Citation: Bach, D., Groesbeck, G., Stapleton, P., Sims, R., Blickheuser, K., & Church, D. (2019). Clinical EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) Improves Multiple Physiological Markers of Health. Journal of evidence-based integrative medicine, 24, 2515690X18823691. https://doi.org/10.1177/2515690X18823691
Abstract: Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is an evidence-based self-help therapeutic method and over 100 studies demonstrate its efficacy. However, information about the physiological effects of EFT is limited. The current study sought to elucidate EFTs mechanisms of action across the central nervous system (CNS) by measuring heart rate variability (HRV) and heart coherence (HC); the circulatory system using resting heart rate (RHR) and blood pressure (BP); the endocrine system using cortisol, and the immune system using salivary immunoglobulin A (SigA). The second aim was to measure psychological symptoms. Participants (N = 203) were enrolled in a 4-day training workshop held in different locations. At one workshop (n = 31), participants also received comprehensive physiological testing. Posttest, significant declines were found in anxiety (−40%), depression (−35%), posttraumatic stress disorder (−32%), pain (−57%), and cravings (−74%), all P < .000. Happiness increased (+31%, P = .000) as did SigA (+113%, P = .017). Significant improvements were found in RHR (−8%, P = .001), cortisol (−37%, P < .000), systolic BP (−6%, P = .001), and diastolic BP (−8%, P < .000). Positive trends were observed for HRV and HC and gains were maintained on follow-up, indicating EFT results in positive health effects as well as increased mental well-being.
Keywords: anxiety, cortisol, immunity, heart rate variability, Emotional Freedom Techniques
Craig’s Notes: In my opinion this is one of the most powerful and comprehensive EFT studies performed to date. This study sought to help understand EFTs physiological mechanisms of action. The systems studied included the autonomic nervous system (ANS) by measuring heart rate variability (HRV) and heart coherence (HC); the circulatory system by assessing resting heart rate (RHR) and blood pressure (BP); the endocrine system by evaluating cortisol, and the immune system by examining levels of salivary immunoglobulin A (SigA). “The study also assessed psychological symptoms of anxiety, depression, PTSD, pain, cravings, and happiness, and the relationship of psychological symptoms to physiological markers.”
The overarching study had an (n of 203) who were all participants at 6 Clinical EFT workshops. All of these participants received the subjective psychological scoring with pre- and post measures, and a follow-up during the subsequent year. At one workshop an (n = 31) participants also received a comprehensive battery of medical tests.
The EFT “intervention” was a four day EFT training workshop that included 12 hours devoted to clinical demonstrations, practice sessions, and feedback. This of course is unique and clearly this was unlike other studies that evaluate a single or 6 hour 1:1 intervention.
So what are some of the study highlights as stated by the study’s authors?
- Between the pre- and post test time points, participants experienced significant decreases in anxiety, depression, PTSD, pain, and cravings, and a significant increase in happiness.
- In the subset of participants in whom physiological indicators of health were assessed (n = 31), psychological measurements, including anxiety (decrease of 40%), depression (decrease of 43%), PTSD (decrease of 30%0, pain (decrease of 60%), and cravings (decrease of 72%) all improved.
- Physiological indicators, including RHR (resting heart rate) decrease of 7.8%, BP (systolic/diastolic blood pressure) decreased by 5.8 and 8.5% respectively, and salivary cortisol also significantly decreased significantly by 48% indicating a functional improvement. The changes corresponded with an increase in happiness (P = .0004 as 18.8%) and immune function in the form of SigA secretion (P = .017) and increase of 61%.
- Though not statistically significant, a downward trend was observed for HRV (heart rate variability) and an upward trend for HC (heart coherence) suggesting an improvement in cardiovascular health and ANS function.
- Dissimilar results were found between post and follow-up time points, with anxiety and pain found to significantly increase, while happiness decreased significantly.
While there is excellent and insightful news in this study, the limitations of the study must be mentioned as well including:
- First and foremost this was a unique workshop environment intervention that include hours of group connection, learning, viewing EFT, receiving and performing EFT. This is distinct to the typical manner in which most people receive EFT.
- Follow up contact was discussed in the paper but I was unable to locate any mention of how long after the intervention the follow up occurred and whether that was consistent across the participant inquiry and responses. Also there was a limited number of follow up participation (89 out of 203).
- There was the absence of a control or comparison group. Further research should also randomize participants between EFT and an active control treatment such as CBT
- The reliability of self-report measures of subjective psychological states not measured by clinicians