A novel therapy called EFT or Emotional Freedom Techniques is an extremely effective treatment for PTSD, according to new research published in the scientific journal Explore (Sebastian & Nelms, 2016).
Investigators included seven randomized controlled trials of EFT in a meta-analysis, a sophisticated statistical calculation intended to identify how effective a treatment is. On the scale used by most statisticians, a result of 0.5 represents a moderately effective treatment while 0.8 represents a very effective treatment.
The treatment effect size for EFT was 2.96, indicating a very large effect from PTSD treatment using this type of therapy. EFT combines elements of conventional psychotherapy with acupressure and is often used as a self-help treatment. It has been used successfully at Fort Hood as well as VA Veteran Centers, and even at forward operating bases in Afghanistan. An earlier meta-analysis found a very large treatment effect for depression.
The seven studies in the meta-analysis included a wide variety of participants. These ranged from patients receiving EFT at a hospital in the UKs National Health System (NHS) to group therapy for victims of sexual violence in the Congo. Four of them studied US veterans with high levels of PTSD.
One of these looked at the gene expression of veterans as well, and found increased expression of immunity genes as well as decreases in inflammation genes. This echoes another study of the epigenetic effects of EFT, which found that an EFT session regulates 72 different genes.
Time frames for effectively treating PTSD ranged from 4 sessions for the NHS patients to 10 sessions for the veterans whose gene expression was also measured. None of the studies reported adverse events, indicating that EFT is safe as well as effective.
Two of the studies compared EFT to other evidence-based therapies, and found that it was as effective as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). The investigators concluded that, “EFT is a safe and efficacious treatment within 10 or fewer sessions and with a variety of populations, yielding both large effect sizes and lasting benefits… EFT's demonstrated speed, safety, and effectiveness with a variety of populations establish it as an evidence-based treatment for PTSD.”
At a time when the US faces an estimated cost of $1 trillion for the treatment of PTSD in veterans, simple self-help techniques like EFT are gaining increased acceptance.
Sebastian, B., & Nelms, J. (2016). The effectiveness of Emotional Freedom Techniques in the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder: A meta-analysis. Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing (in press).