EFT Emotional Freedom Technique: the evidence for practice

Do you suffer from anxiety? Depression? PTSD? Pain? Cravings? Chronic disease? EFT will help!

EFT: the evidence for practice

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) has been around since the 1990s. However, acupressure dates back thousands of years. Over 100 studies have demonstrated the efficacy of EFT as an evidence-based self help therapeutic method. This article gives a brief overview of the literature illustrating this effectiveness.

The function of body systems improve

The physiological effects of EFT were studied by Bach et al (2019 Clinical EFT improves multiple physiological markers of health. Journal of Evidence Based Integrative Medicine). The researchers measured the nervous system (using the Heart Rate Variability (HRV); and Heart Coherence (HC)); circulatory system (using the Resting Heart Rate and Blood Pressure); the endocrine system (measuring the cortisol levels) and the immune system (measuring the Salivary Immunoglobin A (SigA)). They also measured psychological symptoms.

Significant improvements in symptoms

They also found significant declines in anxiety (40% decline), depression (35% decline), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (32% decline), pain (57% decline) and cravings (74% decline). Read that sentence again and take it in. There were HUGE improvements in all those areas! In addition to all those very positive changes in all those lives, their levels of happiness and SigA increased too, indicating improvements in their immune systems!  Significant improvements were found in HRV, cortisol and BP (systolic and diastolic). Positive trends were also found in the HRV and HC. Of great importance, they found that the positive health effects for physical and mental wellbeing were maintained on follow-up! So the circulatory system, nervous system, endocrine system and immune system showed significant improvements! You would like that, wouldn’t you?? Imagine if a medication had that effect… With no side effects… And was free!

Cortisol, the stress hormone is reduced

In addition, Church, Yount and Brooks (2012 The effects of EFT on stress biochemistry: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Nerv Ment. 200:891-896) also found significant declines in the stress hormone, cortisol in their study.

Many different people benefit

Not only does EFT improve physical and mental wellbeing as shown in the above mentioned studies, but it also helps a variety of people. Systematic reviews and meta-analysis have shown EFT efficacy for both psychological and physiological symptoms. The efficacy of EFT extends to college students, veterans, pain patients, overweight people, hospital patients, athletes, health care workers, gifted students, chemotherapy patients and phobia sufferers. And they are just the groups that have been studied! It is an “evidence based” practice for depression, anxiety, phobia and PTSD according to the standards of the American Psychological Association Division 12 Task Force of Empirically Validated Treatments (Church D. Clinical EFT as an evidence-based practice for the treatment of psychological and physiological conditions. Psychology. 2013).

What is Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)?

EFT is a quick intervention which includes cognitive therapy, elements of exposure and somatic stimulation of acupressure points on the face and body. The subjects identify an area of concern or issue they want to address. They then rate it on a Likert Scale 0-10. 10 is the maximum amount of distress and 0 is the minimal or neutral state.  The person then states their concern or issue in a “Set Up Statement”. This tunes them into their level of distress. The Set Up Statement may be “even though I have this problem (eg anxious), I deeply and completely accept myself”. The first part is the exposure. The second part is framing the traumatizing element into self-acceptance.

Then the person taps on the acupoints on the body whilst repeating a short phrase to stay engaged (eg feeling anxious). This is the Reminder Phrase. Eight somatic tapping points are utilized in order. This is repeated until their self-rating on the Likert Scale is very low at 1 or 0.

EFT is easy to learn


A study of 5000 patients seeking treatment for anxiety over 5.5 years was conducted by Andrade and Feinstein (2004 Energy Psychology: theory, indications and evidence. Energy Psychology Interactive: Rapid Interventions for lasting change. 199-214). Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is the traditional anxiety treatment used today. The patients in this large study received CBT with medication if needed, or acupoint tapping with no medication. A whopping 90% of patients improved in the EFT group versus 63% of the CBT patients.

Three EFT sessions were needed before their anxiety decreased while an average of fifteen sessions of CBT were required. An amazing 76% of people in the EFT group obtained compete relief of their symptoms compared with 51% in the CBT group. Importantly, 78% of the EFT group maintained these improvements one year later, compared to 69% of the CBT group.

In another study, health care workers with anxiety, depression, pain and cravings were researched. They self-applied EFT and were found to have significant improvements on all subscales of distress, pain ratings, emotional distress, and cravings after a two hour EFT session. The severity and range of psychological symptoms were reduced with this maintained at later follow up (Church and Brookes 2010 The effect of a brief EFT self-intervention on anxiety, depression, pain and cravings in health care workers. Integrative Medicine Clinical Journal 9(5):40-44).


Many studies have shown the benefits of EFT for depression also.  After a brief EFT intervention for depression in college students those who had the EFT had significantly less depression than those who did not have EFT. The control group had the same level of depression before and after no treatment (Church De Asis, Brooks 2012 Brief group intervention using EFT for depression in college students.: a randomized controlled trial. Depress Red Treat).

CBT or EFT was conducted on ten patients with Major Depressive Disorder. Eight weeks (sixteen hours total) of group treatments for either EFT or CBT were conducted and both groups experienced significant reductions in their depressive symptoms. However, the CBT group improvements were not maintained over time. The significant improvements in symptoms from the EFT group participants was maintained at three and six month follow-ups (Chatwin, Stapleton, Porter, Devine, Sheldon 2016 The effectiveness of CBT and EFT in reducing depression and anxiety among adults: a pilot study. Integrative Medicine (Encinitas) 15(2):27-34).

Chronic diseases

Furthermore, there have been numerous studies showing that a variety of chronic disease patients may benefit also considering the physiological changes that occur from EFT. Physical conditions which have been studied and found to have benefited from EFT include fibromyalgia, psoriasis, tension headaches, frozen shoulder, pulmonary injuries, chronic pain, chemotherapy side effects, traumatic brain injury, insomnia and seizure disorders (Bach et al Clinical EFT improves multiple physiological markers of health. Journal of Evidence based integrative medicine. 2019.24).

In conclusion, there is an abundance of research illustrating the effectiveness of using EFT in a variety of settings for a variety of both psychological and psychological benefits. And it is easy to learn and to do yourself, and therefore very cost effective.

After reading this short article please consider learning EFT yourself and begin to reap the benefits.

EFT can be done by yourself at home or anywhere!


Ah, deep breathing is truly a wonderful thing. At its simplest, it clears your head and relaxes you beautifully.  If you’d like to decrease your anxiety and stress levels, improve your cognitive achievements, enhance your memory, improve your mood, and increase your blood oxygenation, then you better learn how to practice breathe deeply now!

Proven benefits of deep breathing

Anxiety improves

In fact, a research study just published illustrated how primary school children’s anxiety levels were reduced, and test performance increased, by simply practicing deep breathing before their school test (Khng, KH 2017).

Stress levels improve

Another recently published research study (Perciavalle et al 2017), found that adults practicing deep breathing induced an effective improvement in their mood and stress levels. This was measured using both self-reported subjective evaluations and objective parameters such as heart rate and salivary cortisol levels.

Blood oxygenation  levels improve

Practicing your deep breaths is even more effective if you do it standing up! A group of researchers measured the blood oxygenation level, heart rate, subjective breathing ability, blood pressure and pain of patients who had cardiac surgery performed a couple of days prior (Pettersson et al 2015). This randomised control study illustrated that the group of patients who practiced the deep breathing standing up, had significantly improved blood oxygenation levels when compared with the sitting group. This was also the case after resting for 15 minutes after the deep breathing.

Improved memory

Still haven’t convinced you? Well, yet another study, published in Scientific Reports has shown that deep breathing enhances complex cognitive functions such as memory, in particular the retention of motor memories ( Yadav & Mutha 2016). After the experimental group practiced deep breathing for 30 minutes, they retained a motor skill ‘strikingly’ better than the controls whom simply rested for 30 minutes. This was true immediately after the breathing, and also 24 hours later. The experiment was repeated and it was found that there was significantly improved retention after 24 hours.

Increase in test scores

An Iranian research study (Haghani & Shariatpanahi 2011) examined medical students who were either given the task of deep breathing and stretching during their genetics class, or not. There was a significant difference between the two groups. The stretchers and deep breathers had significantly increased test achievement scores. The researchers highly recommended all classes and educational workshops include deep breathing and stretching.


Deep breathing recommendations

I recommend doing at least 30 minutes of deep breathing daily. And since I love to SMILE and find any excuse to do it, I recommend you smile on the exhale for even MORE health benefits. Get yourself a little alarm app on your phone and set a subtle alarm for every 30 minutes. When you hear that little ‘blip blip’ go off, take 4 big deep breaths and smile on each exhalation. Ahhhhh, how can you not be in a good mood after that?

I highly recommend you read Dr. Wilson’s article Breathing Properly for Health for instructions on how to learn to breathe deeply and properly. You won’t regret it.

Tell me your thoughts regarding Deep Breathing in the box below, and please ask me any questions you may have!

Breathe deeply, and heal happily!