One rainy night last year, a drunk driver crossed the centerline in a narrow construction zone and smashed nearly head-on into the car my husband, kids and I were in. Though our car was totaled, miraculously no one was badly hurt. But now whenever I drive through construction, even in broad daylight, I feel unduly anxious and afraid.

I would like to get over this—and I recently learned about a fascinating method that may help. Called Thought Field Therapy (TFT), the technique is designed to help people permanently free themselves from phobias (strong, irrational fears of things that pose little or no actual danger), such as fear of spiders or of public speaking…and even from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an anxiety disorder that can develop after a terrifying event in which grave harm occurred or was threatened. No medications are used, so there are no side effects. TFT falls within the field of energy psychology (as does the similar Emotional Freedom Technique, or EFT). TFT involves thinking about the feared object or event while tapping specific points on the face and body and humming, counting or moving the eyes.

Since TFT sounded almost too good to be true, I interviewed psychologist Shoshana Garfield, PhD, who uses TFT to help patients overcome phobias and PTSD. She told me that TFT has roots in acupuncture, in that you tap on points that correspond to energy meridians. This helps unblock the body’s energy system, which can become overwhelmed by fear, Dr. Garfield said. TFT also simultaneously provides sensory data to the right brain (the emotional side) and left brain (the logical side). This stimulates activity of both brain hemispheres and of the corpus callosum that connects them…deactivates signals associated with fear-triggered hyperarousal of the limbic system…and “rewires” cognitive function, releasing distress.

Evidence: In a 2010 study, PTSD patients treated with TFT showed dramatic decreases in nightmares, flashbacks, concentration problems, jumpiness, aggression and isolation. Other studies have demonstrated TFT’s effectiveness in reducing depression…and in patients with anxiety disorder, EEG scans showed that abnormal brain wave patterns associated with anxiety normalized after TFT treatment.

Citing the classic example from TFT founder Roger Callahan, PhD, Dr. Garfield described a woman who had a lifelong fear of water. After more than a year of ineffective conventional treatment, Dr. Callahan instructed the woman to tap a spot under each eye while looking at a swimming pool. After a few minutes of tapping, she said that she no longer felt any fear, then ran to the pool and splashed water on her face—something she could not do previously.


For best results, Dr. Garfield recommended working with a psychologist trained in TFT who can provide testimonials from other patients with phobias similar to yours. Referrals: Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology (visit and click on “membership” and then “member directory”)…or Association for the Advancement of Meridian Energy Techniques (visit and click on “search members and events”)…or Dr. Roger Callahan ( Results might be seen after just one treatment for a simple phobia or might take nine months or longer for PTSD. Are you skeptical? That’s OK—because TFT works even if you don’t believe in it, Dr. Garfield noted.

For simple fears that are not deeply interwoven with complex traumas, you may find relief on your own with the tapping sequence below. Practice it several times until you know the steps…then do the sequence whenever you anticipate or encounter the feared object or event. (Use common sense, of course—for instance, by tapping before you get behind the wheel, rather than while you are driving.) The routine takes just a few minutes and, though it may seem complicated at first, it soon becomes second nature, Dr. Garfield said.




Step 1: Focus attention on the thing you fear. For instance, visualize a spider or imagine driving through a construction zone. Important: Keep thinking about the object of your fear throughout your TFT session.

Step 2: Rate your fear level on a scale of zero to 10. Zero would indicate no distress whatsoever and 10 would be the worst it could possibly be. Remember this number.

Step 3: Tap. Use the tips of the index and middle fingers of either hand to tap firmly (but not hard enough to hurt) five to 10 times, at a moderately fast pace. First tap four inches below either armpit (about at the center of the band on your bra)…then tap one inch below the center of either eye.

Step 4: Perform the nine-step “gamut sequence.” Make a loose fist with your nondominant hand and locate what TFT practitioners call the gamut spot on the back of that hand, in the hollow an inch below the knuckles of the ring and little fingers. Start tapping this gamut spot with the index and middle fingers of your dominant hand.

Continuing tapping, giving five to 10 taps for each of the following actions. Gamut sequence: Open eyes wide…close eyes…open eyes and (keeping head still) look down and to the left…look down and to the right…roll eyes around counterclockwise…roll eyes around clockwise…hum a few bars of any song (activating the right brain)…count aloud from one to five (activating the left brain)…hum again. When finished, repeat the gamut sequence a second time.

Step 5: Rate your fear again, from zero to 10. If your score has dropped to zero, terrific! If it has not, repeat all the TFT steps one or more times, continuing to visualize the object of your phobia. Then, again rate your fear level—which may now be much lower.