Although the evidence of EFT’s effectiveness is mounting, it is still being considered an “experimental” modality in some scientific circles. The evidence is stronger all the time, both the so-called anecdotal evidence and published articles demonstrating improvement in various physical and emotional difficulties using EFT. Research and the gathering of case studies about EFT’s effects on emotional difficulties is ongoing, including through the ACEP (Association of Comprehensive Energy Psychology) Research Committee. Larger studies are both planned and in process.
Some of the research studies have appeared in professional, peer-reviewed journals. In addition, a larger-scale clinical trials of EFT’s effectiveness compared to more traditional psychotherapy techniques was done in clinical settings in South America; this work included nearly 30,000 people, with smaller sub-sets using control group experiments. A summary of a sub-set of 5,000 people diagnosed with anxiety disorder is presented below, along with additional selected research.
Stress Biochemistry and EFT
A recent randomized, controlled trial study has demonstrated the effects of EFT on the biochemical marker of stress called cortisol, which is often elevated in conditions such as anxiety and depression. A group of 83 non-clinical subjects had their psychological conditions assessed using the assessment tool SA-45. Participants were divided into three research groups: no treatment; a psychotherapy group where they received one session of supportive psychotherapy; and an EFT group that received a single session (one hour )of EFT. Cortisol levels were measured just before, and immediately after, the interventions. Results indicated the EFT group demonstrated a decrease in both psychological symptoms and cortisol-related stress symptoms at statistically significant levels, while the other two groups did not show any statistically significant change in cortisol levels. The study demonstrated that after a single session of EFT, measurable improvement in cortisol levels and self-reported psychological symptoms were seen.
Church, D., Yount, G., Brooks, A. The Effect of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) on Stress Biochemistry: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease (in press).
Phobias and EFT
One of the first studies to be published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology was by Steve Wells and others (2003). Phobias and fears are very common in the general population. Wells et al. examined the effectiveness of one session of EFT on subjects’ specific phobias about small animals. The study was done under what are considered laboratory conditions, in which 35 people were randomly assigned either to an EFT session or a deep breathing session. The statistical analysis demonstrated the EFT was more effective, with greater improvement in the EFT subjects than the deep breathing subjects across three self report measures. In addition, when the subjects were reassessed behaviorally 6 to 9 months after the initial treatment, those who received EFT had held their gains or even improved, demonstrating that in this case one EFT session for specific phobias was effective at the time, and also lasted.
Wells, S., Polglase, K., Andrews, H., Carrington, P., & Baker, A.H. (2003). Evaluation of a Meridian-Based Intervention, Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), for Reducing Specific Phobias of Small Animals. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 59 (9). 943-966.
EFT and Automobile Accident Trauma
This study published in 2005 examined the effects of EFT on car accident victims who were exhibiting symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (this can include flashbacks, panic attacks and anxiety, nightmares, and other potentially debilitating symptoms). Participants in the study were given two EFT treatments within 24 days of a full physiological exam, and were asked to use EFT on their own in between the treatments. Results demonstrated that EFT helped diminish the PTSD symtoms. This particular study is also interesting because it includes data from the participants’ brain waves, as well as data from various psychological symptom tests and self-reports.
Swingle, P., Pulos, L., & Swingle, M..K. (2005). Neurophysiological indicators of EFT treatment of post-traumatic stress. Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine, 15, l, 75-86.
A Large-Scale Tapping Study
Another study involving a total of over 5,000 people, all diagnosed with anxiety disorder, was undertaken across 11 allied treatment centers in South America. Below is a reprint of the paper’s summary by Joaquin Andrade, MD and David Feinstein, Ph.D, with a downloadable copy of the full paper in pdf format available at the end of the summary.
Preliminary Report of the First Large-Scale Study of Energy Psychology
The principal investigator was Joaquin Andrade, M.D. The report was written by Dr. Andrade and David Feinstein, Ph.D. The paper appears in Energy Psychology Interactive: An Integrated Book and CD Program for Learning the Fundamentals of Energy Psychology (Ashland, OR: Innersource, 2004) by David Feinstein in consultation with Fred P. Gallo, Donna Eden, and the Energy Psychology Interactive Advisory Board.
In preliminary clinical trials involving more than 29,000 patients from 11 allied treatment centers in South America during a 14-year period, a variety of randomized, double-blind pilot studies were conducted. In one of these, approximately 5,000 patients diagnosed at intake with an anxiety disorder were randomly assigned to an experimental group (tapping) or a control group (Cognitive Behavior Therapy/medication) using standard randomization tables and, later, computerized software. Ratings were given by independent clinicians who interviewed each patient at the close of therapy, at 1 month, and at 3, 6 and 12 months. The raters made a determination of complete remission of symptoms, partial remission of symptoms, or no clinical response. The raters did not know if the patient received CBT/medication or tapping. They knew only the initial diagnosis, the symptoms, and the severity, as judged by the intake staff. At the close of therapy:
63% of the control group were judged as having improved.
90% of the experimental group were judged as having improved.
51% of the control group were judged as being symptom free.
76% of the experimental group were judged as symptom free.
At one-year follow-up, the patients receiving tapping treatments were less prone to relapse or partial relapse than those receiving CBT/medication, as indicated by the independent raters’ assessments and corroborated by brain imaging and neurotransmitter profiles. In a related pilot study by the same team, the length of treatment was substantially shorter with energy therapy and related methods than with CBT/medication (mean = 3 sessions vs. mean = 15 sessions).
If additional research corroborates these early findings, it will be a key development since CBT/medication is so far still the established standard of care for anxiety disorders; the greater effectiveness of the energy approach suggested by this study would be highly significant. The preliminary nature of these findings must, however, be emphasized. The study was initially envisioned as an in-house assessment of a new method and was not designed with publication in mind. Not all the variables that need to be controlled in robust research were tracked, not all criteria were defined with rigorous precision, the record-keeping was relatively informal, and source data were not always maintained. Nonetheless, the studies all used randomized samples, control groups, and double blind assessment. The findings were so striking that the team decided to report them.
Recently Published Articles
Rapid Treatment of PTSD: Why Psychological Exposure with Acupoint Tapping May Be Effective. David Feinstein, PhD. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training. (2010). 47(3), 385-402.
The Treatment of Combat Trauma in Veterans Using EFT. Dawson Church, PhD. Traumatology. (2010).15(1), 45-55.
Pilot Study of EFT, WHEE and CBT for Treatment of Test Anxiety in University Students. Daniel J. Benor, Karen Ledger, Loren Toussaint, Greg Hett, & David Zaccaro. Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing. (2009, November). 5(6), 338-340.