EFT 'tapping' for PTSD
Developed in the 1990s, Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) has garnered a substantial global following. Research indicates that by tapping into the end points of energy meridians, similar to acupuncture, EFT sends soothing signals to the brain, lowering cortisol, the stress hormone commonly elevated in people with PTSD and C-PTSD. Tapping now complements NHS-recommended therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement DesensitiSation and Reprocessing (EMDR). Notably, NICE has officially recommended further exploration of EFT for PTSD and C-PTSD treatment, consistently ranking it among the top four most effective and cost-efficient interventions. This article, written in conjunction with, and with content from The EFT and Mindfullness Centre explains more about EFT and how it can help people with PTSD and C-PTSD.
What is EFT?
EFT stands for ‘Emotional Freedom Technique’ sometimes known as ‘tapping therapy’ ‘meridian energy techniques’ or ‘energy psychology’.
EFT is often described as being similar to acupuncture but instead of using needles, the meridian points are gently tapped with the fingertips. EFT is a relatively new branch of complementary therapy that also utilises the mind/body energy system to bring about positive changes in emotions, thoughts and behaviours.
What are the tapping points?
These are the points that are tapped on with fingertips. There is also the side of the hand point which is tapped on to begin with whilst saying a ‘Set up Phrase’ then the rest of the points in the illustration below are tapped on (in sequence).
What is the history of EFT?
The origin of EFT goes back many 1000’s of years to acupuncture, acupressure and shiatsu. The earliest signs of acupuncture being used on humans can be traced back to 3,200 years BC.
In the 1980’s Dr Roger Callaghan came up with a complicated algorithm of tapping points to help cure his client Mary from a water phobia. In the early 1990’s, Gary Craig, an ordained minister and graduate of Stanford University, reduced the number of tapping points, found it to be just as effective as TFT and called it Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).
How does EFT work?
The precise mechanisms underlying how EFT works remains subject to ongoing scientific debate, but there are varying theories among researchers.
If we first look at the neuroscience, this tells us that the prefrontal cortex (front part of the brain) the limbic system (located in the centre of the brain) and the brain stem (reptilian brain) are all inter-related. Depending on the individual, if someone experiences a traumatic or distressing event, adrenaline rushes through the body and the memory is imprinted into the amygdala, which is part of the limbic system. This effectively ‘dysregulates’ the nervous system. When the association between the memory and the stimuli (triggers) is re-activated by any of the 5 senses, it can often cause a disintegration of the limbic system affecting memory and also the right (emotional) brain and left (logical) brain.
The amygdala (we have two) is responsible for emotions and the hippocampus helps with the formation of new memories and the emotions that relate to them. If you have ever been stung by a bee, your amygdala can sense the fear and the pain of the sting, and your hippocampus can help the sight of the bee, along with the pain and fear to be encoded into a memory.
This is really useful because the next time you see a bee or something similar to a bee, the image will be matched up with “things that can harm you” in your memory and you will feel enough fear to avoid the bee.
By gently tapping on the EFT tapping points it appears that the neural pathways are stimulated, sending signals between the sympathetic and parasympathetic regions of the brain to calm down the cortisol levels. Calming down the amygdala is essential as it’s a critical part of the brain’s limbic system. Research demonstrated that EFT reduced cortisol levels by 24%.
It is theorised that stimulating these points also causes a ‘cognitive shift’.
For instance, a phobic response to spiders would be replaced by a calm response and the physical sensations of distress (e.g racing heart, lumps in the throat or sensations in the pit of the stomach) are alleviated. Disturbed thoughts (such as catastrophic predictions) are normalised. Negative emotions (fear, panic, anger, confusion, etc.) are replaced by inner peace and calm. Unhelpful behavioural tendencies (flight or fight or freeze responses, for example) are corrected.
Is EFT safe?
There are no known contraindications to using EFT, however, only qualified mental health professionals should apply EFT on those suffering from severe psychological disorders such as DID, schizophrenia etc. and we strongly recommend that individuals seeking to use EFT as a treatment for PTSD or C-PTSD do so under the guidance of a well-qualified and experienced practitioner who has undergone comprehensive training and supervised practice.
Some clients may experience an abreaction (where a repressed memory or overwhelming emotion is triggered) during a session but a Practitioner will be able to manage this regardless of whether they are working with the client face to face or online. Practitioners have a range of techniques to choose from to help regulate emotional overwhelm.
Can EFT be used to help recover from a trauma or PTSD?
There are a number of case studies and clinical research papers that demonstrate how quick and effective EFT is with symptoms of trauma. At the EFT and Mindfulness Centre, they teach students how to identify and work with traumatic memories and stress that even qualified Practitioners must only work within their levels of competence. Their EFT Practitioners are instructed to follow a Basic Trauma Protocol when working with symptoms of PTSD or C-PTSD and every effort is made during an EFT session to keep the client safe.
How many sessions are required?
For PTSD, the general consensus among clinicians is 16-20 of CBT sessions. With EFT, this number can be a lot less. When it comes to trauma or PTSD, people can respond differently when exposed to the same event. We also need to factor in the Practitioner’s training or what other modalities they introduce or whether they give the client some ‘homework’. All this can influence the number of sessions required. Saying that, a qualified and trauma informed EFT Practitioner should be able to help reduce or ameliorate the symptoms of trauma (flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event) within 5/6 sessions. It’s important to emphasise that this figure is a general estimate and should not be cited as a precise statistic.
What is the science behind EFT?
Clinical trials and studies have shown EFT to be effective for trauma, cravings, phobias, stress, and to alleviate pain plus helping with the side effects of cancer treatment. It is regarded as an evidence based therapy with the American Psychological Association.
Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprogramming (EMDR) is a similar technique to EFT. EMDR has reached the minimum threshold for being designated as an evidence-based treatment. The latest NHS-based clinical trial (published in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease ) compared EMDR to EFT for PTSD and EFT was shown to be as effective. It’s crucial to consider that due to the current constraints of scientific evidence and the existence of varying theories regarding the mechanisms of EFT, skepticism and resistance still persist, even amongst medical professionals. Nevertheless, it’s noteworthy that many medical and mental health professionals, as well as complementary therapists, continue to incorporate EFT into their practice.
Research papers can be found from the www.eftandmindfulness.com website.
There are also abstracts from clinical trials that can be found at the bottom of this article.
What happens during an EFT session?
The EFT Practitioner will go through the consultation/intake form with you and may gather other information to help decide on the best approach to use, taking into account any traumatic experiences too. The practitioner will guide you in utilising the tapping points through a demonstrative approach, where you follow their lead while repeating a phrase linked to your specific issue. During the tapping procedure you may experience a sigh, a need to yawn or sneeze, tightness in different parts of the body or feel the emotion in your body. You may also notice these emotions (or physical pain) move around your body as the healing takes place.
For a few days afterwards, EFT continues to work outside of the session so you may experience tiredness, flu like symptoms, exaggeration of emotions or lucid dreams. These are all good signs that the mind and body is releasing anything unwanted. Clients are advised to rest, drink plenty of water and generally be kind to themselves.
How can EFT help with physical issues?
It is well known that psychological and emotional stress in itself is linked to a variety of health problems, such as increased heart disease, compromised immune system functioning, and premature cellular and cognitive aging. Numerous studies published since 1960 demonstrate the efficacy of mind-body medicine techniques in lowering blood pressure and stress hormone levels, relieving pain and improving immune functioning, as well as improvements in clinical conditions such as HIV, cancer, insomnia, anxiety, depression and PTSD.
Can EFT be used with Children for a trauma?
The same EFT tapping protocol used with adults is also used with children. Children tend to be more responsive to EFT as they don’t have the same preconceptions. When using EFT on children it’s important to have an understanding of the signs and symptoms in young children and that the correct protocol needs to be in place. A child with PTSD may re-experience the traumatic event by having frequent memories of it (or in young children, re-enacting the event through play), having upsetting and frightening dreams, or developing repeated physical or emotional symptoms when reminded of the event. Children with PTSD may also show symptoms such as loss of interest in daily activities; headaches, stomach aches, or other physical symptoms; excessive worry; and sleep or concentration problem.
If you would like to find a qualified and Accredited EFT Practitioner or want to take an accredited EFT course, please visit the website www.eftandmindfulness.com.
What experts say about EFT
“EFT is the single most effective tool I’ve learned in 40 years of being a therapist.” Dr. Curtis A. Steele (psychiatrist).
“At our clinic we are presently using EFT to help patients overcome negative emotions that undermine health, and to eliminate many forms of pain. We also use it to reduce food cravings that can sabotage healthy eating programs, and to implement positive life goals to support optimal health and well being…Of the thousands we have studied and used in 20 years of practicing medicine, EFT is the greatest healing technique that exists. EFT is now a major component of our treatment program.” – Dr. Joseph Mercola, Director, Natural Health Center, Chicago, Illinois;
“In my 50 years as a practicing psychiatrist, EFT has proven to be one of the most rapid and effective techniques I’ve ever used” Henry Altenberg, MD
“Some day the medical profession will wake up and realize that unresolved emotional issues are the main cause of 85% of all illnesses. When they do, EFT will be one of their primary healing tools…as it is for me.” Eric Robins, MD
“I’ve used Tapping for years and highly recommend it!”Joe Vitale, Bestselling author and one of the stars of the hit movie “The Secret””
“EFT is destined to be the top healing tool for the 21st century.” Cheryl Richardson, Author of “Stand Up for Your Life,” “Take Time for Your Life” and “Life Makeovers” – Expert personal coach and lecturer
“EFT offers great healing benefits“ Deepak Chopra, Bestselling author of more than fifty books and co-creator of the Chopra Center
“What’s interesting about EFT is that it is a process that really, in some sense engages… like super learning and super learning is like pushing the record button on the subconscious mind.” Bruce Lipton, Author of “The Biology of Belief” – Internationally recognized speaker in bridging science and spirit.
EFT doesn’t require costly equipment; it’s accessible to everyone. Nonetheless, we strongly recommend that individuals seeking to use EFT as a treatment for PTSD do so under the guidance of a well-qualified and experienced practitioner who has undergone comprehensive training and supervised practice.
It’s important to note, that while choosing your PTSD recovery path you need to address both the symptoms and the underlying condition. NICE guidance updated in 2018 recommends the use of trauma focused psychological treatments for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in adults, specifically the use of Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR) and trauma focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Please remember, these aren’t meant to be medical recommendations, but they’re tactics that have worked for others and might work for you, too. Be sure to work with a professional to find the best methods for you.
Karatzias, T., Power, K., Brown, K., McGoldrick, T., Begum, M., Young, Y., Loughran, P., Chouliara, Z., and Adams, S. (2011). A controlled comparison of the effectiveness and efficiency of two psychological therapies for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing vs. Emotional Freedom Techniques. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 199(6), 372-378.
The present study reports on the first ever controlled comparison between eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) and emotional freedom techniques (EFT) for post-traumatic stress disorder. A total of 46 participants were randomized to either EMDR (n = 23) or EFT (n = 23). The participants were assessed at baseline and then reassessed after an 8-week waiting period. Two further blind assessments were conducted at post-treatment and 3-months follow-up. Overall, the results indicated that both interventions produced significant therapeutic gains at post-treatment and follow-up in an equal number of sessions. Similar treatment effect sizes were observed in both treatment groups. Regarding clinical significant changes, a slightly higher proportion of patients in the EMDR group produced substantial clinical changes compared with the EFT group. Given the speculative nature of the theoretical basis of EFT, a dismantling study on the active ingredients of EFT should be subject to future research.
Church, D. (2010). The treatment of combat trauma in veterans using EFT: A pilot protocol. Traumatology, 15(1), 45-55.
With a large number of US military service personnel coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and co- morbid psychological conditions, a need exists to find protocols and treatments that are effective in brief treatment timeframes. In this study, a sample of 11 veterans and family members were assessed for PTSD and other conditions. Evaluations were made using the SA-45 (Symptom Assessment 45) and the PCL-M (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist – Military) using a time-series, within-subjects, repeated measures design. A baseline measurement was obtained thirty days prior to treatment, and immediately before treatment. Subjects were then treated with a brief and novel exposure therapy, EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques), for five days. Statistically significant improvements in the SA-45 and PCL-M scores were found at post-test. These gains were maintained at both the 30- and 90-day follow-ups on the general symptom index, positive symptom total and the anxiety, somatization, phobic anxiety, and interpersonal sensitivity subscales of the SA-45, and on PTSD. The remaining SA-45 scales improved post-test but were not consistently maintained at the 30- and 90-day follow-ups. One-year follow-up data was obtained for 7 of the participants and the same improvements were observed. In summary, after EFT treatment, the group no longer scored positive for PTSD, the severity and breadth of their psychological distress decreased significantly, and most of their gains held over time. This suggests that EFT can be an effective post-deployment intervention.
Church, D., Hawk, C., Brooks, A. J., Toukolehto, O., Wren, M., Dinter, I., & Stein, P. (2013) Psychological trauma symptom improvement in veterans using EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques): A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. 201, 153-160.
This study examined the effect of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), a brief exposure therapy combining cognitive and somatic elements, on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and psychological distress symptoms in veterans receiving mental health services. Veterans meeting the clinical criteria for PTSD were randomized to EFT (n = 30) or standard of care wait list (SOC/WL; n = 29). The EFT intervention consisted of 6 hour-long EFT coaching sessions concurrent with standard care. The SOC/WL and EFT groups were compared pre- and posttest (at 1 month for the SOC/WL group, after 6 sessions for EFT group). EFT subjects had significantly reduced psychological distress (p < .0012) and PTSD symptom levels (p < .0001) posttest. In addition, 90% of the EFT group no longer met PTSD clinical criteria, compared with 4% in SOC/WL. Following the wait period, SOC/WL subjects received EFT. In a within-subjects longitudinal analysis, 60% no longer met PTSD clinical criteria after 3 sessions. This increased to 86% after 6 sessions for the 49 subjects who ultimately received EFT, and remained at 86% at 3-months and 80% at 6-months. The results are consistent with other published reports showing EFTs efficacy at treating PTSD and co-morbid symptoms and its long-term effects.
Stein, P. K., & Brooks, A. J. (2011). Efficacy of EFT provided by coaches vs. licensed therapists in veterans with PTSD. Energy Psychology: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 3(1), 11-18.
Background: EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) is a validated method for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), available to both lay persons and to licensed mental health practitioners (LMP). It is unknown whether results would be significantly different when EFT is administered by licensed practitioners compared to trained lay coaches.
Methods: N=149 veterans with PTSD were approached and 59 were eligible and consented to the study. They were randomized to an active treatment (EFT N=30) and wait list (WL N=29) control group and received treatment from a LMP (N=26) or a coach (N=33). PTSD was assessed using the PCL-M (PTSD Checklist-Military), and psychological symptoms using the SA-45 (Symptom Assessment-45). All study participants met diagnostic criteria for PTSD on the PCL-M. Participants received 6 sessions of EFT over the course of a month. Questionnaires were repeated after 3 and 6 EFT sessions, and at 3 and 6 months. Wait list was assessed at intake and one month before beginning EFT sessions.
Results: Results are based on post-intervention data from the combined EFT and WL groups. Significant declines in the percent meeting PTSD diagnostic criteria were seen after 3 sessions of EFT with 47% of coach and 30% of LMP participants still meeting PTSD diagnostic criteria. Improvements continued to be seen after 6 sessions (17% coach, 10% LMP) and were sustained at 3 months (17% coach, 11% LMP). Although the percent meeting clinical PTSD criteria increased slightly at 6 months (24% coach, 17% LMP), the overwhelming majority of vets with PTSD treated with EFT remained free of clinically-defined PTSD. Although differences between lay coaches and LMPs in PTSD prevalence were not statistically significant, LMP participants did have significantly lower levels of psychological distress on the SA-45.
Conclusion: 6 sessions of EFT whether administered by a coach or an LMP is efficacious in treating PTSD symptoms among veterans. However, results suggest that LMPs may be more effective in reducing psychological distress. Future studies with larger samples are needed to answer this question.
Church, D., Piña, O., Reategui, C., & Brooks, A. J. (2012). Single session reduction of the intensity of traumatic memories in abused adolescents: A randomized controlled trial. Traumatology, 18(3), 73-79.
The population for this study was drawn from an institution to which juveniles are sent by court order if they are found by a judge to be physically or psychologically abused at home. Sixteen males, aged 12 – 17, were randomized into two groups. They were assessed using subjective distress (SUD), and the Impact of Events scale (IES), which measures two components of PTSD: intrusive memories and avoidance symptoms. The experimental group was treated with a single session of EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques), a brief and novel exposure therapy that has been found efficacious in reducing PTSD and co-occurring psychological symptoms in adults, but has not been subject to empirical assessment in juveniles. The wait list control group received no treatment. Thirty days later subjects were reassessed. No improvement occurred in the wait list (IES total mean pre=32 SD ±4.82, post=31 SD ±3.84). Post-test scores for all experimental group subjects improved to the point where all were non-clinical on the total score (IES total mean pre=36 SD ±4.74, post=3 SD ±2.60, p<0.001), as well as the intrusive and avoidant symptom subscales, and SUD. These results are consistent with those found in adults, and indicates the utility of single-session EFT as a fast and effective intervention for reducing psychological trauma in juveniles.
Hartung, J., & Stein, P. K. (2012). Telephone delivery of EFT remediates PTSD symptoms in veterans. Energy Psychology: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 4(1), 33-40.
Telephone-mediated psychotherapy is a resource for persons who have difficulty accessing office visits because of geography, economic restrictions, or fear of stigma. In the present report, phone-delivered Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) was compared with EFT provided in a therapy office while subjects in both conditions also received concurrent standard care. Forty-nine veterans with clinical PTSD symptoms were treated with 6 one-hr sessions, either in an EFT coach’s office (n = 25) or by phone (n = 24). In each condition, some subjects were treated immediately, whereas others received delayed treatment after a 1-month waiting period. No change in PTSD symptom levels was reported by either the phone or office delayed-treatment group following the wait period, whereas both groups improved significantly after EFT treatment. Differences in benefit were found between phone and office delivery methods. Significant improvement in PTSD symptoms was found after 6 phone sessions but after only 3 office sessions. A 6-month post-treatment assessment indicated 91% of subjects treated in the office and 67% of those treated by phone no longer met PTSD diagnostic criteria (p < .05). Results suggest that although less efficacious than in-person office visits, EFT delivered via telephone is effective in remediating PTSD and comorbid symptoms in about two thirds of cases.
Gurret, J-M., Caufour, C., Palmer-Hoffman, J., & Church, D. (2012). Post-Earthquake Rehabilitation of Clinical PTSD in Haitian Seminarians. Energy Psychology: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 4(2), 33-40.
Seventy-seven male Haitian seminarians following the 2010 earthquake were assessed for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) using the PTSD Checklist (PCL). Forty-eight (62%) exhibited scores in the clinical range (>49). The mean score of the entire sample was 54. Participants received 2 days of instruction in Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). Following the EFT training, 0% of participants scored in the clinical range on the PCL. A paired t-test analysis of the pre–post PCL scores indicated a statistically significant decrease (p < .001), to a mean of 27 at the post-test. Post-test PCL scores decreased an average of 72%, ranging between a 21% reduction to a 100% reduction in symptom severity. These results are consistent with other published reports of EFT’s efficacy in treating PTSD symptoms in traumatized populations, such as war veterans and genocide survivors.
Church, D., Geronilla, L., & Dinter, I. (2009). Psychological symptom change in veterans after six sessions of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT): An observational study. International Journal of Healing and Caring, 9(1).
Protocols to treat veterans with brief courses of therapy are required, in light of the large numbers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with depression, anxiety, PTSD and other psychological problems. This observational study examined the effects of six sessions of EFT on seven veterans, using a within-subjects, time-series, repeated measures design. Participants were assessed using a well-validated instrument, the SA-45, which has general scales measuring the depth and severity of psychological symptoms. It also contains subscales for anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive behaviour, phobic anxiety, hostility, interpersonal sensitivity, paranoia, psychosis, and somatization. Participants were assessed before and after treatment, and again after 90 days. Interventions were done by two different practitioners using a standardized form of EFT to address traumatic combat memories. Symptom severity decreased significantly by 40% (p<.001), anxiety decreased 46% (p<.001), depression 49% (p<.001), and PTSD 50% (p<.016). These gains were maintained at the 90-day follow-up.
Green, M. M. (2002). Six trauma imprints treated with combination Intervention: critical incident stress debriefing and Thought Field Therapy (TFT) or Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). Traumatology, 8(1), 18-22.
Green Cross Project volunteers in New York City describe a unique intervention which combines elements of Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) with Thought Field Therapy and Emotional Freedom Techniques. Six trauma imprints were identified and treated in a number of the clients. The combination treatments seemed to have a beneficial effect in alleviating the acute aspects of multiple traumas. The article details the stories of two Spanish speaking couples who were treated in unison by bilingual therapists two to three weeks after the attack on the World Trade Center.
Stone, B., Leyden, B. and Fellows, B. (2010). Energy Psychology Treatment for Orphan Heads of Households in Rwanda: An Observational Study. Energy Psychology: Theory, Research, & Treatment, 2(2), 31-38.
A team of four energy therapy practitioners visited Rwanda in September of 2009 to conduct trauma remediation programs with two groups of orphan genocide survivors with complex posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. Results from interventions with the first group were reported earlier (Stone, Leyden, & Fellows, 2009). This paper reports results from the second group composed of Orphan Head of Households. A multi-modal intervention using three energy psychology methods (TAT, TFT, and EFT) was used, with techniques employed based on participant needs. Interventions were performed on two consecutive workshop days followed by two days of field visits with students. Data were collected using the Child Report of Posttraumatic Stress (CROPS) to measure pre- and post-intervention results, using a time-series, repeated measures design. N = 28 orphans with clinical PTSD scores completed a pre-test. Of these, 10 (34%) completed post-test assessments after one week, three months, and six months, and all analysis was done on this group. They demonstrated an average reduction in symptoms of 37.3% (p < .005). Four of the ten students (40%) dropped below the clinical cut-off point for PTSD at the six month follow-up. These results are consistent with other published reports of the efficacy of energy psychology in remediating PTSD symptoms.
Schulz, K. (2009). Integrating Energy Psychology into Treatment for Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse. Energy Psychology: Theory, Research, & Treatment, 1(1), 15-22.
This study evaluated the experiences of 12 therapists who integrated energy psychology (EP) into their treatments for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Participants completed an online survey and the qualitative data was analyzed using the Constant Comparative method. Seven categories containing 16 themes emerged as a result of this analysis. The categories included: (1) Learning about EP; (2) diagnosis and treatment of adult CSA using EP; (3) treatment effectiveness of EP; (4) relating to clients from an EP perspective; (5) resistance to EP; (6) the evolution of EP; and (7) therapists’ experiences and attitudes about EP. These themes are compared and contrasted with existing literature. Clinical implications are discussed, as well as suggestions for future research. The results provide guidelines for therapists considering incorporating these techniques into their practices.
Lubin, H. & Schneider, T. (2009). Change Is Possible: EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) with Life-Sentence and Veteran Prisoners at San Quentin State Prison. Energy Psychology: Theory, Research, & Treatment, 1(1), 83-88.
Counseling with prisoners presents unique challenges and opportunities. For the past seven years, a project called “Change Is Possible” has offered EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) counseling to life sentence and war veteran inmates through the education department of San Quentin State Prison in California. Prisoners receive a series of five sessions from an EFT practitioner, with a three session supplement one month later. Emotionally-triggering events, and the degree of intensity associated with them, are self-identified before and after EFT. Underlying core beliefs and values are also identified. In this report, the EFT protocol and considerations specific to this population are discussed. Prisoner statements are included, to reveal self-reported changes in their impulse control, intensity of reaction to triggers, somatic symptomatology, sense of personal responsibility, and positive engagement in the prison community. Future research is outlined, including working within the requirements specific to a prison population in a manner that permits the collection of empirical data.
Church, D., Yount, G., & Brooks, A. J. (2012). The effect of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) on stress biochemistry: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 200(10), 891-6.
This study examined the changes in cortisol levels and psychological distress symptoms of 83 non-clinical subjects receiving a single hour long intervention. Subjects were randomly assigned to either an EFT group, a psychotherapy group receiving a supportive interview (SI), or a no treatment (NT) group. Salivary cortisol assays were performed immediately before, and thirty minutes after the intervention. Psychological distress symptoms were assessed using the SA-45. The EFT group showed statistically significant improvements in anxiety (-58.34%, p<0.05), depression (-49.33%, p<0.002), the overall severity of symptoms, (-50.5%, p<0.001), and symptom breadth (-41.93%, p<0.001). The EFT group experienced a significant decrease in cortisol (-24.39%, SE 2.62) compared to the decrease observed in the SI (-14.25%, SE 2.61) and NT (-14.44%, SE 2.67) groups (p<0.03). The decrease in cortisol levels in the EFT group mirrored the observed improvement in psychological distress.
Feinstein, D. (2010). Rapid Treatment of PTSD: Why Psychological Exposure with Acupoint Tapping May Be Effective. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 47(3), 385-402.
Combining brief psychological exposure with the manual stimulation of acupuncture points (acupoints) in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other emotional conditions is an intervention strategy that integrates established clinical principles with methods derived from healing traditions of Eastern cultures. Two randomized controlled trials and six outcome studies using standardized pre- and post-treatment measures with military veterans, disaster survivors, and other traumatized individuals corroborate anecdotal reports and systematic clinical observation in suggesting that (a) tapping on selected acupoints (b) during imaginal exposure (c) quickly and permanently reduces maladaptive fear responses to traumatic memories and related cues. The approach has been controversial. This is in part because the mechanisms by which stimulating acupoints can contribute to the treatment of serious or longstanding psychological disorders have not been established. Speculating on such mechanisms, the current paper suggests that adding acupoint stimulation to psychological exposure is unusually effective in its speed and power because deactivating signals are sent directly to the amygdala, resulting in reciprocal inhibition and the rapid attenuation of maladaptive fear. This formulation and the preliminary evidence supporting it could, if confirmed, lead to more powerful exposure protocols for treating PTSD.
Lane, J. (2009). The Neurochemistry of Counterconditioning: Acupressure Desensitization in Psychotherapy. Energy Psychology: Theory, Research, & Treatment, 1(1), 31-44.
A growing body of literature indicates that imaginal exposure, paired with acupressure, reduces midbrain hyperarousal and counter-conditions anxiety and traumatic memories. Exposure therapies that elicit the midbrain’s anxiety reflex and then replace it with a relaxation response are said to “reciprocally inhibit” anxiety. More recent research indicates that manual stimulation of acupuncture points produces opioids, serotonin, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and regulates cortisol. These neurochemical changes reduce pain, slow the heart rate, decrease anxiety, shut off the FFF response, regulate the autonomic nervous system, and create a sense of calm. This relaxation response reciprocally inhibits anxiety and creates a rapid desensitization to traumatic stimuli. This paper explores the neurochemistry of the types of acupressure counterconditioning used in energy psychology and provides explanations for the mechanisms of actions of these therapies, based upon currently accepted paradigms of brain function, behavioral psychology, and biochemistry.
Feinstein, D. (2008). Energy Psychology in Disaster Relief. Traumatology. 14(1), 124-137.
Energy psychology utilizes cognitive operations such as imaginal exposure to traumatic memories or visualization of optimal performance scenarios—combined with physical interventions derived from acupuncture, yoga, and related systems—for inducing psychological change. While a controversial approach, this combination purportedly brings about, with unusual speed and precision, therapeutic shifts in affective, cognitive, and behavioral patterns that underlie a range of psychological concerns. Energy psychology has been applied in the wake of natural and human-made disasters in the Congo, Guatemala, Indonesia, Kenya, Kosovo, Kuwait, Mexico, Moldavia, Nairobi, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Thailand, and the U.S. At least three international humanitarian relief organizations have adapted energy psychology as a treatment in their post-disaster missions. Four tiers of energy psychology interventions include 1) immediate relief/stabilization, 2) extinguishing conditioned responses, 3) overcoming complex psychological problems, and 4) promoting optimal functioning. The first tier is most pertinent in psychological first aid immediately following a disaster, with the subsequent tiers progressively being introduced over time with complex stress reactions and chronic disorders. This paper reviews the approach, considers its viability, and offers a framework for applying energy psychology in treating disaster survivors.
PTSD, NICE Guideline NG116, Evidence Review D, December 2018, see https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng116/evidence/d-psychological-psychosocial-and-other-nonpharmacological-interventions-for-the-treatment-of-ptsd-in-adults-pdf-6602621008.
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It is possible for PTSD to be successfully treated many years after the traumatic event occurred, which means it is never too late to seek help. For some, the first step may be watchful waiting, then exploring therapeutic options such as individual or group therapy – but the main treatment options in the UK are psychological treatments such as Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprogramming (EMDR) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
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