Today’s science and technology has given us a number of wondrous gifts in the fields of healing and medicine for both physical and mental conditions. For decades, we used its discoveries to create treatments and even cures for a tremendous spectrum of symptoms and illnesses, leading us to step away from more “traditional” methods that were previously considered unproven. However, what I find to be even more exciting is that over more recent years, that direction has changed.
Science and technology have not only provided us with continuously new and improved health and wellness treatments, but it has also helped to show that many of those traditional methods were actually onto something, and that “something” is greater than we had ever known. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has allowed us to look at the practices of acupuncture, acupressure, and tapping points through the lens of science and actually see the impact that they have on the brain.
Among the studies that have been conducted on these techniques have been several that were performed by Harvard Medical School. What they have discovered is that by applying various techniques to stimulate meridian points throughout the body that are connected to the amygdala (a part of the brain that controls fear and stress responses), the treatment recipient’s stresses and anxieties can be measurably reduced.
In a controlled trial conducted by Dr. Dawson Church and his colleagues, cortisol levels were measured before and after an hour-long tapping session. Cortisol occurs naturally in the body and is nicknamed the “stress hormone”. There were 83 participants in the study, among which there was an average reduction in cortisol levels by 24 percent. Some of the participants experienced reductions as high as 50 percent. A control group of people who went through talk therapy experienced no measurable cortisol reduction.
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
EFT combines the physical benefits of acupuncture with the cognitive benefits of conventional therapy for a much faster, more complete treatment of emotional issues, and the physical and performance issues that often result.
EFT is an emotional version of acupuncture, except we don’t use needles.
While related to acupuncture, EFT does not use needles. Instead, we use a simple two pronged process wherein we (1) mentally “tune in” to specific issues while (2) stimulating certain meridian points on the body by tapping on them with our fingertips.
Studies on EFT
The APA standards advocate that studies contain sufficient subjects to achieve a level of statistical significance of p < .05 or greater, which means that there is only one possibility in 20 that the results are due to chance. The status of EFT as an “evidence-based” practice is summarized in this statement published in the APA journal Review of General Psychology:
“A literature search identified 51 peer-reviewed papers that report or investigate clinical outcomes following the tapping of acupuncture points to address psychological issues. The 18 randomized controlled trials in this sample were critically evaluated for design quality, leading to the conclusion that they consistently demonstrated strong effect sizes and other positive statistical results that far exceed chance after relatively few treatment sessions. Criteria for evidence-based treatments proposed by Division 12 of the American Psychological Association were also applied and found to be met for a number of conditions, including PTSD.” (Feinstein, 2012)
A number of studies using imaginal exposure while being paired with acupuncture as shown the following:
- Reduces traumatic memories
- Reduces midbrain hyperarousal and anxiety.
- When these meridian points or energy points are stimulated:
- Regulates cortisol
- Produces serotonin
- Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)
- Reduction in heart rate
- Regulates autonomic nervous system
- Shuts off flight/fight/freeze response
Hui, K. K. S, Liu, J., Makris, N., Gollub, R. W., Chen, A. J. W., Moore, C. I., . . . Kwong, K. K. (2000). Acupuncture modulates the limbic system and subcortical gray structures of the human brain: Evidence from fMRI studies in normal subjects. Human Brain Mapping, 9, 13-25. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-0193(2000)9:13.0.CO;2-F
Hodge, P., & Jurgens, C. Y. (2011). A pilot study of the effects of Emotional Freedom Techniques in psoriasis. Energy Psychology: Theory, Research, & Treatment, 3(2), 13-24
Rowe, J. E. (2005). The effects of EFT on long-term psychological symptoms. Counseling and Clinical Psychology, 2(3), 104-111. Rubino, A. (in press). The effectiveness of Emotional
Stone, B., Leyden, L., Fellows, B. (2009). Energy psychology treatment for posttraumatic stress in genocide survivors in a Rwandan orphanage: A pilot investigation. Energy Psychology: Theory, Research, & Treatment, 1(1), 73-82.
Dinter, I. (2008). Veterans: Finding their way home with EFT. [Electronic journal article]. International Journal of Healing and Caring, 8(3)
Langevin, H. M., & Yandow, J. A. (2002). Relationship of acupuncture points and meridians to connective tissue planes. Anatomical Record, 269, 257-265. doi: 10.1002/ar.10185
Swingle, P. G., Pulos, L., & Swingle, M. K. (2004). Neurophysiological indicators of EFT treatment of posttraumatic stress. Subtle Energies & Energy Medicine, 15, 75-86
I have been a conventional therapist for many years, and I believe in these processes for altering the emotional state. Each individual treatment is not the be-all and end-all of emotional wellness, but it does have its proper place and function as a part of an overall E.F.T. Therapy. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) Therapy is changing many lives and is empowering people to be happier and healthier in a relatively short period of time. The key is to recognize it as not only a tool, but a meaningful life skill.
Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) has been approved as a “generally safe” therapy by the US Veterans Administration (VA). After reviewing the extensive evidence for the safety and efficacy of EFT, a group of experts in the VAs Integrative Health Coordinating Center published a statement approving EFT and several other complementary and integrative health (CIH) practices.
The approval means that VA therapists will be able to use EFT with their clients suffering from PTSD, depression, anxiety, pain and other conditions.
EFT has been studied in over 100 clinical trials. They show that the approach is effective for a variety of psychological and physical conditions. EFT combines elements of popular therapies, such as CBT, with acupressure—in the form of tapping with the fingertips on acupuncture points. For this reason it’s often called “tapping.”
A meta-analysis examined the effect of treatment with EFT on PTSD. It aggregated the statistics from 7 randomized controlled trials and found that EFT had a very large treatment effect (Sebastian & Nelms, 2016).
A meta-analysis of EFT for depression showed similar results, stating that: “The results show that Clinical EFT were highly effective in reducing depressive symptoms in a variety of populations and settings… The posttest effect size for EFT… was larger than that measured in meta-analyses of antidepressant drug trials and psychotherapy studies” (Nelms & Castel, 2016).
Therapists first began to draw the attention of the VA to EFT in 2004, when they found it a quick and successful treatment for the first cohort of veterans returning from Iraq. However, the VA rejected the approach for many years, despite the efforts of various members of congress to have it considered. Fort Hood offered a very successful PTSD treatment program incorporating EFT for many years, but shut it down at the end of 2015.
To fill the treatment gap, a group of volunteer therapists established the Veterans Stress Project, a non-profit online portal to connect veterans with practitioners. Based on the experience of these and other therapists, The Permanente Journal, published by Kaiser Permanente, issued treatment guidelines for using EFT with veterans with PTSD. It recommends 10 treatment sessions, though half that number is often enough to eliminate symptoms like flashbacks, nightmares and hypervigilance (Church, Stern, Boath, Stewart, Feinstein, & Clond, 2017).
Captain George Peters had this to say after completing 6 sessions through the Stress Project program: “For 35 years I was hard to get along with. Divorced, fired, and feared by my children because I over-reacted to any provocation. Six hours of therapy gave me the tools to change.”
VA employees can find the treatment guidelines at the Integrative Health Coordinating Center SharePoint portal. They state that based on study by “the expert scientific community (both internal and external to VHA) knowledgeable about the safety of CIH approaches,” EFT and several other methods including Healing Touch, Acupressure, and Reiki, are “generally considered safe.”
Church, D., Stern, S., Boath, E., Stewart, A., Feinstein, D., & Clond, M. (2017). Using Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) to treat PTSD in veterans: A review of the evidence, survey of practitioners, and proposed clinical guidelines. The Permanente Journal, 21(2), 16-23.
Nelms, J. & Castel, D. (2016). A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized and non-randomized trials of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) for the treatment of depression. Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, 12(5), 416-426. doi: 10.1016/
Sebastian, B., & Nelms, J. (2016). The effectiveness of Emotional Freedom Techniques in the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder: A meta-analysis. Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, 13(1), 16–25. doi:10.1016/