EFT is bogus

I have a friend who swears by EFT. EFT is popular enough that is was actually studied in 2003. Here are the results:

Waite, W. & Holder, M. (2003). Assessment of the Emotional Freedom Technique. Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, Vol. 2, No. 1, 333.

Method: Subjects were divided into four groups. Group EFT: performed proper EFT. Group P (placebo): tapped on improper points on the arm. Group M (modeling control): tapped on a doll instead of themselves. Group C (control): no-treatment.

Results: Groups EFT, P, and M were all equally effective. Sorry folks, but “proper” EFT is no more effective than improper EFT (tapping on the arm) or non-EFT (tapping on a doll).

The salient results are quoted here:

The results of the present study indicate that EFT was effective in decreasing fear in a nonclinical population. However, EFT was no more effective than either a placebo or modeling control procedure. Participants who were instructed to tap on various locations of their arm reported similar reductions in fear as those participants who were instructed to tap on meridian points. The location of the points did not play a measurable role. Furthermore, participants who tapped on a doll also reported similar decreases in fear ratings. Overall, these findings suggest that certain components of EFT were effective, but not dependent on meridian points, as EFT supporters contend (Pulos, 1999). It is possible that systematic desensitization and distraction are mediators of EFT's apparent effectiveness.

EFT incorporates the same fundamental components as systematic desensitization and distraction. First, persons are required to focus on their fear (imaginal exposure) while tapping on specific locations, which is akin to distraction. Therefore, a decrease in SUDS ratings by Group EFT may be due to a combination of exposure and distraction, rather than to the specific tapping locations (meridians).

Reading this, I decided to look at desensitization and distraction. So I read another article:

Exposure with focus is actually more effective than exposure with EFT

Haw, J. & Dickerson, M. (1998). The effects of distraction on desensitization and reprocessing. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 36 (7-8), 765-69.

Abstract: The present analogue study of seventy-two students with mild spider anxiety assessed the role of distraction in the desensitization and reprocessing of aversive information. Accessing different components of Baddeley’s model of short-term memory, three treatment groups involving distraction tasks and one control group maintaining focussed exposure were compared in a pre-test post-test experimental design. The results indicated that all groups experienced a similar reduction in both self-report and heart-rate measures of anxiety. However, at the follow up phase, the groups containing a distraction task showed an increase in anxiety levels significantly greater than that for the control condition. No differences were reported between any of the distraction groups.

So it turns out that EFT (distraction and desensitization paired with exposure) is less effective than focus and desensitization paired with exposure. The tapping makes EFT less effective. Better to sit and stare while repressing negative self-talk.

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