EFT Is Bunkum? – Part 3

The “universal healing method” called Emotional Freedom Techniques, also known as EFT (see EFT Is Bunkum? – Part 1) is almost completely lacking any worthwhile scientific evidence.

It’s founder Gary Craig, offers only anecdotal evidence and sheer numbers of examples. A quick search on the internet reveals many people who have not found benefit from EFT, as well as many others who swear by it.

The credibility for EFT’s claims mostly comes from reliance on the Eastern idea of energy flows and meridians, but I believe this has nothing to do with EFT’s results at all (see EFT Is Bunkum? – Part 2)

But very little evidence is not no evidence. There is one study of merit.

It was published in 2003 in “The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice” from the work of two Canadian psychologists Wendy Waite and Mark Holder.

They were testing EFT on the problem where it has claimed the most clear-cut success – phobias.

This is a particularly impressive study because they didn’t simply test EFT vs nothing. Instead they set up 4 different arms to their experiment.

In one group they used EFT.

In a second group they had the subjects tap on 12 points on the person’s arm, chosen as a place where there is not meant to be any meridian points.

The third variation was the most impressive. In this group they had subjects do the same EFT tapping sequence, but rather than tap on their own bodies they had them tap on a doll instead!

The final group was a control group where they had the subjects fold a paper toy for the same length of time as the other variations.

They ended up with 119 people in this trial and they divided up the groups equally between men and women, and different types of phobia. Unfortunately the researchers say that this meant that they ended up with uneven numbers in each of the 4 arms of the experiment, but they do not give the data of exactly what this was.

So what were the results?

Firstly EFT did significantly reduce people’s levels of reported fear.

EFT worked.

But so did tapping on the arm, and tapping on a doll. And equally well.

The control paper folding exercise did not however significantly alter people’s fear.

So on this basis EFT is doing something, but so do other forms of tapping that have nothing to do with energy meridians. Critics may have been able to argue that people tapping on their arms had accidentally hit upon part of the body’s energy flow, but the similar response from tapping on a doll removes this as an explanation.

This study does not fit with EFT having anything to do with meridians, but it does fit with my analysis of EFT as a method for re-conditioning (probably what the researchers are refer to in their own analysis as “distraction”, but I think this it is more than that.)

As far as I am aware this study has not been repeated elsewhere to confirm its results. It stands alone; intriguing, seemingly ignored by the EFT community, and as yet unverified.

Attention Gary Craig – this study was published in 2003. It’s in Wikipedia. You must know about it, so where is your response?

[As Gary Craig points out in the comment below, I missed his public open-letter response on his main website. I now have the answer to my question here, so I can get on to other questions about EFT. Thanks Gary.]

For my reply to Gary’s comment below go here to EFT Is Bunkum? – Part 4.

-Dr Martin Russell

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14 thoughts on “EFT Is Bunkum? – Part 3”

  1. I’m impressed. Could you send me your newsletter? Thanks, Mary

  2. Glad to hear it Mary.

    I don’t have a newsletter. I have this blog. You can either check back regularly, or sign up by going to the main page by clicking on the big title at the top of this page. There you can either sign up for the notification list, or the RSS feed.

  3. Gary Craig says:

    Martin,

    FYI, there is an entire section on the EFT website showing validating research studies, experiments, etc. In fairness, You might wish to comment on those as well. Three of them are published in highly respected Peer Reviewed Journals.

    http://www.emofree.com/res.htm

    My response to the erroneous Waite & Hoider study is listed there as well as well and at…

    http://www.emofree.com/Research/waite-holder-open-letter.htm

    Further, your explanation of how EFT works in Part 2 of your EFT Bunkum series falls seriously short. If you are interested in discussing this, please correspond with me directly and not publicly.

    Best, Gary

  4. Gary,

    I had not come across your site’s research page, including the open-letter response. Bad oversite on my part.

    I had found some but not all of the studies you quote on that page, but I will read them all with an eye to adding a review of them if suitable.

    As to the rest, I have emailed you and I look forward to your reply.

  5. Dr James Kustow says:

    Martin,

    I am a UK based Psychiatrist who has trained in EFT and use it regularly as part of my day to day practice with considerable success (yet significant resistance from my colleagues with whom I no longer discuss ‘tapping’ for fear of being labelled as ‘new age / hippee’). I stumbled upon your blog whilst doing a search looking for some of the other more ‘medical’ explanations for the obvious positive effects of EFT as I believe this is going to be the only way to get tapping into the NHS in the UK.

    I too am uncomfortable with the meridian / energy hypothesis as I can’t see any clear cut, strong evidence to suggest this above other explanations and I can’t understand why everyone has been so quick to jump to this conclusion – surely it would be better to acknowledge that it works but admit that the mechanism is still unclear. This would be far more scientifically sound than to piggy back onto the still contraversial ‘energy’ camp’s rather woolly explanation.

    I was interested in your email correspondence with Gary Craig and wondered whether you would be happy to forward me any further email correspondance you two have had and any further thoughts you have had on the subject.

    I look forward to your email / response. Kind regards,

    James

  6. James,

    I have and am following up the comment by Gary Craig.

    He said “please correspond with me directly and not publicly”. You can make your own assessment of what that means, but it complicates how I reply.

    Rest assured a reply of some type is in order.

  7. Martin and James,

    Happy to see a couple more scientists stepping into finding thruth elsewhere other than under the light of their little lanterns (the scientific method). There is lots of scientific material available out there nowdays on quantum phisics, exotropia (rather than entropia) and energy transformation, the application of kinesiology to establishing levels of consciousness, and so on. However to both of you as medical doctors, I would recommend reading some of the books of David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D, (you might have heard of him by recommendation of Gary Grag himself). He is recognized worldwide as a leading teacher (you will find out of what). His extensive back-ground includes 50 YEARS’ EXPERIENCE IN PSYCHIATRY….

    Enjoy the journey, and good luck with bringing EFT to the NHS, rather an ambitious project of yours, Doctor Kustow. I had the impression you had quite a strong ego. Best of luck, let me know of your progresses

    Sara

  8. Tina Michelucci says:

    Hi
    We offer EFT successfully to members of our health and diet website to help with comfort eating and the underlying emotional reasons why people overeat and yo-yo diet. We are currently writing about this for a national diabetic magazine and wondered if there are any Psychologists or Doctors that would be willing to add their comments for the feature. All of our staff now use EFT for everything from fears, phobias to stress relief, confidence issues and find it very effective. It seems that there are quite a few psychologists and nurses using it to good effect within the NHS and we would love to hear from them.
    Regards
    Tina

    [Editor – I disagree with the GL approach. Check the website for evidence that it produces less than 5 pounds of weight loss. Search this blog for weight loss if you want my info. However you can contact Tina at http://www.dietfreedom.co.uk ]

  9. Tina Michelucci says:

    I would beg to differ having first hand experience of our members who have lost all their excess weight using low GL principles, some as much as 8 stone. In July 07 the independent Cochrane Collaboration reported that a low GL diet led to higher weight loss than other diets including low fat and low calorie, however I agree that if you overeat due to emotional issues initially the best thing you can do is EFT or clinical hypnotherapy, both of which we provide. Once you have dealt with the food ‘addiction’ with these tools you then need advice about what to eat as a balanced diet for your general health which is where a low GL diet based on eating natural foods is ideal. Thin people can also be very unhealthy, its not all about weight. There is a research section on our site all about the health benefits of a low GL diet. I have nothing against Paul McKenna who you obviously support but he does little to educate on healthy eating and nutrition. Do have a read of the site and email me any questions tina@dietfreedom.co.uk – we may convert you yet!
    We have a quote re: EFT now BTW – thanks.

  10. Hi Tina,

    From the Cochrane Collaboration study quoted on your own site… “We identified six eligible randomised controlled trials (total of 202 participants). Interventions ranged from five weeks to six months duration with up to six months follow-up after the intervention ceased. The decrease in body mass (WMD -1.1 kg, 95% confidence interval (CI) -2.0 to -0.2, P < 0.05) (n = 163) ... was significantly greater in participants receiving LGI compared to Cdiets." So the research says with LGI you can lose about 1 kg, in 5-26 weeks. Hmm. There is also no data out to 2-5 years which is when most diets completely fail. Can individual practitioners be better than the research? I certainly hope so and, Tina, congratulations on your success with your members. McKenna too claims results far beyond the academic evidence that has been done on his type of methods. My self-help approach is this. Healthy eating and "nutrition" are founded on an individual's own awareness of their hunger, fullness, and personal experience of foods and eating. Once this is in place they will be 1. Thin for life, and 2. Better able to personally judge other "nutritional" advice. The order of this sequence is the key.

  11. Many wonder why EFT works. The founder suggests to look for reasons/evidences in quantum theory. I recently happend to access a link leading to a very recent paper ‘A Conclusive Experimentation Evidences that Mental States Follow Quantum Mechanics. Further Experimentation Indicates that in Mind States Bell Inequality Violation is Possible’.

    http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/0802/0802.1835.pdf

    It’s a 20 page paper, sounds a bit complex but perhaps helpful to just motives.

    Sara

    [Dr Martin Russell – if anyone can make sense of this paper then let me know. It’s written by people who must have English as a second language, and then it is very complex, abstract English too. Any meaningful findings in there are buried too deep for me to work out. Quantum theory and the mind are complex issues and this didn’t help me.]

  12. Ok so we never heard back from Dr.Russell who stated he was going to investigate further and get back here with his conclusions.

    So is EFT effective or not? And if so, where’s the proof?

  13. I’m not aware of any new studies on this Frank. So I have nothing more to add in that line.

    Gary Craig and I spoke – the best I can say is that we agreed we disagree on the mechanism of action and on the range of situations it is useful for. The link is given at the bottom of this post to my more detailed response.

    But yes, for selected patients I still recommend EFT and have had success.

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