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Assessment of the Emotional Freedom Technique: An alternative treatment for fear

Note: This article assumes you have a working knowledge of EFT. Newcomers can still learn from it but are advised to get our Free EFT Get Started Package or our EFT Books and EFT Trainings for a more complete understanding. For more, read our EFT Info and Disclaimer Document.

Assessment of the Emotional Freedom Technique: An alternative treatment for fear

L. W. Waite & M. D. Holder

Citation (APA Style): 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.

Abstract

The effectiveness of the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), a treatment for anxiety and fear, was assessed. One hundred nineteen university students were assigned and tested in an independent four-group design. The groups differed in the treatment each received: applied treatment of EFT (Group EFT); a placebo treatment (Group P); a modeling treatment (Group M); and a control (Group C). Participants' self-reported baseline and post-treatment ratings of fear were measured. Group EFT showed a significant decrease in self-report measures at post-treatment. However, Group P and Group M showed a similar significant decrease. Group C did not show a significant decrease in post-treatment fear ratings. 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.

To read the Waite & Holder study in its entirety, click here.

Note: The methodological flaws in this study are the topic of two other papers. The first is by Baker et. al.; click here to go to that paper. The second is by Pasahow, click here to go to that paper. These flaws enable the data to be interpreted as either supporting or disproving EFT, though due to these problems, the study lends marginal support at best. Problems include the lack of validated assessments used in other EFT studies, such as the Beck Anxiety Inventory, the SA-45, the Test Anxiety Inventory, etc. Another drawback is that the study apparently failed to use the manualized version of EFT (a manual is recommended in American Psychological Association research standards), or perform fidelity checks, as most other EFT research does. This led to the researchers stating the name of the EFT method incorrectly, to having subjects tap on at least one incorrect point, and other flaws. Their paper was published in an obscure journal, rarely referenced or indexed in reputable peer-reviewed publications, and connected with the Skeptical Inquirer. That publication, rather than objectively evaluating scientific evidence, unscientifically seeks to debunk any evidence that runs counter to its prejudices. Here's how the Waite and Holder paper is summed up by a much more reputable source, the American Psychological Association flagship journal Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training:

"Waite and Holder (2003) tested three tapping conditions and a no-treatment control condition on 119 college students with self-reported fear of heights. One of the tapping conditions utilized a variation of a manualized Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) protocol; one used this protocol but substituted random points on the arm for the standard EFT points; and one used this protocol while having subjects tap on a doll. Relevant background is that using the forefinger stimulates an acupuncture point (Large Intestine 1) that is sometimes used in the treatment of “mental restlessness” (Ross, 1995, p. 306) and the arm contains numerous acupuncture points, although the researchers clearly had not conceived of the doll or arm conditions as potentially activating treatment points. In any case, the three tapping conditions all resulted in significant reductions in self-reported fear (p < .003, .001, and .001, respectively). The placebo group did not (p = .255)."  

The commentary goes on to note that their "findings support rather than contradict the hypothesis that tapping on the body while attuning to a problem has efficacy as a treatment approach. . . .  three tapping variations resulted in highly significant reductions of fear while the group that did not use tapping did not show improvement."

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