How To Use EFT Tapping To Help Pupils Manage Emotions And Stress With Deborah Miller

How To Use EFT Tapping To Help Pupils Manage Emotions And Stress With Deborah Miller

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Looking for a different approach to help pupils manage their emotions and stress? That's easy for students to access... and doesn't rely on them sitting still and focussing for long periods, like meditation or mindfulness?

In this episode, Deborah Miller unlocks the secrets of EFT Tapping, a simple technique for helping children get back on top of strong emotions... leaving them feeling calm, grounded and focussed.

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Show notes / transcription

Deborah Miller  0:00  

Sometimes even allowing them to know that it's okay to be angry. It's okay to be sad, right? It's okay to feel what you feel. And so I make it very playful and that makes it fun. And so together we do it. So I just tap the points and I have them model it and depending on what the topic is of the day, then we start addressing that topic.

Simon Currigan  0:20  

Hi there. My name is Simon Currigan and welcome to another episode of school behaviour secrets. They say you're the average of the five people you spend your most time with. And if you're listening to a lot of behaviour secrets right now, you should know we're pulling down your average like the anchor from the Titanic, that's down, all the way down. I'm joined as ever by my co host, Emma Shackleton. Hi, Emma.

Emma Shackleton  1:22  

Hi, Simon.

Simon Currigan  1:23  

Emma, I've got a question for you. I know that is going to come as a surprise, according to a 2015 survey that I found on the Career Builder website. So this is pre COVID. What do you think are the three highest stress jobs in the UK? 

Emma Shackleton  1:37  

Oh, high stress jobs? I used to know this. And I do know that lots of people's jobs are very stressful. But let me think. is it Number one, pilot? Number two, surgeon? Number three, teacher?

Simon Currigan  1:53  

You got number three right. Number three is teachers, you know, for so many, many reasons, as we all know. Above them at number two were lawyers. According to a survey by law care. three in four of its calls are from lawyers suffering from severe stress with 30% of male lawyers and 20% of female lawyers drinking to excess. At number one, well, I thought it might be something like bomb disposal technicians. But it turns out it's recruitment consultants, and in a recent survey of 1000 workers 82% of consultants report that they regularly feel stressed at work according to the Stroke Association.

Emma Shackleton  2:27  

So what's the relevance of your question this week?

Simon Currigan  2:30  

Well, today we're going to hear my interview with Deborah Miller, who's an expert in EFT tapping. So EFT stands for emotional freedom technique. And this is a technique that's a bit like mindfulness or meditation that can help people get calm, manage their stress and deal with emotional distress.

Emma Shackleton  2:48  

So we know high stress is what causes a lot of challenging behaviour in school. But often the kids who experience high stress, they just don't have that safety valve or a way of effectively regulating those emotions.

Simon Currigan  3:02  

Yeah, that's right. And a little while ago, I wrote an article looking at the research about whether mindfulness can help kids with ADHD say, manage their impulses and improve their focus. In a nutshell, the answers were Yes, it can. But and there was a big but children with ADHD find mindfulness very difficult to access. And I suspect that's also true for kids that have difficulty managing their emotions for other reasons. You know, like those who have experienced trauma or abuse, the ones that look like they've always got a motor running. And because EFT tapping is a simple technique that involves tapping and focusing on different parts of the body in turn, it might be a calming technique that can help those kids or regulation activity that they can access. And that's the focus of today's interview.

Emma Shackleton  3:45  

Sounds interesting. But before we cue up Simon's interview, please share this episode with your friends and colleagues who might also benefit from the regulation strategies, Deborah's about to share with us. And the good news is, it will only take you 10 seconds. Open up your podcast app, tap the Share button, and your app will help you send a direct link to one of your friends. So now here's Simon's interview with Deborah Miller.

Simon Currigan  4:13  

Today I'm very excited to welcome Deborah Miller to the show. Deborah is an internationally recognised author on the subject of EFT tapping, has a PhD in cell and molecular biology and is an EFT expert and trainer. She uses her expertise to support children suffering from cancer, helping them and their caregivers relieve the fear, anxiety and stress that arrived from serious illness. In addition to this, Deborah supports her clients to restore optimal physical, mental and emotional health by releasing old patterns of thoughts and behaviours. She is also the author of the beautifully illustrated book The Dragon with Flames of Love, which is dedicated to supporting parents and kids facing the challenge of a serious illness in a way that provides relief and peace. Deborah, welcome to the podcast.

Deborah Miller  5:02  

Oh, it's such a pleasure to be here, Simon,

Simon Currigan  5:04  

I'm really excited about this scenario. It's gonna be really, really interesting both for me and our listeners. And I want to start by asking, tell us about how you discovered EFT tapping, and how you apply it practically in your life?

Deborah Miller  5:17  

 I was actually taking an online course years ago back in 2003. And someone did a little introduction of EFT tapping and I went, Oh, I like this. And I started studying it from right then and started using from it at that very beginning. Because I found it very efficient, it was very easy. I'm a person who likes things that are practical, and EFT is really simple and practical. So how do I use it every day, I will use it. Sometimes when I get up in the morning just do a round or two just to get myself centred, because I find that first thing in the morning if I get centred and not let my old programmes get activated and start running from the beginning, my whole day is set. I use it if I get stressed about something and well, we know the world right now has a lot of stressful things going on. So you can use it very quickly and reduce those stresses. And then you can also in my case, I actually use it with my clients. And it's my go-to, so whenever I start with someone I use EFT because it's very quick and easy to start reducing the stress and the worry and the anxiety and whatever emotion is up in the beginning. And then if I need to include other techniques with it, I do, but I find that by it reducing the stress hormones in your body, then you start relaxing. And then it makes the whole session a lot easier. 

Simon Currigan  6:35  

A lot of our listeners work with children with emotional behavioural needs. And they will certainly recognise that we talk about stress and anxiety, but also getting caught in patterns of behaviour and patterns of thinking that can be unhelpful or destructive. So let's start with the basics. Can you tell us what EFT tapping is to start with?

Deborah Miller  6:53  

It is a tapping technique where you're using two or three fingers, and you're tapping on specific Meridian endpoints. And even though it looks funny, which actually works very well with kids, okay, because it makes it very playful. You are stimulating these Meridian endpoints. And you're actually I'm going to be a science geek here. And when you're tapping on these endpoints, you're communicating with the amygdala. And the amygdala is your alert centre. It's the one that is always looking is there danger somewhere out in the world. That then stimulates a message that goes to your hypothalamus to produce stress hormones. So you fight flight or freeze. So when we're doing this tapping, what it's doing is it's connecting with that alert centre and saying, calm down. Yeah, it's okay, we're still here. And then that centre shuts down and sends a different message to create more of the relaxation and regenerative hormones, which are the serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin, which we want, because we want to go into the repair system. So what we can do then is just by simply tapping on these points, we can reduce stress hormones in your body. So why would that be beneficial? Now, let's get our immune system strong. Let's reduce the stress, let's reduce the fear, let's reduce the anger that people are feeling as they are living in this time of uncertainty. And so what we want to do is create a centred balanced inner being, so that we can then act appropriately with others. So for teachers with your children, right, and I find working with children with cancer, one of the most important things for me was not knowing the technique, it was modelling that technique and modelling it also meant that before I went in, I use the techniques so that I was calm, and I was centred. And I would go in as a being of love. You know, I wanted to radiate love, and represent a loving person and accepting that child in whatever state they were in, whether they were crying, whether they were angry, whether they were hurt, whether they were being really sick, because I was working with children with cancer. So then by doing that, you're creating a situation that actually, again, in the quantum physics area, what you're doing is when you balance your system, our heart has a resonance field of magnetic field, that can be up to like three metres wide or more. And so what you're doing is and you're creating a field of balance, of field of love, and what happens when you go into a field that's very peaceful, you start calming, just like when the field is angry, you get really triggered and you can respond in an angry way. So these are just simple things that we can do by using these techniques is get yourself centred using a technique like tapping. And then what happens is you're rippling out in effect that will help those that are around you, whether it's your partner, whether it's your children, whether it's your co workers or anyone out in the street. 

Simon Currigan  10:03  

I'd just like to take a pause for a moment and say that if you're finding this podcast useful, then you're going to love what we've got waiting for you in that Inner Circle programme. The Inner Circle is your one stop shop for all things behaviour. It's a comprehensive platform filled with videos, resources and behaviour inspiration to get you unstuck with classroom behaviour. We've got training resources on de escalation, supporting kids with anxiety, support strategies for conditions like autism, ADHD, and PDA. Practical ways of helping pupils deal with strong emotions, assertive behaviour management techniques for managing the whole class, setting out your classroom environment for success resetting behaviour with tricky classes, and more. Our online videos walk you through practical solutions, step by step, just like Netflix, you can turn an Inner Circle subscription on or off whenever you need to, with no minimum contract Plus, you can now get your first seven days of Inner Circle for just one pound, get the behaviour answers. And you've been looking forward today with Inner Circle visit to And click on the Inner Circle picture at the top of the homepage for more information. 

So Deborah, can you sort of walk us through, if listeners wanted to use this technique, precisely what it looks like, how they would implement it,

Deborah Miller  11:26  

The technique is really very simple, we use two or three fingers of one hand, you can use either hand, it's very flexible. And we usually start with tapping one hand on the side of the opposite hand between the knuckle of the little finger and the wrist. So it's on the side of the hand, and you're just doing gentle little taps, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, we're not hitting hard, we're just a gentle tap. The next point, we're tapping in the middle of the top of the head. Then you can use one or two hands and you tap at the beginning of the eyebrow, which is in the eyebrow closest to the nose. Then we're going to tap on the temples on the side of the eye. Then we're going to tap underneath the eye, you know right on the top of the bone, we're going to tap underneath the nose, underneath the lips, kind of like where the little goatee would be on a guy. Then we're going to tap on what we call the collarbone point. But really, what you're going to do is you're going to feel your collarbone, you're going to feel that big bone, and then the pointy part and you're gonna go out and down, there's a little indentation underneath your collarbone. That's the point. Then we tap underneath the arm. So you're going about five to seven centimetres underneath your armpit and tapping on the side. And I also like there's one that's on your rib point, you know, so for a woman, it's where the bra goes across the rib, right a couple centimetres below the nipple for a man. And then I also like using the wrist points. So you're tapping on the point where it bends your wrist. And you're all of them. You just doing a little tap tap tap tap.

Simon Currigan  12:59  

I've tried this technique. And I was surprised it was almost meditative, in a way. Do we know anything about how the tapping redirects the amygdala and helped us reduce those sensations? 

Deborah Miller  13:11  

They've been doing more and more research on it. So there's clinical double blind studies on it. And what they're showing is it's that reducing cortisol like 30 to 45%. And cortisol is a hormone that causes inflammation in your body. And we know that inflammation is one of the causes of many illnesses, long term illnesses, chronic illnesses, it's reducing anxiety about 40%, what it's doing is literally reducing the stress hormones of adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol in your body. So then when you're not in the stress response, then you can move into the regenerative response, which has the hormones of oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine. And we want our body to produce more of those because then it's rejuvenating yourself. Okay, then you're in repair mode. So you're either in one or the other. So let's do some tapping and allow it to actually move it. The exact mechanism hasn't really been determined yet. But we have the idea that it's communicating with the amygdala, which is your alert centre. So when your alert centre says it's safe, you go out of stress hormones, and you go into regenerative.

Simon Currigan  14:15  

And of course, for all of the kids we work with, they spend so much of their lives in stress that they only think in the short term, they're only thinking about my survival in the moment. But if you can reduce those stress chemicals, then you can start to think more rationally about what's better for you and your life and your family and survival in the classroom. What does an EFT session look like? When you're working with kids, how would you run an EFT session?

Deborah Miller  14:39  

It varies, one, it depends on the age and the fun thing about working with kids is you don't need to take an hour, two hours or three hours because they're set up yet to really let go of things pretty quickly. And so with kids, I like to do it in a way that's fun in the hospital, I would bring in a tappy bear. It's a teddy bear that has the tapping points on it. So when you come in with a stuffed animal, they're already looking at you like, you're kind of interesting. And then the bear has points on it, you tap on the points with the bear. When I don't have the Tappy Bear with me, what I do is I just start modelling it and ask them simple things like, Oh, do you realise you have magic fingers? And so that it just makes a curiosity in their mind about what's going on. I said, Would you like to learn how to use it? They always say no, right? And so then you just start modelling it. And I found that a lot of times just using simple phrases like, I'm a good kid, I'm smart. I'm, you know, fun and playful, and it's okay to be okay. You know, and sometimes even allowing them to know that it's okay to be angry, it's okay to be sad, right? It's okay to feel what you feel. And so I make it very playful. And that makes it fun. And so together, we do it. So I just tap the points and I have the model it and depending on what the topic is of the day, then we start addressing that topic. But I use playful words, I also learned with the children with cancer that with children works very well with adults as well. I use colours, I use images. So I might say, Well, what colour is your anger? What colour is your sadness, or what colours you're pain? And they'll just shout out a colour, right? Because your subconscious picks one, it doesn't matter what colour they choose any colours perfect. And then use that, oh, that red anger or that orange anger. And then you just tap about this orange anger, this orange anger? And I'm going to get rid of it. How do you want to get rid of it, I don't want to stomp on it. You know, I want to throw it away, I want to burn it. And then you use symbolism with them. Because that works very well for children. And then all of a sudden, it just starts dropping off completely. And then I'll come back and I'll say, Oh, would you like to fill that space with love or you know, kindness or something that makes them feel good. And it works really, really well. Sometimes I also use superheroes and things like that, because you know, or a power animal, what animal would make you feel powerful, and it's amazing. One child said horses know what color's your horse, he says blue. And I instantly adult want to change it to a logical colour. And then I went, No, his horse is blue. And that is perfectly fine. Sometimes it's even a rabbit or the classic is, you know, dragons and lions and you know, animals that are really strong, or a superhero. And it just says, well, like the superheroes with you providing you that strength. So then using your imagination with them, allows them to use the tapping points, which are reducing their stress hormones, giving them the symbolism, which relates more to their age group. And then it just brings a lot of peace and joy to them. And it makes it fun, then it's not therapy, go to therapy. Now it's fun. I know a teacher who was in a Montessori school, and she would come in and she would do three to five minutes of tapping at the beginning of the class. And she said, you know, the sugar rush the running to get to school and worry about being late or whatever happened to the house went away and the whole group became a unit and settled right in and started working well together.

Simon Currigan  18:10  

There's a lot of research to show that mindfulness is good for kids with ADHD, but they find it incredibly hard to access. 

Deborah Miller  18:17  


Simon Currigan  18:18  

 But this is a more sort of practical way, isn't it of bringing yourself into the moment and getting support those emotions, on average, how long would a session last?

Deborah Miller  18:25  

Well it depends for an adult, to work, an hour, hour and a half. There are people who do longer, but I find I'm very focused. And because I use this symbolism, it takes a whole chunk out and then you don't use all your time going into the verbal story. It just starts removing it. And so then you can focus in and then I always like to come round that you end this session where you're calm, even though you may still have other layers, right? Then you come back and work on the other things later. With children. It can be two minutes, it can be 10, 15. Even little kids, it'll do an hour and know if they want to. Teens, you can go up to half an hour an hour pretty easily. It depends on what their issue is. But kids usually, you know, sometimes we do two three rounds, we call that round from the side of the hand all the way to the wrist that would be around, you maybe do two or three and they're done. How you feeling? Good. Need anything else? No. And you're done. And as an adult, we can stop pushing them to do more. Because at that moment, they're done. They don't need anything more. They've calmed in that moment. And then it comes up again, then you could do another two, three rounds, and then they're done. And then what you're doing is you're cutting the pattern that created that reaction. As a scientist, you know, we can think about it this way. We have thoughts, we have feelings, and then we have biochemistry that forms a pattern and then we repeat it and then we add another layer and another layer and another layer and it becomes automatic. So a child that has an emotional response had a reason that worked. And use that at one point, and then it just repeats automatically by repetition. And they don't even think to do it, they don't even want to do it, it just shows up happens for us as well as adults. So doing the tapping breaks that pattern, and you are literally breaking the neural network that keeps that pattern active. And then what you're doing is creating a new neural net. And this is what's really fun. So you're creating a new neural net, a new pathway. And then what happens is, as you keep repeating this and changing it, the pattern disappears. It's something that kids can do on their own. And so I have, you know, two and three year olds who were afraid of having a spinal tap and taught them how to do tapping and a mom, who's a physician, and her mom and dad are looking, why are you doing that? He goes, it hurts less. So does he need to know any of the science behind it? No, here's a two or three year old just knows that if I tap on these points, I feel better. That's all they need.

Simon Currigan  20:54  

If it works, it works? 

Deborah Miller  20:55  


Simon Currigan  20:56  

How long does the process take for you to see significant sustained benefits?

Deborah Miller  21:00  

Well, there's the instant result that people will start yawning, their body relaxes their breathing changes that can be within around two rounds, three rounds, then it depends on what the pattern is that needs to be changed, there are people who in one session will shift and one part of the pattern is gone, or all the pattern is gone. And then it depends on the intensity. So let's say it's something like abuse, and then you may have to do several sessions. And then it depends on what the person wants to work on. But you can easily start seeing results in the first session. And then I like to teach people to go home and do the tapping on their own. You know, maybe in the morning, you know, like with kids at night before you go to bed, do a little bit of tapping to reduce whatever stress occurred during the day and then let it go. And it's amazing. So now you have a tool that you can use. My job is to find the underlying reasons that they showed up. But you can use this every day, anytime something shows up in very, very quickly moderate a behaviour,

Simon Currigan  22:04  

Have you got a story you could share with us about sort of the before and after effects of working with a child obviously, maintaining their confidentiality.

Deborah Miller  22:11  

Yeah, I have permissions to talk about a variety of them. I'll talk about Xavier. Xavier had leukaemia, and he was doing pretty well, he had an 80 20% chance to survive, he had appendicitis. And so his stats dropped to 5050. And he got really depressed, he was about eight at the time, right, so old enough to know, but young enough to be moved in, etc. By this. And because his immune system dropped, he couldn't receive the treatments, because his body wasn't healthy enough to handle them. So we did about 20 minutes of tapping, they used a symbolism. And we looked at his immune system symbolically as a turtle being really slow and moving slowly and not doing what it needs to do. And then as we were tapping through the points talking about frustration in this immune system slow like a turtle. And we decided to change it to something that was fast, and he chose a cheetah. So we changed the image of his immune system from a slow turtle to a fast cheetah. And within 20 minutes, he was feeling fine. He went home for the weekend, didn't do anything different. The doctor didn't change any meds or anything. He came back on Monday and his immune system was better because he changed his internal thought pattern about what was going to happen. And he is now 17. And doing well.

Simon Currigan  23:30  

Wow, So it is really really powerful. 

Deborah Miller  23:32  

It's very, very powerful. 

Simon Currigan  23:33  

If you're a teacher or a parent listening to this podcast, what's the first step you can take to learn more about tapping to support pupils in school?

Deborah Miller  23:41  

I think the first thing all parents and teachers need to do is do the technique for themselves. This is one of the things that I found in the hospital, the parents always wanted you to work with their child, and they're stressed, they're fearful, etc, or even angry. And as I would do tapping with the parent by the child, maybe only one or two rounds about their stress, they would relax and the child would instantly relax at their side. So it goes back to that modelling piece, get some books, there's all kinds of things, take some classes, you can contact me if you want a private session, all those sorts of things. There's options to learn the technique. Use it every day, on your own issues, your own emotional topics. And as you reduce your patterns, it instantly reflects out to your children. So if your children are upsetting you, then go do tapping for yourself before you want them to do it with you. And sometimes a child will say doesn't want to. I had that what happened in the hospital as well. And I would say Oh, even though Luis doesn't want to tap with me, he's still a great kid. I still really care for him and I'm still a good person. So I would make this adjustment of we're both okay, even though you don't want to And amazingly enough, most of the time a child would just start doing this session with you. They'll just start tapping with you. Once you're doing it for yourself. It's not about them. It's To you taking care of you with a tool that will also help them feel better.

Simon Currigan  25:03  

And you've got loads of resources on your website to help people learn about tapping and use tapping effectively, weith kids. Can  you tell us about how to find out about your resources?

Deborah Miller  25:13  

My blog site is And Deborah is DEBORAH,  and Miller MILLER .org. And you can go on Amazon and also look for me, and one of the books that I have is called The Dragon with Flames of Love. And that is actually based on the work that I did with the children. So I give some background about EFT how it is, why it works, et cetera, et cetera, I provide some tapping guides on how a parent can use tapping. And then there's tapping stories based on what I did with the children. So the story of heavier is in that book. And so then I explained what we did pretty much how we did the tapping. And then I explained how you can modify that to fit your own needs. So you don't have to have a child with cancer to use the book. Because sometimes I don't want to go, well, it doesn't mean you don't have to want to go to the hospital, you don't want to go to school, you don't want to go home, you don't want to whatever. So I've made the stories in a way that you can use them for many other things. And then John D, Willis, and I wrote a book called Emotional First Aid for Children. And it is more about all the techniques of how to observe the stress and how to deal with it and how you can catch it, and use all sorts of different techniques of breathing, etc, to calm yourself and help them calm your child. So we want to give them lots of resources so that they can be okay.

Simon Currigan  26:37  

And what I'll do is I'll drop a direct link to your website in the show description that goes with this podcast episode, finally, and we asked this of all our guests, who's the key figure that's influenced you? Or what's the key book that you've read that's had the biggest impact on your approach to working with kids?

Deborah Miller  26:55  

Actually, it's the children with cancer, I call them my master teachers, I learned more from them about how to do tapping shortcuts, you know, sometimes you got two, three minutes or going off to surgery, you don't have a full session, they have an IV, you can't tap on a point and things like that, and then learning how to really be present with them. And very quickly, and beautifully allow them to use the technique to feel better. So they are my master teachers. I've read lots of books, I've taken lots of courses. But my personal experience is that they taught me more than anyone and I'm feel so honoured to have been able to work with them.

Simon Currigan  27:34  

I think that's the perfect note on which to end the interview. Deborah, thank you very much for being on the podcast.

Deborah Miller  27:40  

Oh, it's such a pleasure to be here and share about tapping.

Emma Shackleton  27:44  

Okay, well, that was interesting hearing how Deborah is using those strategies practically to support the children in her care. And if you work with kids who are having problems with emotional regulation, and you're not sure why they're acting that way, we've got a download that can help. It's called the SEN handbook, and it will help you link behaviours you've seen in the classroom with possible causes, such as autism and ADHD. 

Simon Currigan  28:10  

And just to be clear, the idea here is not for teachers to make a diagnosis. We are not qualified or trained to do that. But if we can link behaviours to possible causes quickly, it means we can get the right professionals involved, get early intervention strategies in place.

Emma Shackleton  28:27  

It's a free download. So go to the website, click on Free Resources near the top, and we'll also put a link in the episode description.

Simon Currigan  28:37  

If you've enjoyed what you've heard today. Make sure you smash that subscribe button. So your podcast app downloads each and every episode so you never miss a thing. And that's called follow in Apple podcasts. In the words of Bruce Banner, Hulk see Hulk Smash Hulk subscribed. 

Emma Shackleton  28:53  

Did he really? 

Simon Currigan  28:55  

That was exactly how he did it!

Emma Shackleton  28:56  

If you've got a colleague or friend who you think would find the content from today's episode useful, then don't keep this information to yourself. Use the Share button in your podcast app. Let three of your friends or colleagues know about the episode. So the classes and students that they work with can benefit as well. And that's all for today's show. Have an excellent week, and we'll see you next time on school behaviour secrets. Bye for now.

Simon Currigan  29:21  


(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)