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What is the evidence for Emotional Freedom Technique or EFT for PTSD?

Emotional Freedom Technique or EFT is a form of therapy for PTSD. EFT combines the cognitive components from CBT and exposure therapy and combines it with stimulation of eight acupuncture points.

From Church, D. et al. (2018):

A typical sequence in the treatment of PTSD might be to have the client vividly recall details of a traumatizing event (exposure) while pairing the memory with emotionally neutral statements (cognitive reframing). To these cognitive and exposure elements, EFT adds the stimulation of a pre-established set of eight acupuncture points (acupoints) by tapping on them with the fingertips, a form of acupressure.

Church, D., Stapleton, P., Mollon, P., Feinstein, D., Boath, E., Mackay, D., & Sims, R. (2018, December). Guidelines for the Treatment of PTSD Using Clinical EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques). In Healthcare (Vol. 6, No. 4, p. 146). Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute.

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The meta-analysis on anxiety referred to by Church, D. et al. (2018) was performed by Sebastian & Nelms, (2017) was published in a questionable journal.

This critique by Ferrara found that

four studies suffered from two fatal flaws: they had a small number of participants, and EFT was compared to waitlist controls that did nothing. These studies really tell us nothing about the effectiveness of EFT and they do not validate the theory behind it.

Small, biased studies without comparison groups from one group of researchers with a financial interest in EFT have shown the treatment is associated with improved PTSD symptoms. However, when it has been compared to CBT, there are no differences between the approaches.

https://healthybutsmart.com/emotional-freedom-technique/

Church, D., Stapleton, P., Mollon, P., Feinstein, D., Boath, E., Mackay, D., & Sims, R. (2018, December). Guidelines for the Treatment of PTSD Using Clinical EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques). In Healthcare (Vol. 6, No. 4, p. 146). Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute.

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.

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  • $\begingroup$ It is true that there are not enough reputable institutions doing head to head trials to make this therapy worth investigating. However, if CBT is comparable with EFT, isn't it worth investigating? EFT is far more affordable and self-empowering than CBT. Face-to-face CBT is expensive and far less affordable than EFT? $\endgroup$
    – Poidah
    Aug 22, 2019 at 2:11
  • $\begingroup$ If a large number find benefit over placebo, there must be something in it. $\endgroup$ Aug 22, 2019 at 8:34
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    $\begingroup$ @ChrisRogers "If a large number find benefit over placebo, there must be something in it." - There was only one trial with any sort of proper placebo that did not show difference. Freud is a bit different whereas this energy field stuff has no value whatsoever. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Aug 22, 2019 at 13:42
  • $\begingroup$ I disagree Bryan. The evidence does show equivalence to CBT. If it showed no difference then there should not be any difference from the waitlist which is the control/placebo arm. But yes I agree that the science behind the therapy is questionable. But if the outcome is decent, then the results of that outcome should be debated and clarified rather than pseudoscience be presented as fact to the unawares. $\endgroup$
    – Poidah
    Aug 23, 2019 at 1:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Poidah I'm afraid a discussion on the interaction between pseudoscience, science, and potential for commercialization is outside of scope as part of a discussion on this question (or on the main site). In case you want to discuss this, posting your opinion on our meta, incorporating recommendations on how you feel questions pertaining to pseudoscience should be handled on the main site, would be much appreciated! $\endgroup$
    – Steven Jeuris
    Aug 23, 2019 at 9:42

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