Is EFT Tapping an Evidence-Based Practice?
(Updated March 4, 2022)
Since its original publication in 2018, this article has been updated twice based on new Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) tapping research and activity regarding the designation of EFT as an evidence-based practice.
The update in June 2021 reflects the 2021 EFT International (EFTi) Scientific Symposium, including a panel discussion with the EFTi Research Team. One of the questions discussed was, “Is EFT an evidence-based practice?”
The update in March 2022 includes information from Bond University researcher Dr. Peta Stapleton’s presentation “Just the Facts: What the Latest Science and Research is Saying About EFT Tapping” during the 14th Annual Tapping World Summit.
In 2018, an international company’s Health and Wellness Program Manager stated that her company could not endorse a “lunch and learn” session featuring EFT tapping because EFT was not considered an evidence-based practice. Her response motivated me to learn exactly what the term “evidence-based practice” means and why EFT tapping was not considered worthy of a presentation about stress reduction to workers who had requested the information.
Why does all this matter to you? Because you may be either a practitioner who needs to show the worth and value of what you do or you may be someone interested in using EFT and wondering if it has real value. So, this is a summary along with some reliable references in a nutshell.
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.”
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “Evidence-based practice is the integration of the best available research with clinical expertise in the context of patient characteristics, culture and preferences.” (https://www.apa.org/practice/resources/evidence/)
As John Freedom pointed out during the 2021 EFTi Scientific Symposium research panel discussion, a notable feature of the APA definition is that it includes patient preferences, and patients are demanding EFT because it’s so effective. EFT is an important research topic in the overarching field of Energy Psychology, and so this definition applies to EFT.
Mr. Freedom reported that EFT effectively treats various clinical conditions, specifically anxiety, depression, pain, phobias, food cravings, and PTSD. As confirmed by the EFTi research panel, based on the research to date, one can say that EFT is scientifically valid and that EFT meets the criteria to be considered evidence-based.
The official designation of treatment as evidence-based varies by country. In a February 2022 interview, Bond University researcher Dr. Peta Stapleton mentioned that there is a rapidly-growing number of peer-reviewed publications reporting on the efficacy of EFT. She also reported that major organizations around the world are now showing support for EFT tapping:
- the Canadian Psychotherapy Association has included EFT in its list of approved modalities,
- the National Association for Clinical Excellence in the UK has approved EFT for government funding,
- the Blue Knot Foundation in Australia has listed EFT in their clinical guidelines for PTSD, and the Australian government pays for tapping sessions,
- the US Veterans Administration has approved six to twelve EFT tapping sessions for veterans with PTSD.
Dr. Stapleton stated that the APA has recently published her team’s cortisol trial (showing statistically significant decreases in cortisol levels after tapping) in one of the APA academic journals. This is a big step because the APA now holds the key to being able to designate a practice as evidence-based.*
And for the first time, the APA has approved a team, on which Dr. Stapleton serves, to evaluate the effectiveness of tapping on trauma and PTSD so that EFT can be included on the APA website as being “evidence-based.” She is hopeful that results will be ready in the next six to twelve months (late 2022 to early 2023.) This designation by the APA could potentially open many doors, including possible approval for the use of EFT in hospital settings as well as consideration for payment for EFT tapping sessions by insurance companies and governments.
The first purpose of this article is to help bring light to the situation and the confusion surrounding the status of EFT as an evidence-based practice. Yes, individual studies and meta-analyses have shown that EFT is an effective evidence-based practice for multiple issues. No, EFT has not yet been named a nationally recognized evidence-based practice in the US.
However, based on the 2021 EFTi Scientific Symposium, one can say that EFT meets the criteria to be considered as an evidence-based practice based on the APA definition along with the fact that EFT falls under the APA umbrella as an effective Energy Psychology practice. And now the APA has approved a team to evaluate the effectiveness of EFT so that it can be included in the list of evidence-based treatments for trauma and PTSD.
The second purpose of this article is to provide a list of valuable resources that have consolidated the many research publications for us for when we want to dive deeper. Great work is ongoing, and I am thankful to those providing additional evidence supporting the use of EFT tapping!
Finally, if you are so inclined, more research is always needed! If you are a practitioner, contact a researcher from one of the resources below who may be conducting a study in your area of expertise. Combine efforts by learning how your work can be structured and run to add to the growing proof. Let’s keep EFT in the news!
*Notes and background from the original 2018 post: In the US, until 2018, to be officially called an evidence-based practice, the treatment had to be listed in the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP). NREPP was a searchable online database of mental health and substance abuse interventions and was part of the US government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). In 2018, the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and SAMHSA phased out the NREPP website, which had been in existence since 1997.
With the dismantling of NREPP, the significant efforts to document EFT research and submit it to NREPP for consideration as an evidence-based treatment were lost forever.
To replace NREPP, SAMHSA created the Evidence-Based Practices Resource Center (https://www.samhsa.gov/resource-search/ebp). When I asked in early 2020 if there was a plan to move forward with all the existing evidence that had been submitted supporting EFT as an evidence-based practice, I received a reply from SAMHSA at HHS.gov that basically said “No.”
Researchers will often refer to EFT tapping as an evidence-based practice in their publications of findings, so confusion about the term is understandable. Their research may indeed be repeatable, randomized controlled trials showing that EFT treatments provide statistically significant benefits over controls or similar treatments. But because EFT had not been listed in the NREPP before the program was dismantled, it was still not officially considered an evidence-based treatment.
With the APA team preparing to study the efficacy of EFT for trauma and PTSD, the “evidence-based” question may be answered.
Comprehensive Search-Based Resources
In early 2018, Dr. Peta Stapleton reported that research of EFT included more than 50 randomized controlled trials and 40 pre-post outcome studies at that point and that 98% of those studies show effectiveness. In a February 2022 interview, Dr. Stapleton mentioned that the focus of EFT studies is now moving into biological research: measuring cortisol levels, DNA changes, EEG changes, heart rate variability, and more.
During the 2021 EFTi Scientific Symposium, research panel member Will Thomas reported that he had found 159 studies in the top three most reliable categories of research: systematic reviews and meta-analyses, randomized controlled studies (RCT), and uncontrolled outcome studies. There are hundreds more clinical case studies and systematic observational reports of the effectiveness of EFT.
Below are several searchable lists we can use and to which we can refer others so that we can keep up with the new research and scientific studies as they are published.
EFT 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.
EFT Tapping Training: http://www.efttappingtraining.com/eft-research/
EFT Tapping Research, searchable by topic, includes editor’s notes provided by Craig Weiner, DC.
Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology (ACEP): https://www.energypsych.org/researchdb8c71b7
Searchable by scientific rigor and provides pdf downloads of studies organized by a specific condition, case studies, review articles, and 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.
National Emotional Freedom Techniques Training Institute (NeftTI): https://www.neftti.com/about-eft-2/articles-and-research-on-eft/
Canada’s premier EFT training institute’s list is organized alphabetically and grouped by specific conditions or issues.
Please remember: It's important to contact a professional if things feel too big for you, whether it be a physician, psychologist, psychiatrist, or certified EFT practitioner. Never discontinue your current medications without first consulting your doctor.