A quick and simple non-drug treatment is highly effective for anxiety, according to a comprehensive study. The study was published in the oldest peer-reviewed psychiatry journal in North America, and examined 14 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of a behavioral method called EFT or Emotional Freedom Techniques. Described by Examiner.com as: “one of the most successful psychology self-help techniques ever developed,” EFT combines cognitive psychology with acupressure.
The 14 studies included 658 participants drawn from a variety of demographic groups. These included college and high school students, overweight people, war veterans, hospital patients, gifted children, fibromyalgia patients, and people with phobias. The types of anxiety ranged from fear of public speaking, to test anxiety, to phobias of small animals such as rats and mice. Studies applied the method as described in The EFT Manual, along with other quality control criteria advocated by the American Psychological Association.
The analysis was performed by Morgan Clond, MD, PhD, a research physician at State University of New York, and evaluated the effect of EFT using a statistical technique called meta-analysis. This measures the effect of treatment on a continuum from 0.2 indicating a small effect to 0.8 for a large effect. EFT measured 1.23, demonstrating a very large effect resulting from treatment. EFT is often called “tapping” because practitioners tap on 7-12 acupuncture points while focusing on a fear or emotional trigger.
Treatment time frames in the RCTs were typically brief, from 30 minutes for phobic patients to 6 hourlong sessions for war veterans with PTSD. Among Clond’s observations were that EFT can be used as a self-help method, as well as in formal psychotherapy or medical care, and that it requires very few sessions to produce a treatment effect. EFT is also low-risk and low-cost when compared to lengthly courses of talk therapy. However Clond noted that there are too few studies comparing EFT with Gold Standard treatments like CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy to be able to evaluate the two against each other.
Clond notes that because EFT can be taught to patients quickly and used any time, it reduces barriers to anxiety treatment. It also can be applied by medical support staff and does not require the services of a highly-trained and costly professional. Based on the results of the meta-analysis, the meta-analysis advocates EFT as a safe, simple, evidence-based self-help method that can be used alongside conventional psychological and medical care.
Chambless, D., & Hollon, S. D. (1998). Defining empirically supported therapies. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 66, 7–18.
Church, D. (2013). The EFT manual (3rd ed.). Santa Rosa, CA: Energy Psychology Press.
Meta-Analyses and Systematic Reviews of EFT Research: Research.EFTuniverse.com.