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I just heard or maybe I saw a clip on tv about this tapping technique. Something about tapping various points of the body for psychological treatment.

What is this EFT all about? Is there any solid evidence for EFT?

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Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is part of the energy psychology movement which draws on various forms of alternative medicine to stimulate meridian points of the body (Gaudiano, 2000). At the moment it is considered pseudoscience because it has no effect beyond the placebo-effect in clinical psychology (Bakker, 2013).

This is an excerpt from a study by Waite & Holder (2003) that assessed the effectiveness of EFT for anxiety:

These results do not support the idea that the purported benefits of EFT are uniquely dependent on the "tapping of meridians." Rather, these results suggest that the reported effectiveness of EFT is attributable to characteristics it shares with more traditional therapies.

And here is the abstract from another article by Bakker (2013) on energy psychology, the "field" EFT falls in:

Proponents of energy psychology techniques, such as Thought Field Therapy and Emotional Freedom Techniques, have sought “empirically supported therapy” status despite an unsupported and implausible theoretical basis and claims in response of representing a “pseudoscientific” movement. Two major reviews of the supportive evidence which has accumulated over the past 30 years have been published recently. This current status report describes the history, theory, techniques, claims, and implications of the energy psychology movement, examines support for its theoretical base, its current outcome study support, and offers conclusions and recommendations as to its research and clinical prospects. It is concluded that there is scant support for the radical theories underlying energy psychology techniques, and that empirical support for their efficacy is methodologically weak, and has not been able to demonstrate an effect beyond nonspecific or placebo effects, or the incorporation of known‐effective elements. The only dismantling studies to date have been disconfirmatory. Further research is highly unlikely to be scientifically productive, and scientist practitioners are advised to continue to adhere to well‐established cognitive and behavioural principles.

So, overall there is little scientific evidence for the underlying assumptions of EFT, hope this answers your question!

References

Bakker, G. (2013). The current status of energy psychology: Extraordinary claims with less than ordinary evidence. Clinical Psychologist, 17(3), 91-99. doi:10.1111/cp.12020

Gaudiano B.A., Herbert JD (2000). "Can we really tap our problems away?". Skeptical Inquirer. 24 (4). Retrieved 2019-08-20.

Waite, L.W. & Holder, M.D. (2003). Assessment of the Emotional Freedom Technique: An alternative treatment for fear. The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, 2(1), 20-26.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the reply. I thought I would do some googling and found this metaanalysis of EFT and PTSD - ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27889444 $\endgroup$ – Poidah Aug 20 '19 at 22:59
  • $\begingroup$ Hmm, interesting. It seems that there is some evidence for EFT although I doubt these results are because of the tapping. Like one of the studies I mentioned these results are more likely to be attributable to characteristics that EFT shares with more traditional therapies. But good find nevertheless! $\endgroup$ – Halls of Justice Aug 21 '19 at 5:09
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    $\begingroup$ EFT is not just about tapping. There is an element of EMDR in the process and reciting positive affirmations too. $\endgroup$ – Chris Rogers Aug 21 '19 at 6:20
  • $\begingroup$ I am disappointed. There is enough evidence for a decent meta-analysis. Just because the mechanism is poorly understood, the meta-analysis cannot be dismissed and old papers cited. $\endgroup$ – Poidah Aug 21 '19 at 8:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Poidah That review is in a journal known for publishing pseudoscience including support for easily discredited fields like homeopathy, mediums contacting dead people, and other junk. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Aug 21 '19 at 16:28
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Reading the answer from @HallsofJustice, the report from Gaudiano & Herbert JD (2000) was a Skeptical Inquirer report, and as the name suggests, their reports contain the extreme end of skepticism.

For most of its existence, the Skeptical Inquirer (SI) was published by the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, widely known by its acronym CSICOP. In 2006 the CSICOP Executive Council shortened CSICOP's name to the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) and broadened its mission statement (Wikipedia).

Whilst I concede that there are elements of Jungian theory which can be questionable, I am a defender of psychological theories developed by Freud and others. Yet, some of these theories are considered pseudoscientific and I am skeptical of reports by the Skeptical Inquirer on the basis that I wonder if they ever produce unbiased reports. I wonder how 90% of psychology would stand against their "scrutiny".

Without reading more works of Gary M. Bakker I realize that I cannot fully comment on what he writes but it seems intriguing when he is someone who

has published in both clinical (Practical CBT) and skeptical (God: A Psychological Assessment) fields (Skeptical Inquirer).

It is a bit of an oxymoron when your work involves "scientifically studying" a psychological theory or concept on one hand, and writing about God as though He exists when in the scientific realm, He cannot be considered to exist.

Reading Bakker's 2013 paper cited in the answer by @HallsofJustice you get a feeling that the paper is going to be totally biased against EFT right from the start.

Reviewing one paper on the subject, Bekker reports that EFT slightly outperformed diaphragmatic breathing (Wells et al., 2003, p. 958).

They suggested (p. 961) that the EFT effect is unlikely to have been a placebo effect because, in their experience “many people are initially skeptical” about EFT.

Reviewing another 2 papers:

two EFT studies were unpublished small “partial replications” of the Wells et al. (2003) study (Baker & Siegel, 2005; Salas, 2001). Baker and Siegel (2005) used a “supportive interview” control instead of diaphragmatic breathing, and again EFT performed better on subjective measures but not on heart rate change or on follow-up.

Bekker went on to state that "despite such sparse and methodologically weak evidence", Feinstein (2008) concluded that the Wells et al. (2003) study helped to bring energy psychology past the threshold formulated by Division 12 Task Force of the American Psychological Association, establishing EFT as a probably efficacious treatment for specific phobias (page 210).

Bekker concluded that EFT along with Energy Psychology should be considered pseudoscientific as it is in the same vain as faith healing etc.

When you look at the whole picture, Gary Craig’s EFT (Craig & Fowlie, 1995) does not just involve tapping and the basic idea is given in his website along with a free copy of the theory behind it in PDF format and for Kindle. EFT uses positive affirmations to counteract negative thinking patterns.

When you combine this with Sebastian & Nelms (2017) you mentioned in the comments along with Wells et al. (2003) plus Baker & Siegel (2005) and Salas, (2001). There is strong evidence to suggest EFT is effective.

As I pointed out in a meta post here and in my blog article on pseudoscience in psychology, which expands on the meta post, just because the effects cannot be scientifically measured, it doesn't necessarily mean that it is not effective when patients are consistently reporting significant benefits.

References

Bakker, G. (2013). The current status of energy psychology: Extraordinary claims with less than ordinary evidence. Clinical Psychologist, 17(3), 91-99. doi: 10.1111/cp.12020

Craig, G., & Fowlie, A. (1995). Emotional freedom techniques: The manual (with video and audio tapes). Sea Ranch, CA: Author.

Feinstein, D. (2008). Energy psychology: A review of the preliminary evidence. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 45(2), 199–213. doi: 10.1037/0033-3204.45.2.199

Gaudiano B.A., & Herbert J. D. (2000). Can we really tap our problems away?. Skeptical Inquirer. 24(4). Retrieved from: https://skepticalinquirer.org/2000/07/can_we_really_tap_our_problems_away/

Salas, M. M. (2001). The effect of an energy psychology intervention (EFT) versus diaphragmatic breathing on specific phobias. Unpublished master’s thesis. Kingsville: Texas A & M University.

Sebastian, B., & Nelms, J. (2017). The effectiveness of Emotional Freedom Techniques in the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder: A meta-analysis. Explore, 13(1), 16-25. doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2016.10.001 pubmed: 27889444

Wells, S., Polglase, K., Andrews, H. B., Carrington, P., & Baker, A. H. (2003). Evaluation of a meridian-based intervention, Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), for reducing specific phobias of small animals. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 59(9), 943–966. doi: 10.1002/jclp.10189.

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    $\begingroup$ As you might expect, I am quite skeptical of this approach, but I noticed that in the first meta analysis that came up in a search (Clond, M. (2016). Emotional freedom techniques for anxiety: a systematic review with meta-analysis. ), which seems to be quite pro-EFT, has this quote: "Emotional freedom technique is a psychophysiological intervention that combines elements of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, and somatic stimulation using acupressure points"... given the known effectiveness of CBT, isn't this all just CBT+woo? $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Aug 21 '19 at 15:46
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    $\begingroup$ It also seems like you spend an awful lot of time attacking one particular review from another answer, but that answer contained other citations as well that point out similar problems. Reading the Bakker review, in particular, the explanations for the approach are laughably ridiculous, referring to all manner of non-existent energy fields, "tapping creates energy", etc... $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Aug 21 '19 at 15:50
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    $\begingroup$ Not attacking per se @BryanKrause but offering a different viewpoint as he seems to contradict the papers he reviews without any solid reason I can see. $\endgroup$ – Chris Rogers Aug 21 '19 at 15:53
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    $\begingroup$ He was also criticized for: "omitting the only two fully controlled studies on EFT and TFT available" ... "Waite and Holder (2003) allocated 119 subjects into an independent four‐group design: (1) Group EFT; (2) a placebo condition in which arms were tapped at non‐meridian points; (3) a modelling condition in which subjects tapped on a doll; (4) a no‐treatment control. Baseline and post‐treatment self‐reported height fear ratings were taken. All three experimental groups benefited while the no‐treatment control did not" $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Aug 21 '19 at 15:57
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    $\begingroup$ "There is strong evidence to suggest EFT is effective." EFT, or parts of EFT. This reminds me of homeopathy; commonly they would also prescribe non-homeopathic solutions which people then start attributing with 'homeopathy works'. (I presume this comment is in line with @BryanKrause's first comment.) That said, such opposing viewpoints are really appreciated, Chris! $\endgroup$ – Steven Jeuris Aug 22 '19 at 11:56
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There is strong evidence for EFT for depression. A metaanalysis Nelms & Castel (2016) found 20 studies including 12 randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and 8 outcome studies. 461 participants were studied in the outcome studies with over 398 in the RCTs. There were significant reduction in depressive symptoms found in this meta-analysis across multiple patient populations in a variety of different settings.

Cohen׳s d for RCTs was 1.85 and for outcome studies was 0.70. Effect sizes for follow-ups less than 90 days were 1.21, and for ≥ 90 days were 1.11

EFT is also effective for anxiety. A meta-analysis by Clond (2016) found 14 studies with 658 subjects examined (293 EFT, 365 control). The meta-analysis found significant improvement in anxiety in the trials and

effect size for the EFT treatment group was 1.23 (95% confidence interval, 0.82-1.64; p < 0.001), whereas the effect size for combined controls was 0.41 (95% confidence interval, 0.17-0.67; p = 0.001)

The studies included in the meta-analysis were across a range of populations from children and adolescents, to university students and adults covering a range of anxiety disorders from test anxiety, phobias, PTSD and fibromyalgia with anxiety.

PTSD is further discussed in another question - Evidence for EFT (Emotional Freedom technique) for PTSD

The possible biological mechanisms for how EFT works is discussed here - How does Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) work?

  • Nelms, J. A., & Castel, L. (2016). A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized and Nonrandomized Trials of Clinical Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) for the Treatment of Depression. EXPLORE, 12(6), 416–426. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.explore.2016.08.001

  • Clond, M. (2016). Emotional Freedom Techniques for Anxiety: A Systematic Review With Meta-analysis. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 204(5), 388–395. https://doi.org/10.1097/NMD.0000000000000483

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