has a concept that negative emotions and traumas are represented by ‘perturbations’ in the ‘field’ around us. And by tapping on certain energy points, these perturbations collapse. The collapse of a perturbation resolves the negative emotion or trauma.

Now that explanation may be true. I don’t know.

The explanation I give to my patients as to how it works is different to the above explanation.

But before we get to my explanation of how thought field therapy works, I would like to share a little story with you. When I was a 4th year medical student back in 1993, I did a 4 week placement at a world renowned chronic pain management centre in Liverpool, UK. They used many different techniques to help patients with intractable chronic pain. One of the techniques they used was acupuncture. Back in 1993 alternative medicine was not widely accepted by mainstream conventional medicine. And to a large degree, it still isn’t. Anyway, I remember asking the medical director in charge of the centre why they used acupuncture. His answer was that acupuncture originated from the China about five thousand years ago. Now the Chinese were very observant of what actually worked. They found that this particular technique worked, and so they subsequently explained it in terms of what made sense to them at the time, five thousand years ago. So they used terms like energy and the 5 elements, earth, fire, water, wood, metal to explain how acupuncture worked. Now this explanation does not make much sense in today’s world. But the technique still works, even if the explanation behind does not make sense in today’s scientific view of the world. Over the years, there has accumulated substantial clinical evidence to show that acupuncture is useful in certain conditions. But the point of the story is; do not dismiss a technique because the explanation behind it does not make sense at the moment.

I would also like to explain something else, before we get to my explanation of how thought field therapy TFT works. I would like to explain the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response.

Some memories and situations will have an autonomic nervous system ‘fight or flight’ response associated with them. For example if you are suddenly confronted by a large, ferocious dog barking at you in a threatening way, your autonomic nervous system will instantly activate your body ready to fight or flee. And you feel fear or acute anxiety or stress. And if you were to imagine that scene, perhaps the fear might not be as high as in real life, but it would still be there. And say in the past that dog did attack you, and physically bit you. When you recall that memory, or something happens that triggers that memory, like seeing another dog, you may still feel the same fear as you did during the attack.

So certain memories and situations will have an autonomic nervous system response associated with them. This response is usually learnt as we grow up and experience the world. This response is both automatic and instantaneous. It is part of our basic survival mechanism. In our evolution, when we recognised something that was dangerous, we either had to fight or flee. It helped us to survive.

In the ‘fight or flight’ response the autonomic nervous system is activated. It releases many stress hormones into your blood stream, including adrenalin and cortisol, to prepare your body for fighting or fleeing. This ‘fight or flight’ response has many powerful negative emotions associated with it, like fear, anxiety, stress etc. These negative emotions are vital in order to instantly prepare us to fight or flee. Unfortunately, neither action is usually appropriate in today’s society for normal everyday situations. However you still experience the strong emotions that go with it, like fear, anxiety, stress etc. And since there is no physical outlet for these powerful hormones, you continue to experience the negative emotions for a lot longer than you should.

Some situations or memories will have this ‘fight or flight’ response associated with them.

I believe thought field therapy TFT works by re-setting your body’s autonomic nervous system ‘fight or flight’ response to certain situations or memories.

So, say a situation or memory brings up a negative emotion like fear, or anxiety or stress. This is because the autonomic nervous system has been activated. Then, if you use the thought field therapy TFT technique, it can reset your body’s autonomic nervous system ‘fight or flight’ response to that specific situation or memory. This means the fear, or anxiety, or stress goes away. You will still be able to recall everything that happened, but the negative emotion attached to that memory or situation will be gone.

So, I believe Thought Field Therapy TFT works by resetting your body’s autonomic nervous system response associated with a specific memory or situation. By resetting this autonomic nervous system response, it eliminates negative emotions like fear, anxiety and stress, what used to go with it.

This theory makes sense to me. It makes sense to my medically-based scientific background.

Now all that other stuff about energy lines and blockages and meridians and perturbations may well be true. I don’t know.

But I know enough to satisfy myself as to the reason why I think it works.

I would strongly recommend you give it a go. It only takes a bit of tapping on some points on your face, upper chest and hands. You have nothing to lose, and a lot to gain.

Take care,


PS. One of the many reasons I really like this technique is that you don’t have to believe in it. This is unlike many other therapies, which do take some belief in the process for it to work. But with thought field therapy you do not need to believe in it. All you need to do is the tapping, and see what happens for yourself.

Dr Paul Ogilvie
Dr Paul Ogilvie