Citation: The Effectiveness of Emotional Freedom Techniques in the Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Meta-Analysis
Sebastian, Brenda et al. Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing , Volume 13, Issue 1 , 16 – 25
Over the past two decades, growing numbers of clinicians have been utilizing emotional freedom techniques (EFT) in the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have shown encouraging outcomes for all three conditions.
To assess the efficacy of EFT in treating PTSD by conducting a meta-analysis of existing RCTs.
A systematic review of databases was undertaken to identify RCTs investigating EFT in the treatment of PTSD. The RCTs were evaluated for quality using evidence-based standards published by the American Psychological Association Division 12 Task Force on Empirically Validated Therapies. Those meeting the criteria were assessed using a meta-analysis that synthesized the data to determine effect sizes. While uncontrolled outcome studies were excluded, they were examined for clinical implications of treatment that can extend knowledge of this condition.
Seven randomized controlled trials were found to meet the criteria and were included in the meta-analysis. A large treatment effect was found, with a weighted Cohen׳s d = 2.96 (95% CI: 1.96–3.97, P < .001) for the studies that compared EFT to usual care or a waitlist. No treatment effect differences were found in studies comparing EFT to other evidence-based therapies such as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR; 1 study) and cognitive behavior therapy (CBT; 1 study).
The analysis of existing studies showed that a series of 4–10 EFT sessions is an efficacious treatment for PTSD with a variety of populations. The studies examined reported no adverse effects from EFT interventions and showed that it can be used both on a self-help basis and as a primary evidence-based treatment for PTSD.
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This meta-analysis is a critically important paper. It began by creating stringent inclusion data for studies found utilizing EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) used for application with individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and seven studies met the criteria. This meta-analysis review found EFT to be effective for reducing PTSD symptoms to below clinical levels in relatively few sessions with no adverse effects. Effectiveness over time is critical and the authors stated that benefits obtained were sustained after 6 months in 80-95% of the study participants. It also found that the studies reviewed demonstrated its use both as a primary treatment and as a self-help modality. The authors also acknowledged EFT’s effectiveness to be delivered to a variety of ages and demographics ranging from juveniles, to refugees to combat veterans.
The authors discussed study limitations including relatively small study participant numbers and only two of the studies demonstrated direct head to head studies against other standard treatments (one EFT vs EMDR and the other EFT vs CBT).
That being said the authors concluded that “EFT’s demonstrated speed, safety, and effectiveness with a variety of populations establish it as an evidence-based treatment for PTSD.”