A new study published in Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing examines the effectiveness of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) for depression. It finds that this simple self-help method has a very large treatment effect, and is more effective than drugs or talk therapy (Nelms & Castel, 2016).
The study uses meta-analysis, a sophisticated statistical tool that groups together many studies to present an overall picture of the effects of treatment.
The primary investigator, Jerrod Nelms PhD of Western Kentucky University, analyzed 20 studies of EFT with a total of 859 participants. Twelve studies were randomized controlled trials (RCT), while the remaining eight were outcome studies in which participants are assessed before and after treatment.
They used a scale on which 0.2 indicates a small treatment effect, 0.5 a moderate effect, and 0.8 a large effect. EFT scored 1.31, indicating a very large treatment effect. The number of sessions required to relieve depression was modest, ranging from one to 10. The average drop in depressive symptoms was 41%.
The investigators wrote: “The results show that Clinical EFT is highly effective in reducing depressive symptoms in a variety of populations and settings… EFT produced large treatment effects whether delivered in group or individual format, and participants maintained their gains over time.”
This comes as good news to depression sufferers, especially those seeking non-drug alternatives. SSRI drugs come with serious side effects. One study of middle-aged women found a 70% increase in bone fractures (Sheu et al., 2015). Other studies find that the risk of cancer rises by 35%, with other side effects such as memory loss and premature death.
If SSRIs were successful in reducing rates of depression, these risks might be reasonable. But research shows the opposite: Over the past 20 years, the number of people treated for depression has doubled, and one in 10 Americans are now on the drugs (Olfson & Marcus, 2009). Many become dependent on the drugs long-term.
For people with depression and their families, the availability of fast and effective treatments like EFT provides an alternative to medication. Kari Reed, who suffered from chronic depression, tells her story in The EFT Manual (Church, 2013). She compares her experience to “battling a giant with really small, surprisingly effective rocks.” She says that “It can be defeated. I speak from experience. You’ll be moving on with the rest of your life before you know it.”
Nelms, J. A., & Castel, L. (2016). A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized and non-randomized trials of clinical Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) for the treatment of depression. Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing. Online first.