By Dr. Mercola
A historic moment in the era of emotional freedom techniques (EFT) has arrived, with the finding that EFT is closer to meeting the criteria for evidence-based treatments proposed by the American Psychological Association (APA).
In a critical review scheduled to appear in the APA's journal Review of General Psychology, researchers found that EFT "consistently demonstrated strong effect sizes and other positive statistical results that far exceed chance after relatively few treatment sessions."
EFT is on its Way to Mainstream Acceptance!
This doesn't mean the APA has certified EFT or reversed its 12-year ban on continuing education credits for EFT... yet. But it's exciting in that this is an important step toward EFT's acceptance by the wider professional community.
EFT is a powerful self-help method based on research showing that emotional trauma contributes greatly to disease. Clinical trials have shown that EFT is able to rapidly reduce the emotional impact of memories and incidents that trigger emotional distress. Once the distress is reduced or removed, the body can often rebalance itself, and accelerate healing.
I've seen its effectiveness first-hand for a number of years, which is why EFT is the healing technique I most highly recommend to optimize your emotional health.
What is EFT?
EFT is a form of psychological acupressure, based on the same energy meridians used in traditional acupuncture to treat physical and emotional ailments for over five thousand years, but without the invasiveness of needles. Instead, simple tapping with your fingertips is used to input kinetic energy onto specific meridians on your head and chest while you think about your specific problem - whether it is a traumatic event, an addiction, pain, etc. - and voice positive affirmations.
This combination of tapping the energy meridians and voicing positive affirmation works to clear the "short-circuit" — the emotional block — from your body's bioenergy system, thus restoring your mind and body's balance, which is essential for optimal health and the healing of physical disease. Some people are initially wary of these principles that EFT is based on — the electromagnetic energy that flows through the body and regulates our health is only recently becoming recognized in the West.
Others are initially taken aback by (and sometimes amused by) the EFT tapping and affirmation methodology.
But keep in mind that, more than any traditional or alternative method I have used or researched, EFT has the most potential to literally work magic. I witnessed the results firsthand in my patients when I began using EFT exclusively in June 2001. Indeed, beyond my own experience because of its very high rate of success, the use of EFT has spread rapidly, and medical practitioners employing EFT can now be found in every corner of the country and world.
EFT is Scientifically Proven
The latest critical review should serve as yet another stepping stone to help bring EFT into the fold of mainstream society, as the study found statistically significant benefits in using EFT for the following conditions:
Anxiety Athletic Performance Depression Pain & Physical Symptoms Phobias Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Weight Loss Food Cravings
EFT is actually a subject of intense research, and has been researched in more than 10 countries, by more than 60 investigators, with results published in more than 20 different peer-reviewed journals. Dawson Church of the Foundation for Epigenetic Medicine expands on this in the guest commentary that follows, explaining how one day soon you may be able to access EFT on the Web.
Online Delivery of Efficacious Therapies like EFT for Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, and Pain
By Dawson Church
Foundation for Epigenetic Medicine
In the past few years, energy psychology has amassed a respectable research base. Many new studies have been published in peer-reviewed professional journals showing that methods using the stimulation of acupressure points combined with cognitive and exposure techniques—Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) and Thought Field Therapy (TFT) in particular—are efficacious for many of the most common mental health conditions.
They also show promise for physical problems such as pain. That is the milestone that the energy psychology field has recently passed. What is the milestone ahead?
The most exciting development is the movement toward making these modalities available online, bringing the benefits of energy psychology to a large population. There are many advantages to online delivery of a therapy, some of which are the following:
Lowered service burden on mental health and primary care services Frequent reinforcement of desired change Avoidance of power differentials inherent in the therapeutic relationship User access to 24/7 support, including at times they are having the most difficulty Rudimentary mental health tool placement in the hands of front-line service personnel (e.g., first responders, medics, aid workers, and physicians' assistants) Help provided to rural populations lacking access to mental health services Online treatment supplements to individual and group therapy sessions Help obtained without disclosing one's condition to others Accessibility of self-help tools between office visits to a therapist Rapid resolution of certain problems in compressed time frames Greater user control of timing and duration of intervention Embrace of online technologies by young people Inexpensive and customized software user interfaces ("skins") for special populations (e.g., preoperative patients, military personnel, university students) User customization of services selected (e.g., public speaking anxiety vs. test anxiety vs. needle phobia) Portable service provision on smartphones and other mobile devices Lowered cost burden to society
These and other issues are discussed in new publications such as the Journal of Medical Internet Research (Griffiths, Lindenmeyer, Powell, Lowe, & Thorogood, 2006).
The most recent milestone passed was an analysis showing that existing published research meets established efficacy standards for treating several psychological conditions. The standards were developed by American Psychological Association (APA) Division 12 (Society of Clinical Psychology) in the 1990s as a way of identifying "empirically validated treatments." They define an empirically validated treatment as one for which there are two different controlled trials conducted by independent research teams.
For a treatment to be designated as "efficacious," the studies must have demonstrated that the treatment is better than a wait list, placebo, or established efficacious treatment. To be designated as "probably efficacious," a treatment must have been shown to be better than a wait list in two studies that meet these criteria or to have been conducted by the same research team rather than two independent teams.
The APA standards advocate that studies contain sufficient subjects to achieve a level of statistical significance of p < .05 or greater, which means that there is only one possibility in 20 that the results are due to chance. The current status of EFT as an "evidence-based" practice is summarized in this statement to be published in the APA journal Review of General Psychology:
"A literature search identified 50 peer-reviewed papers that report or investigate clinical outcomes following the tapping of acupuncture points to address psychological issues.
The 17 randomized controlled trials in this sample were critically evaluated for design quality, leading to the conclusion that they consistently demonstrated strong effect sizes and other positive statistical results that far exceed chance after relatively few treatment sessions. Criteria for evidence-based treatments proposed by Division 12 of the American Psychological Association were also applied and found to be met for a number of conditions, including PTSD." (Feinstein, in press)
EFT is Effective Even When Delivered at a Distance (Online, Over the Phone, etc.)
Several methods for delivering EFT other than individual therapy have been tested. In a controlled trial of veterans with PTSD, Hartung and Stein (2012) compared telephone coaching with office visits. Two-thirds of the veterans receiving telephone coaching showed a significant symptom reduction within six EFT sessions. For office visits, the results were even stronger, with 91% of veterans going from above to below PTSD thresholds on standardized inventories within six EFT sessions. The superiority of office visits in reducing symptoms should not, however, obscure the strong results obtained over the telephone.
The telephone sessions still produced a better result than most other therapeutic methods can offer, along with the expanded accessibility and other advantages of a non-office option.
Another way of delivering energy psychology interventions is in group therapy sessions. This has been reported in several studies.
A study of 216 healthcare workers receiving a day of group EFT found a 45% reduction in psychological symptoms such as depression and anxiety (Church & Brooks, 2010). A randomized controlled trial of depression in college students found that most participants in the moderate to severe depression category normalized after four group therapy sessions (Church, De Asis, & Brooks, in press). Rwandan orphans who received TFT group therapy experienced significant reductions in PTSD symptoms (Stone, Leyden, & Fellows, 2009).
EFT is Going Online ...
Taken together with similar published studies, this research has demonstrated that delivery methods other than personal counseling can improve mental health. The next logical step is to make them available online and test them against other delivery methods that have already demonstrated their efficacy.
Research is often driven by the availability of technology. The human genome project was accelerated by the development of fast and inexpensive gene sequencers. Brain research made huge strides when MRIs became available. In a similar way, the electronic delivery of energy psychology will be driven by the availability of new online content delivery systems. Several of these have become available recently, and more will follow.
One is Coursera, which provides a rich user experience that flips seamlessly between a wide variety of media. They can serve up PDFs, HTML web pages, videos, spreadsheets, word processing documents, PowerPoints, live streaming video, quizzes, certification programs, live instruction from a teacher, instant feedback from students, chat forums, social networking, and live video images of participants.
Andrew Ng is an associate professor of computer science at Stanford University and cofounder of Coursera. The previous semester, 100,000 students took his online course on machine learning. He compares this to classroom education by saying, "I normally teach 400 students. To reach that many students before, I would have had to teach my normal Stanford class for 250 years."
Hardware is interacting with software to accelerate this progress. Today's smartphones have more computing power than the laptops of 10 years ago and are able to perform more functions using less bandwidth. With data stored on cloud services, and applications such as spreadsheets and word processors increasingly accessed from online servers rather than local hard drives, powerful data processing operations are possible from remote locations.
Some organizations, such as the U.S. Department of Defense, have already written applications that use smartphones to deliver psychological services. One called PTSD Coach, released by the Defense Department in 2011, is a free mobile app that allows users to track their symptoms, discover local support services, identify personal strategies for managing PTSD, and receive anonymous assistance.
EFT on Your Smartphone or Online Games
There are already at least four EFT applications available in the iTunes store. They range from a simple application that recaps EFTs Basic Recipe to a sophisticated application offering virtual coaching for specific mental health problems like anxiety and depression.
It is also conceivable that mental health interventions can be built into online games. Many children's games combine play and learning. A tapping game might reward users who lower their stress levels; a multiplayer world modeled on an interface similar to World of Warcraft, which allows thousands of simultaneous users worldwide to band together for battles, quests, and treasure hunts, might instead create a virtual world in which users could offer energy psychology relief services to disaster victims, educate children, or mediate in geopolitical conflicts.
The iTunes store includes scores of games that use nontherapeutic tapping, in some form or other, as part of the user interface. They include Tapping Ants, Toddler's Tapping Zoo, Tap of War, Speed Tapping, and many others. Applications could be developed that combine acupoint tapping with game play for therapeutic gain.
Are There Any Downsides to Accessing EFT Online?
There is no guarantee that only roses will bloom in this new world. It is also possible that research will discover potential dangers in the online delivery of energy psychology methods. There are certainly high risks with many drug-based conventional therapies.
The flip side of NNT is NNH, or Number Needed to Harm. This is a measure of the potential risks of a therapy. With the NNH, the lower number is the undesirable one; that is, an NNH of 5 means that it only takes five people taking it for one person to experience harmful effects. Pregabalin (brand name Lyrica; Pfizer, New York, NY), an antiseizure medication touted for use in reducing the pain of fibromyalgia, has an NNT of 5, which might not be so bad, but its NNH is reportedly close to 1.
That means that nearly every person taking it will experience harmful effects. Xanax (Pfizer, New York, NY), an antianxiety drug often prescribed for fibromyalgia patients, has an NNT of 6 (six people treated before one benefits) and an NNH of 3 (three people treated, one harmed).
By way of contrast, in the thousands of subjects treated in the dozens of energy psychology studies published to date, no adverse events have been reported. That does not mean that, as its use spreads and unsupervised online delivery increases, dangers will not become apparent. Some possible source of harm might be:
Users might attempt inappropriate self-treatment of severe mental health diagnoses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Early success might encourage users to employ energy psychology alone, instead of using it within a suite of other methods that can support progress. Psychological adverse reactions that a user, alone in a room with a computer, cannot manage might occur. Users might display a lack of control over how much time is spent on resilience-building before undertaking potentially retraumatizing psychological exploration. Beneficial initial experiences might spontaneously open up deep-seated traumatic wounds that the user is not equipped to deal with. Self-use of energy psychology might undermine therapeutic alliances with trained mental health professionals. Novice users might attempt to use freely accessible online tools to treat other persons without obtaining training or licensure. Clients may lack discrimination as to the quality of available web therapies.
For reasons such as these, it is important that online projects incorporate a research component whenever possible. This might include an informed consent statement that includes a description of potential harms, plus an online version of a simple assessment such as the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS; Zigmond & Snaith, 1983), which can be completed by the user online in less than a minute. A high score could alert both user and provider of the enhanced possibility of risk, and steps could then be taken to reduce this risk before it becomes substantive.
Easily Accessible, Online EFT Likely to Increase Dramatically in Coming Years
Despite these drawbacks, the online delivery of mental health services is likely to increase dramatically in the coming years, driven by technology and user demand. Brattberg's study (2008) opened the eyes of many clinicians to the possibility of treating large numbers of sufferers using online treatment programs.
At present, online EFT research has been proposed or is in progress for prostate cancer, depression, interpersonal relationships, and PTSD, as well as a replication and extension of Brattberg's study. The next few years will see the publication of these data.
The many desirable characteristics of online delivery of energy psychology methods are unlikely to mean that they will completely replace traditional methods. Clients will still visit psychotherapists and life coaches. No computer program, no matter how sophisticated, can interpret the millions of sensory and energetic cues provided by one-to-one human interaction. However, the advent of online delivery systems will make energy psychology available to vastly greater numbers of people at greatly reduced cost.
If the 45% reduction in psychological distress found in the healthcare workers study were applied to millions of people rather than 216, the online delivery of energy psychology could make a serious reduction in aggregate human suffering.