Emotional Freedom Techniques

Rating

Category: Complementary and Alternative Therapies

What is it?

Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) was created in the mid 1990s as a simplified version of a technique known as thought field therapy (TFT). It relies on tapping on various energy meridians in the upper body and hands, while imagining the feared stimulus. It is claimed that this procedure realigns the body’s ‘control system for the disturbing emotions.’ The technique is reportedly used to treat psychological problems including phobias, anxiety, trauma, loss, addictive urges, obsessions, compulsions, and a wide variety of other problems.

How does it work?

The theory states that negative emotions are built in the following stages: A negative experience occurs, with negative emotions felt in response which leads to inappropriate programming inside the body. As a result, the body's energy system gets disrupted due to negative emotions. In order to remove the negative emotions the correct energy balance needs to be rectified, which is done through a series of tapping.

In EFT, unlike thought field therapy, the sequence of tapping points is thought to be unimportant. Therefore a comprehensive algorithm, series of tapping sequence, is used for all problems.

Is it effective?

One study has assessed the effectiveness of EFT compared to breathing exercises for small animal phobias. This study found greater improvements on subjective measures and pulse rate in the EFT group, thereby suggesting that EFT may be used in the treatment of phobias which may give a cross over effect for treatment relating to the effects of traumatic experiences. Overall, EFT has not been researched adequately to give an indication of its effectiveness

Are there any disadvantages?

Patients can become uncomfortable with the tapping involved with this technique.

Where do you get it?

Professionals trained in the technique can be found on the Emotional Freedom Techniques Australia web page. While these strategies are pursued, it is also important that the person with PTSD is under the care of a certified health professional.

What are the evidence limitations?

There is currently no explicit evidence to support EFT as an independent intervention for PTSD. Much of the evidence base is derived from lower levels of evidence such as expert opinion and clinical experiences. Therefore interpreting this evidence should be undertaken with caution.

Recommendations

Based on the current lack of high quality evidence, EFT cannot be recommended as a first-line intervention for those diagnosed with PTSD. More research is required.

Key References

Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health 2007, ‘Australian guidelines for the treatment of adults with Acute Stress Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Practitioner Guide’ National Health and Medical research Council, viewed 11 December 2008,
http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/publications/synopses/_files/mh13.pdf

Devilly, GJ 2005, ‘Power therapies and possible threats to the science of psychology and psychiatry’, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 39 pp. 437-445.

Wells, S, Polglase, K, Andrews, HB, Carrington, P & Baker, AH, 2003, ‘ Evaluation of a meridian-based intervention, Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), for reducing specific phobias of small animals’, Journal of Clinical Psychology, Vol. 59, no. 9, pp. 943-966.

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