Randomized Control Trials

Randomized Control Trials

There have been several Randomized Controlled Trials (RCT) of EFT for PTSD, as well as several other outcome studies, which measure PTSD and other mental health symptoms in the same veterans before and after treatment. The earliest outcome study was a pilot study performed at Marshall University Medical School (Church, Geronilla, & Dinter, 2009). It worked out a basic six-session EFT treatment plan for PTSD, and was the precursor of a full-scale national RCT. The Marshall study found that PTSD reduced by 50%, from clinical to subclinical levels (p < .016). This study was published in a peer-reviewed journal, the International Journal of Healing and Caring.

A pilot study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Traumatology. It examined the effects of a one week EFT group intensive. It found that the average veteran with high levels of PTSD recovered fully during the intensive, and that even a year later, PTSD levels remained low (p < .002). It showed that group therapy could be effective as well as individual counseling.

The results of the RCT were striking. Using two groups, one of which got EFT plus regular care, and the other getting regular care only, it found that PTSD symptoms dropped by 64%. After 6 sessions of EFT, 86% of veterans no longer met criteria for PTSD. The study like most others used an assessment called the PCL-M (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist-Military). The study was published in the oldest peer-reviewed psychiatry journal in the US, Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. It is now being replicated by an independent research team, consisting of professors from Marshall University Medical School, the University of California at Berkeley, and George Washington University.

Another RCT was performed by a hospital in Britain’s National Health Service (NHS). It compared EFT to another therapy called EMDR which has been demonstrated to be efficacious for PTSD. This study found that both EFT and EMDR remediated PTSD in four sessions (Karatzias et al., 2011).

Data from the Church et al (2013) study were analyzed by other researchers to examine other research questions, such as: Is EFT as effective when delivered by life coaches as by licensed mental health professionals? Are phone sessions as effective as in-office sessions? What happens to symptoms of TBI (traumatic brain injury) when veterans recover from PTSD? Is EFT effective for physical pain?

The answers to these questions revealed by research were equally encouraging. Phone sessions weren’t as effective as in-office sessions, though 67% of veterans recovered after phone treatment (Hartung & Stein, 2010). There was no statistically significant difference in EFT delivered by a life coach and EFT delivered by a mental health professional (Stein & Brooks, 2011). TBI symptoms dropped by 41% after 6 EFT sessions (Church & Palmer-Hoffman, in press). Veteran pain dropped significantly, as did anxiety and depression (Church, in press). These sub-studies show that a whole matrix of mental and physical health symptoms are improving along with PTSD.

Cortisol is the body’s main stress hormone. An RCT compared cortisol levels in 83 clients who received a single session of either EFT, talk therapy, or rest. Depression and anxiety symptoms dropped more than twice as much in the EFT group as in the talk therapy group, and cortisol dropped significantly (Church, Yount, & Brooks, 2013). Other studies have used EEG machines to shown a normalization in the brain waves associated with fear (reviewed in Lane, 2009).

An important outcome study looked at PTSD symptom levels in 218 veterans and their spouses who attended one of 6 seven-day retreats. The retreats used EFT and other energy psychology methods for PTSD symptoms, and  complementary therapies for resource-building (Church & Brooks, in press). Before the retreat, 83% of the veterans and 29% of the spouses tested positive for PTSD symptoms. When the veterans were examined six weeks later, only 28% of veterans and 4% of the spouses tested positive. The 6 retreats were analyzed separately, making this effectively 6 separate studies. They all showed the same pattern. This study shows that EFT is very effective for PTSD when delivered in a group format.

In addition to outcome studies and RCTs, a number of review articles on EFT have appeared in peer-reviewed psychology journals. Psychotherapy, a flagship journal of the American Psychological Association or APA, has published a review describing why PTSD sufferers respond so quickly to these methods. To view a PDF of this paper, called “Rapid Treatment of PTSD: Why Psychological Exposure with Acupoint Tapping May Be Effective,” click here.

The current status of EFT as an “evidence-based” practice is summarized in this statement published in the APA journal Review of General Psychology:

“A literature search identified 51 peer-reviewed papers that report or investigate clinical outcomes following the tapping of acupuncture points to address psychological issues. The 18 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, 2012)

unclesam2Another review of the physiological mechanisms of action that underlie these therapies appeared in another peer-reviewed journal, Energy Psychology: Theory, Research, & Treatment. To download a PDF of “The Neurochemistry of Counterconditioning: Acupressure Desensitization in Psychotherapy,” click here.

There is a great deal of outcome research on EFT, showing that it is effective for many conditions besides PTSD. There are EFT studies that show its effects on depression, anxiety, cravings, pain, fibromyalgia, and other conditions, as well as PTSD. To view the EFT research page, click here. A recent review article published in the journal Psychology evaluates the whole body of EFT research (Church, 2013). It shows that EFT is moving into mainstream mental health treatment as well as having substantial grassroots support: A search analysis showed that over 9 million people worldwide searched for terms such as “EFT tapping” and “EFT therapy” in June of 2013.