Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is an “emotional version of acupuncture, except without the needles”, as developer Gary Craig puts it.
[If you need more introduction to EFT go to Part 1 here.]
There is very little evidence in the scientific literature, but EFT has a lot of raving fans and practitioners.
So coming from my own background as a medical practitioner what did I make of EFT?
Well back in 2001 when I moved from medical practice to counseling, I used it in my practice, but then I stopped.
My fundamental disagreement with EFT is with its theoretical underpinnings.
I suspect that the outcomes from EFT have NOTHING to do with Chi, or energy flow, or acupuncture meridian points. It might be good marketing to be caught up with Eastern philosophies, but it also puts people off.
I think EFT has a much more Western explanation for it’s effects.
My assessment of EFT is based on the well-recognized psychological mechanism of conditioning.
Many of the psychological problems that EFT was first claimed to work for are classic examples of problems that have an automatic emotional reaction ie a conditioned response.
Phobias, traumatic memories, addictions. All these involve strong emotional responses.
With a spider phobia it is a fear reaction to the sight of spiders or the thought of spiders. Even with depression or anxiety, there is certainly an emotional reaction, and often there are specific triggers for those emotions in memories from the past or expectations they have for the future.
The idea with therapy is to change the unwanted emotional reaction. To turn fear into comfort, depression into hope or choicefulness, and anxiety into calmness or a sense of control.
In fact if you take it further, emotional reactions can be thought of as part of many, many different problems, both psychological and physical.
So in comes EFT.
Let me describe the experience of using EFT from a personal perspective.
If you’ve done EFT or if you watched the video from Part 1, I think you will agree that EFT is an abnormal thing to do, and it takes a bit of concentration.
It’s a bit like a cross between trying to simultaneously pat your head and rub your tummy, and learning the Macarena, but you’re meant to be serious as you do it.
The emotional experience of using the technique involves a mix of feelings, including awkwardness, curiosity, confusion, embarrassment, as well as the emotions of learning something, ie intensely observing, listening, forgetting, stumbling, achieving and so on.
You are meant to do all this WHILE thinking about a particular problem you have.
This means you are trying to experience two sets of emotions at once.
As in the phobia example, if you mix the phobic fear with the emotional experiences of doing EFT you end up not only with a diluted fear, you also add in elements of emotions that are very valuable for finding new and better ways to react.
I think this mix up of emotions explains all the features of EFT.
If you turn what I have just said into medical terminology of conditioned responses and stimuli you end up with an explanation for EFT that is complete, and doesn’t require any beliefs that aren’t already part of medical and scientific knowledge.
So how did all of this apply to me and my medical counseling practice?
I was happy to learn EFT because of how neat it is – lasting change in minutes. That’s cool!
I then was happy to use EFT even despite the lack of scientific proof, because EFT fitted with what I already knew was proven, and I didn’t need to believe in meridians or energy flows to need to wait for the scientific testing.
However after all this you may be curious about why I stopped using EFT in my practice?
For the very simple reason that there are heaps of valuable things I don’t use because they don’t fit very well with the rest of what I offer.
I still have recommended EFT on the occasions where it has fitted the expectations of the person I was talking to, and it may fit for whatever ails you.
If you are interested, Gary Craig’s official EFT site has plenty of case studies/testimonials, and also a free download of the basic techniques, to keep you from getting caught in any corrupted version of what is out there on YouTube or elsewhere.
I just suggest you ignore the theories.
What’s your opinion?
-Dr Martin Russell