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


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. Feb 28 '11 at 4:26
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    @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
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    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"). Mar 26 '11 at 2:51
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    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. Mar 26 '11 at 3:01
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    @Tess: You could be right, but practitioners and other proponents claim that anyone can do it. Therefore the experiment was a valid test of such claims. Mar 27 '11 at 9:43

Yes, there is evidence that emotional freedom technique (EFT) does work. EFT is comparable with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) in low ranking journals. An Australian psychologist published in a 2016 randomised controlled study of 83 community members with obesity (sorry paywall), EFT has a similar reduction as CBT at 6 and 12 month follow up. 8 sessions over 8 weeks was the mainstay of the intervention and subjects were randomised to either CBT or EFT.

results were also observed at the 6‐month (p < .001 and p < .001, respectively) and 12‐month (p < .001 and p < .001, respectively) follow‐up periods

In a 2018 open journal, a trial of craving reduction of 143 overweight and obese adults were examined. The study found that a 4 week treatment was as effective as a 8 week treatment of EFT. Unfortunately, this study was not randomized across the three arms and must have used the data from the previous study discussed. The 4 week arm had a waitlist control which subjects were randomised to.

four-week intervention group over time F(2.01, 26.08) = 5.11, p = .013, η2 = .28, power = .78. However, pairwise comparisons with Sidak adjustment revealed no statistically significant changes in BMI scores from pre-intervention to post-intervention, 6-month follow-up, or 12-month follow-up.

significant differences in weight scores were elicited for the four-week intervention group over time F(2.19, 28.51) = 4.71, p = .014, η2 = .27, power = .78.

There were difference between the 4 and 8 week intervention arm suggesting that EFT could be more affordable and time-effective than potentially CBT.


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