(Updated February 2020)
A Health and Wellness Program Manager stated that her company could not endorse an Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) Tapping ‘lunch and learn’ because EFT is not evidence-based. This made me wonder exactly what that term means and why EFT Tapping was not considered worthy of a presentation to workers when I know it would be beneficial to them.
Why does all this matter to you? Because you may be either a practitioner who needs to be able to show the worth and value of what you do, or you may be someone interested in using EFT who is wondering if it has real value. So, this is a brief explanation and some awesome references in a nutshell. Enjoy!
What does evidence-based mean? According to the Oregon Research Institute, “An evidence-based practice is a practice that has been rigorously evaluated in experimental evaluations – like randomized controlled trials – and shown to make a positive, statistically significant difference in important outcomes.”
There is no debate about EFT being helpful for many conditions. Many people, including myself, have amazing stories to tell about how EFT helped with stress, physical pain, phobias, test anxiety, cravings, the list goes on and on. And we CAN say that EFT is scientifically valid and that EFT meets the criteria to be considered evidence-based. However, to be officially called evidence-based, the treatment must be listed in the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP), a searchable online database of mental health and substance abuse interventions. NREPP is part of the US government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).*** Update: During 2018, the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and SAMHSA phased out the NREPP website, which had been in existence since 1997.
EFT’s precursor, Thought Field Therapy (TFT), HAD BEEN listed by the former NREPP as an evidence-based treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress symptoms. The Program Description described TFT: “It is a psychotherapeutic program that uses acupressure (stimulation of acupuncture points by physical touch) to provide relief from psychological distress. Practitioners develop tapping sequences for individuals and their specific problems and use a testing and affirmation protocol to apply the treatment with their fingers on specific parts of the body of the person being treated. The treatment, delivered in sessions, is thought to influence the body’s bioenergy field by tapping on these points, located along ‘energy meridians.’” (https://nrepp.samhsa.gov/ProgramProfile.aspx?id=60#show1)*** This link no longer works as the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and SAMHSA phased out the NREPP website. Unfortunately, this information is not yet available on the new Evidence-Based Practices Resource Center website as of February 2020.
Because EFT is based on TFT, works the same way, has been shown to be beneficial, and had been submitted to NREPP for consideration as an evidence-based treatment, it was hoped that it would be only a matter of time and funding until it was also officially listed. When NREPP was dismantled, that route is now blocked.
There is a continually-growing number of publications on the effective use of EFT as a treatment for many conditions. Researcher Dr. Peta Stapleton stated at a conference in Spring 2018 that EFT Tapping is in the top 10% of treatments being researched in the field of Energy Psychology. Research includes more than 50 randomized controlled trials, 40 pre-post outcome studies, and 98% of those 90 studies show effectiveness! In addition, four meta-analyses, five systematic reviews and many hundreds of case studies contribute to the ‘evidence’ that EFT works.
Researchers will often refer to EFT Tapping as evidence-based in their publication of findings, so confusion about the term is rampant. Their research may indeed be randomized controlled trials showing that treatments using EFT show statistically significant benefits over controls or similar treatments. But because EFT had not been listed in the NREEP before that program was dismantled, it is not yet officially considered an evidence-based treatment.
The first purpose of this article is to simply help bring light to the situation and the confusion surrounding the status of EFT Tapping as an evidence-based practice. Yes, individual and meta-analyses have shown that EFT Tapping is an evidence-based practice for multiple issues. No, it is not an official nationally-recognized evidence-based practice because there is currently no program in place in the U.S. to provide that designation.
The second purpose is to provide a sample of some of the articles that provide evidence of the effectiveness of EFT to address various issues. The list below is only a brief sample of studies that can be used to help those who ask about the validity and the benefits of using EFT Tapping. In addition, I’ve included a list of valuable resources that have consolidated the many research articles for us for when we want to dive deeper. Great work is being done and I am thankful to those providing additional evidence supporting the use of EFT Tapping!
EFT Research Highlights
Clinical EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) Improves Multiple Physiological Markers of Health
Donna Bach, ND, Gary Groesbeck, BCIA, Peta Stapleton, PhD, Rebecca Sims, MCP, Katharina Blickheuser, PhD, and Dawson Church, PhD, (2019) J Evid Based Integr Med. v.24.
“Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is an evidence-based self-help therapeutic method and over 100 studies demonstrate its efficacy. However, information about the physiological effects of EFT is limited. …Reviews and meta-analyses of EFT demonstrate that it is an evidence-based practice and that its efficacy for anxiety, depression, phobias and PTSD is well-established. The research investigating physiological improvements after EFT intervention is limited; however, this study adds to the body of literature and suggests that EFT is associated with multidimensional improvements across a spectrum of physiological systems.”
Neuropsychological correlates of an energy psychology intervention on flight phobia: A MEG single-case study
Franck Di Rienzo, Elodie Saruco, Dawson Church, Sébastien Daligault, Claude Delpuech, Jean-Michel Gurret, Ursula Debarnot & Aymeric Guillot (2019)
“In this single-case MEG pilot study, an Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) intervention produced regulation of brain regions exhibiting treatment effects in response to conventional psychotherapy and medication. The neural correlates of the threat response were attenuated, and heightened activation of brain frontal executive regions mediating limbic responses appraisal to stressful stimuli was recorded. These pilot results are consistent with the literature indicating that EFT is an evidence-based treatment for phobias. They provide for the first time knowledge regarding the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying the treatment effects. This study pioneers the methodology required to conduct randomized controlled trials.”
The Effectiveness of Emotional Freedom Techniques in the Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Meta-Analysis
Sebastian, B., and Nelms, J. (2017). Explore Journal, Volume 13, Issue 1, Pages 16–25.
“The analysis of existing studies showed that a series of 4–10 EFT sessions is an efficacious treatment for PTSD with a variety of populations. The studies examined reported no adverse effects from EFT interventions and showed that it can be used both on a self-help basis and as a primary evidence-based treatment for PTSD.”
Food for Thought: A randomised controlled trial of emotional freedom techniques and cognitive behavioural therapy in the treatment of food cravings
Stapleton, P., Bannatyne, A. J., Urzi, K-C., Porter, B., & Sheldon, T. (2016). Applied Psychology: Health and Well‐Being.
“…the current study supports the suggestion that psychological interventions are beneficial for food cravings and both CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and EFT could serve as vital adjunct tools in a multidisciplinary approach to managing obesity.”
Emotional Freedom Techniques for anxiety: A systematic review with meta-analysis
Clond, M., (2016). Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 204(5), 388-395. doi:10.1097/NMD.0000000000000483.
“Emotional freedom technique treatment demonstrated a significant decrease in anxiety scores, even when accounting for the effect size of control treatment. However, there were too few data available comparing EFT to standard-of-care treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy, and further research is needed to establish the relative efficacy of EFT to established protocols.”
Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) to reduce the side effects associated with tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitor use in women with breast cancer: A service evaluation
Baker, B. Hoffman, C. (2014). European Journal of Integrative Medicine, 7(2), 136-142.
“Statistically significant improvements in Total Mood Disturbance and anxiety, depression, and fatigue occurred at both 6 and 12 weeks, respectively, compared to baseline. In addition, mean fatigue interference and global scores, numbers of hot flushes and the hot flush problem rating score decreased at 6 and/or 12 weeks. These preliminary findings suggest that EFT may be an effective self-help tool for women with breast cancer experiencing side effects from hormonal therapies.”
Efficacy of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) in reducing public speaking anxiety: A randomized controlled trial
Jones, S. J., Thornton, J. A., & Andrews, H. B. (2011). Energy Psychology: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 3(1), p 33-42.
“A significant reduction in PSA as measured by Subjective Units of Discomfort was demonstrated within the first 15 minutes of treatment with EFT, with further significant reductions also demonstrated at 30 and 45 minutes. EFT was found to be a quick and effective treatment for PSA.”
A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized and non-randomized trials of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) for the treatment of depression
Nelms, J. & Castel, D. (2016). Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, 13(6), 416-426. doi:10.1016/j.explore.2016.08.001.
“The results show that Clinical EFT is highly effective in reducing depressive symptoms in a variety of populations and settings. EFT was equal or superior to TAU and other active treatment controls. The posttest effect size for EFT (d =1.31) was larger than that measured in meta-analyses of antidepressant drug trials and psychotherapy studies. EFT produced large treatment effects whether delivered in group or individual format, and participants maintained their gains over time. This meta-analysis extends the existing literature through facilitation of a better understanding of the variability and clinical significance of depression improvement subsequent to EFT treatment.”
World-first brain scan research shows ‘tapping’ effective in combating food cravings
“Bond University Clinical Psychologist, Associate Professor Peta Stapleton led the research into Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) or ‘tapping’, which is used to treat a number of conditions including chronic pain, obesity, anxiety and stress.”
Comprehensive Search-Based Resources
Below are several searchable lists we can use and to which we can refer others so that we can all keep up with the new research and scientific studies as they are published.
EFT Tapping Training: http://www.efttappingtraining.com/eft-research/
EFT Tapping Research, searchable by topic, includes editor’s notes provided by Craig Weiner, DC.
EFT International (formerly AAMET International): https://eftinternational.org/discover-eft-tapping/eft-science-research/
The Science and Research behind EFT Tapping, searchable by topic, author, article type and year published.
Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology (ACEP): http://energypsych.site-ym.com/?Research_Landing
Searchable by scientific rigor and provides pdf downloads of studies organized by specific condition, case studies, review articles, as well as a complete list of Energy Psychology studies.
EFT Universe: https://www.eftuniverse.com/research-studies/eft-research
EFT Universe list organized by type of study and then condition, provided by Dawson Church.
Finally, if you are so inclined, more research is always needed! If you are a practitioner, contact a researcher from any of the lists above who may be doing work in your area of expertise. Combine efforts by learning how your work can be structured and conducted to add to the growing proof! Let’s keep EFT Tapping in the news and worthy of consideration as an evidence-based treatment.
Keep Calm and Tap On!