EFT Studies on PTSD

(Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

(Most recent research first)

The Effect of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) on Stress Biochemistry: A Randomized Controlled Trial

PhD, Foundation for Epigenetic Medicine

Garret Yount, PhD, California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) Research Institute

Audrey Brooks, PhD, Psychology Department,


Cortisol is a physiological marker for stress. Elevated cortisol levels are associated with accelerated aging, many organic diseases, and psychological conditions such as depression and anxiety. This study examined the changes in cortisol levels and psychological 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 conditions were assessed using the SA-45. The EFT group showed clinically and statistically significant improvements in anxiety (-58.34%, p < .05), depression (-49.33%, p < .002), the overall severity of symptoms, (-50.5%, p < .001), and symptom breadth across conditions (-41.93%, p < .001). There were no significant changes in cortisol levels between SI (-14.25%, SE 2.61) and NT (-14.44%, SE 2.67); however cortisol in the EFT group dropped significantly (-24.39%, SE 2.62) compared to SI and NT (p < .01). The reduced cortisol levels in the EFT group correlated with decreased severity in psychological symptoms as measured by the SA-45. These results suggest that salivary cortisol tests may be useful not only for assessing stress physiology, but also as an objective indicator of the impact of mental health treatments in reducing psychological symptoms. In the current study, EFT was shown to significantly improve both cortisol-related stress levels and self-reported psychological symptoms after a single treatment session.

Keywords: Cortisol, stress, depression, anxiety, physiology, EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques).

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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

Karatzias, Thanos PhD; Power, Kevin PhD; Brown, Keith FRCPsych; McGoldrick, Theresa BA; Begum, Millia MRCPsych; Young, Jenny BA; Loughran, Paul MSc; Chouliara, Zoë PhD; Adams, Sally MSc

Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease:

June 2011 – Volume 199 – Issue 6 – pp 372-37


The present study reports on the first ever controlled comparison between eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (, PhD, Suzanne M. Connolly, LCSW, Paul Oas, PhD.)

International Journal of Emergency Mental Health, Winter 2010, 12(1), 41-50.


Thought Field Therapy (TFT), which utilizes the self-tapping of specific acupuncture points while recalling a traumatic event or cue, was applied with 50 orphaned teens who had been suffering with symptoms of PTSD since the Rwandan genocide 12 years earlier. Following a single TFT session, scores on a PTSD checklist completed by caretakers and on a self-rated PTSD checklist had significantly decreased (p < .0001 on both measures). The number of participants exceeding the PTSD cutoffs decreased from 100% to 6% on the caregiver ratings and from 72% to 18% on the self-ratings. The findings were corroborated by informal interviews with the adolescents and the caregivers which indicated dramatic reductions of PTSD symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, bed-wetting, depression, isolation, difficulty concentrating, jumpiness, and aggression. Following the study, the use of TFT on a self-applied and group utilized basis became part of the culture at the orphanage, and on one-year follow-up, the initial improvements had been maintained as shown on both checklists.

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Psychological Trauma in Veterans using EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques): A Randomized Controlled Trial

Dawson Church, PhD, Crystal Hawk, MEd, Audrey Books, PhD, Oliver Toukolehto, Maria Wren, LCSW, Ingrid Dinter, Phyllis Stein, PhD. These data were presented at the Society of Behavioral Medicine, Seattle, Washington, April 7-10, 2010. In peer review.


This study examined the effect of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), a brief exposure therapy combining

PTSD & Trauma:

Treating Post Traumatic Stress

cognitive and somatic elements, on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and psychological distress symptoms in military veterans receiving mental health services. Veterans meeting the clinical criteria for PTSD were randomized to EFT (n = 30) or wait-list (n = 29; WL). The EFT intervention consisted of six hour-long EFT coaching sessions concurrent with standard care. PTSD was assessed using the PTSD Checklist-Military (PCL-M). Psychological distress was measured using the Symptom Assessment 45 (SA-45), which has 2 global scales and 9 sub-scales for conditions such as anxiety and depression. The WL and EFT groups were compared pre- and post test (at 1 month for the WL group, after 6 sessions for EFT group). EFT participants had significantly less psychological distress on the global and on all but one of sub-scales on the SA-45 (p<0.0002) and the PTSD total score (p<0.0001) at post-test. 90% of the EFT group no longer met PTSD clinical criteria vs. 4% in the WL. Following the wait-period, WL participants received the EFT intervention. In a within-subjects longitudinal analysis, 60% no longer met PTSD clinical criteria after 3 sessions. This increased to 86% after 6 sessions, and remained at 86% on 3-month follow-up. Statistically significant decreases in psychological distress and PTSD total scores were present after 6 sessions (p<0.0001), and remained stable at follow-up. The results are consistent with other published reports showing EFTs efficacy at treating PTSD and co-morbid symptoms, and its long-term effects.

Keywords: veterans, PTSD, exposure therapy, trauma, EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques)

The Treatment of Combat Trauma in Veterans Using EFT: A Pilot Protocol

Dawson Church, PhD

Traumatology, (2010), 15(1), 45-55.


With a large number of US military service personnel coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan with post-traumatic 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

by Carol Look

the SA-45 (Symptom Assessment 45) and the PCL-M (Post-traumatic 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.



Rapid Treatment of PTSD:

Why Psychological Exposure with Acupoint Tapping May Be Effective

David Feinstein, PhD

Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, (2010), 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.


Single session reduction of the intensity of traumatic memories in abused adolescents: A randomized controlled trial

Church, D., Piña, O., Reategui, C., & Brooks, A. J.

Paper presented at the Eleventh Annual Toronto Energy Psychology Conference, October 15 – 19, 2009.

Submitted for publication at Psychological Trauma.


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). Posttest 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 avoidance 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.


Psychological Symptom Change in Veterans After Six Sessions of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT); An Observational Study

Dawson Church, PhD, Linda Geronilla, PhD, & Ingrid Dinter

, January 2009, 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 behavior, 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.


Neurophysiological Indicators of EFT Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress

Swingle, P., Pulos, L., & Swingle, M. K.

Journal of Subtle Energies & Energy Medicine, (2005), 15, 75-86.

Description of Study:

This research study, conducted by Dr. Paul Swingle and his colleagues (Swingle, Pulos & Swingle, 2005), studied the effects of EFT on auto accident victims suffering from post traumatic stress disorder – an extremely disabling conditioning that involves unreasonable fears and often panic attacks, physiological symptoms of stress, nightmares, flashbacks, and other disabling symptoms. These researchers found that three months after they had learned EFT (in two sessions) those auto accident victims who reported continued significant symptom relief also showed significant positive changes in their brain waves. It was assumed that the clients showing the continued positive benefits were those who continued with home practice of self-administered EFT.

Clients previously involved in a motor vehicle accident who reported traumatic stress associated with the accident received two sessions of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) treatments. All clients reported improvement immediately following treatment. Brainwave assessments before and after EFT treatment indicated that clients who sustained the benefit of the EFT treatments had increased 13-15 Hz amplitude over the sensory motor cortex, decreased right frontal cortex arousal and an increased 3-7 Hz / 16-25 Hz ratio in the occiput. The benefits of psychoneurological research to reveal the processes of subtle energy healing are discussed.

Keywords: Emotional freedom techniques (EFT), traumatic stress, EEG.


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