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.
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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