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Is there any evidence for emotional freedom technique? How do you get qualified? Is it used in more traditional therapy?

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up vote 13 down vote accepted

I'll use this Quickstart Guide to EFT (PDF) as a basis to discuss the Emotional Freedom Technique.

EFT is based on the assumption that

"The cause of all negative emotions is a disruption in the body’s energy system."

It works by tapping on specific meridian points with your fingertips which "balances energy meridians". It is claimed that this heals about any psychological problem you can think of.

There is no scientific basis for the existence of meridians in our bodies. The basic principles of EFT are not based on science, but on a vague concept of energy, that has no relation to any established scientific principles.

There have been a number of small studies on EFT. The largest one of those with 119 participants divided into 4 groups did not find EFT significantly more effective than placebo. One small study with 5 participants in each group, performed by the originator of the technique found a significant effect of EFT. Due to the small sample size and the fact that the journal it was published in is dedicated to alternative medicine, I would not consider these results as proof of effectiveness.

I did not find any convincing studies that would show the effectiveness of this technique. Considering the implausible mechanism it is based on, I would safely argue that EFT is extremely unlikely to work better than placebo and should not be considered a credible treatment for psychological issues.

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+1. Even worse, some proponents claim it can heal much more than psychological problems. Someone I know claimed they used it to get rid of a wart. – Mark L Feb 28 '11 at 4:26
@Solus Just about every alternative method can treat warts, as they tend to spontaneously dissapear after some time. – Mad Scientist Feb 28 '11 at 7:17
@Solus: My doctor informed me (and a rhyme is given to children in The Netherlands) that the virus creating warts is so mild and under the radar of the body's normal immune system that tapping and concentrating on a wart would speed up healing since it would alert the immune system to the virus. Since the warts eventually disappear anyway, it is likely the same idea like my very old doctor told me: Medicate your cold and it will be gone in a week. Do nothing and it will be gone in 7 days – mplungjan Mar 25 '11 at 22:06
That 119 participant one is a pretty clunky experiment. It's like taking people who say they have never received piano lessons, guiding them once through the keys of a Mozart piece and then concluding that if it sounded bad then pianos cannot be used to play nice sounding Mozart music. If EFT has substance then it's plausible that it's something to practise and a skill to learn, and doing it once for the first time ever by guidance is not strong evidence that it cannot work - ("it can give useful results" work) not ("the explanation about energy field disruption is correct"). – TessellatingHeckler Mar 26 '11 at 2:51
The study design doesn't even say who the participants received EFT therapy from, it only says they "followed the treatment guide in the manual". That's even worse. They should at least have their one-off first-time treatment given by practitioners who claim skill and experience and that they can get results in one treatment. Otherwise it could be a flaw in the manual, or the understanding of the manual or the misapplication of the instructions which led to no particular results being noted, as well as my above comment. – TessellatingHeckler Mar 26 '11 at 3:01

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