Thought Field Therapy (TFT) is a psycho therapeutic technique for the swift alleviation of an extensive range of emotional problems. TFT has been best described as a natural non-invasive, drug free approach to the elimination of negative or destructive emotions. The process requires the tapping of specific meridian points, usually done by the person themselves, in a designated sequence.

The concept and theory of ‘thought field’ developed from research carried out by Doctor Roger Callaghan, an American clinical psychologist in the 1970s.

Thought Field Therapy is used to address a wide range of conditions:

  • Trauma
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Phobias
  • Obsessive compulsion disorders
  • Grief
  • Anger
  • Addictions

… and many other emotionally related conditions

According to Dr. Callahan’s theory, negative emotions are generated by specific patterns of information contained within ‘thought fields’. When we think of something the mind/brain activity generates an individual thought field in much the same way as an electrical field is generated around an item of electrical equipment. Once activated these patterns of information instruct the mind and body how to respond. This is similar to the way in which program information held in the memory of a computer is activated and run when an icon is clicked on a computer screen.

These information patterns have been found to be the generating power behind the emotional and physiological signs and symptoms recognised by conventional medicine. Most existing therapies simply attempt to subdue those symptoms with varying degrees of success, or teach the patient how to live with their problem.

In TFT, it is recognised that the information patterns must be encoded in order to be stored efficiently and to recreate the same experience every time. Therefore, in order to deactivate the information patterns they must be decoded.

Access to the information patterns is achieved by the person having to think about their troubled emotion. Decoding is then achieved by firm but gentle pressure on acupuncture points on the upper body and hands, usually by tapping with the fingers. This tapping procedure is only successful if the acupuncture points are stimulated in a specific order – in the same way as a combination lock is opened.

If the decoding process is successful, as it is in over 80% of cases, the trauma victim will find that they no longer suffer the negative emotional response when thinking about their experience. Once the information pattern that caused the problem is deactivated, the mind and body no longer respond to its instructions – a feeling of neutrality takes over.

Occasionally, the first treatment appears not to work as predicted. This often indicates that Psychological Reversal (PR) is present. PR was recognised by Dr. Callahan as a block to treatment – the individual’s subconscious wish is to keep the problem rather than be free of it, a reversal of what might be expected!

A simple approach, taking no more than a few seconds, can completely eliminate PR and allow the predicted resolution to take place.

In summary, three things must take place for TFT to be successful:

  1. The person must be thinking about their problem
  2. TFT treatment must be applied in the correct sequence
  3. PR must be corrected if it is found to be present.

A number of simple issues may be cleared quite quickly whereas more difficult issues may require several series of tapping the meridian points whilst thinking about the problem from different perspectives.

How is change measured?

The term ‘Subjective Units of Disturbance’ is usually abbreviated and referred to as SUD.  It is a scale that allows a way of quantifying or assessing the degree of stress, pain or distressing emotions that may be experienced.  The SUD is usually represented as a number on a zero to 10 point scale where the degree of stress is thought to be.  This is determined immediately before the tapping procedure begins.  A reduction in the level of discomfort will indicate the process is effective.  The aim is to reduce the SUD to zero.

There are also physiological indicators of change when a TFT session is successful.  These can include:

  •   Skin colour may heighten
  •   Breathing rate reduces
  •   Facial expression becomes more relaxed
  •   Body posture relaxes and becomes more open
  •   Pulse rate and blood pressure reduce if significantly high.

Heart Rate Variability and Why it is Important

Heart rate variability (HRV) refers to the natural rise and fall of the heart rate over time.  With normal health health, the heart rate should rise on inhalation of the breath and fall on exhalation.

HRV measurement involves the calculation of the variation in time intervals between each heartbeat, measured in milliseconds.  It also measures the activity and balance of the sympathetic and parasympathetic aspects of the autonomic nervous system.  Heart rate variability can also be seen as a measure of health.  It is important for the following reasons:

  •   Attitudes and emotional responses to stress influence heart rhythms that affect cognitive and learning functions, mental coherence and general health.
  •   HRV analysis suggests the heart is a sensitive marker for emotional changes as shown in heart rhythm patterns.  Research indicates that low HRV is a valid predictor of increased morbidity and mortality.  It is also correlated with a number of psychological conditions.
  •   HRV provides an evidence based measure of the therapy result and also measures any changes in the responses of the autonomic nervous system.


Timothy P. Culbert, MD with Howard Martin and Rollin McCraty, Ph.D, ‘A Practitioner’s Guide, Application of the emWave Stress Relief System’, HeartMath LLC 2009

Roger J Callaghan, PhD and Joanne M. Callaghan, MBA, ‘TFT Diagnostic Course’, Callaghan Techniques, Ltd 2008