Does the Tapping in EFT Really Work?

At first glance most people being exposed to any of the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) assume the client feels better because the client is distracted by the technique.  If this assumption were true then the client would find no lasting relief from the technique.  By definition, distraction will cease to work when the person is exposed to the distressing memory or experiences the distressing situation again.  There are literally hundreds of case studies now published with three to twelve month follow ups.  In these follow ups clients were asked to replay a traumatic event scene by scene and they continued to experience no distress while doing the mental replay.  The fact that EFT has a lasting effect is good news for anyone wishing to find total relief from their traumatic memories, negative emotions, and distressing fears.

However these cases do not prove that it is the tapping itself that caused the positive effects.  This is why I made this article on the following study the first one for my blog page.  The title of the study is:

“Evaluation of a Meridian-Based Intervention,

Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), for Reducing Specific Phobias of Small Animals”

The Journal of Clinical Psychology, Volume 59 (9), p. 943 – 966

The study was a placebo controlled study using valid statistical analysis with blind testing of the participants by those doing the testing.  The testers were blind to who was in the control and experimental group as well what treatments were being applied to either group. The testers were also trained in proper technique and protocols to avoid influencing the results with unknown confounding variables.  This is about the highest level of validity one can hope for with any procedure that requires the administrator of the treatments to know which treatment is being administered.  The participants were randomly assigned and all had significant simple phobic reactions to small animals and insects.   Here after these animals and insects are referred to as the feared object.

The control group had Diaphragmatic Breathing (DB) as the control treatment.  The administrator of the technique was a psychologist well trained in the technique.  DB has been well established in clinical studies to have measurable efficacy in lowering stressful emotional intensity as well as decreasing the functional impairment of phobic reactions.  The results of these studies have met the standards of validity showing that the positive results from DB are due to the treatment itself. The reliability has been shown by repeated studies in different situations at different times with similar results.  In short DB is well established as an actual effective treatment for anxiety and phobic reactions that is not accounted for by placebo effect.

The control group with the DB and the experimental group with EFT used the EFT Basic Recipe problem and self acceptance statements. The DB group spoke the statements out loud every 10 breaths.  The EFT group spoke the statements during the set ups and continued the problem statement while tapping the sequence of points known as a round.  The difference between the DB and EFT treatments were the application of diaphragmatic breathing or the tapping of the EFT points.  Placebo effect was offset between the two groups by the application of the same verbal routines assigned to each group.

The control and experimental groups received treatment for one 30 minute session.  This thirty minute session also included introducing and training in the technique as well as treating the problem.  Limiting the technique applied to only the EFT Basic Recipe had a secondary effect which most probably lowered the effectiveness of the EFT sessions.  There are many additional techniques in EFT and Pro EFT which have increased effectiveness in specific situations.  None of these were done in this study.  Limiting of the verbiage to just the Basic Recipe helped to insure that the tapping itself was the variable being measured.

All EFT techniques have the problem statement repeated continuously throughout the treatment.  An example of this for a snake phobia would be to say, “Even though I have this awful, justified fear of snakes” as the problem statement.  Repeating the problem statement throughout the session does raise the possibility that the Cognitive Behavioral technique known as the Exposure Technique could be responsible for the improvement.  This issue was addressed by having both the control and experimental groups do the same problem and self acceptance statements of the Basic Recipe.  This means that if EFT had an effect greater than that of DB then it would be because of the tapping of the acupuncture points as both groups would receive the Exposure Technique effect in roughly equal amounts.  Incidentally the continuous restating of the stressor negates the theory that having the client distract themselves causes the effect.  The problem statement being repeated out loud is the opposite of becoming distracted by something else and therefore forgetting about the problem.

The results were measured by the Behavioral Approach Task (BAT) scale which measured how many steps the participant could walk toward the feared animal or insect until feeling too uncomfortable to continue.  The actual feared object was in a glass cage.  In this task EFT tripled the effect over the improvement that DB offered. Fig 1A

The Imaginary Subjective Units of Distress (SUDS) scale measured the participants distress at the thought of approaching the feared object.   The EFT group quadrupled the effect of lowering distress over the DB group. Fig. 1C

In the SUDS testing during BAT (distress felt while walking toward the feared animal or insect) the results for EFT quadruple the effect of lowering this distress compared to DB.  Fig. 1B

The measure of the imagined fear about taking the test had EFT almost tripling the relief that was offered by DB.  Fig. 1D

For the pulse rate test there was not a significant difference in effect.  DB does offer pulse lowering relief as well as EFT does.

At the follow up BAT testing seven to nine months later there was no decrease in the number of steps the EFT group could take toward the feared animal or insect.  There was a substantial decrease in the steps the DB group could take.  This showed a high multiple effect greater than 20 times better in favor of EFT towards permanently defeating a phobia.  DB lost most of it’s already lower rates of initial effectiveness over time.  The amazing part of this was that these results occurred after only one 30 minute treatment with either EFT or DB.  This demonstrates a long term increase in function for those treated with EFT. Fig. 2A

The SUDS with BAT (distress while walking toward the feared object) seven to nine months later was almost three times better for the EFT group.  This showed a long term decrease in emotional distress for the EFT participants. Fig. 2B

The difference in imagined SUDS the participants felt was negligible between EFT and DB seven to nine months later.  DB and EFT can work to keep a phobia at lower levels of distress if you only think about the feared object. This means a person can gain the false hope of defeating a phobia without actual exposure to the object.  Works great if you never again experience the feared object.  Only EFT improved the phobic reaction with real life exposure to the feared object. Fig 2C

In summary EFT provided short and long term significant increases in function while significantly decreasing the intensity of emotional distress.  It did so irrespective of whether the participant was thinking about the feared object or had to approach the feared object.        EFT significantly outperformed DB and the positive effects continued at the same levels of success seven to nine months later.  The study strongly supports that it is the tapping of the EFT acupuncture points that caused the improvement.  It also strongly supports that the tapping provides a change that is at least semipermanent if not permanent for those that receive the treatment.

This study, while valid, does not in itself prove reliability.  One study does not prove that the results will be the same when the experiment is repeated.  I will follow this article with other articles that will help establish the reliability of EFT.  These articles will continue to illustrate that EFT produces a clinical reduction in symptoms and an increase in function for a variety of conditions and circumstances.  These results will continue to be shown to be long lasting to permanent in their results.

This is the link to the study addressed above published in:

The Journal of Clinical Psychology, Volume 59 (9), p. 943 – 966

EFT Downunder

Bill Dovel Pro EFT Adv., R.N.

If you would like this powerful technique working for you please contact me at:

Bill Dovel’s Pro Eft Center

776 E. Riverside Dr.  Suite 200

Eagle, ID 83616


Fax 208-685-2316

8 thoughts on “Does the Tapping in EFT Really Work?

  1. Hi Matt. You make some good points. In truth, each “box” that explains EFT is woefully incomplete. There are very good studies that show shifts in galvanic skin response, which supports the acupuncture theory. Other studies show real time changes in Parasympathetic Nervous System activation, using functional MRI. My own studies, using the Ethology observation technique, clearly show these particular points of contact, are fixed action patterns that cross lines of culture and geography. Any one discipline, that thinks their view point, is the answer, has missed the point entirely. All of these interactions happen simultaneously. Any one explanation, will always be incomplete. There is not one explanation, for any action, in a fractal universe. Welcome to the insight, we live in a fractal universe.

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