EFT for Anxiety

Below is a selection of abstracts (summaries) of research articles on EFT for anxiety and stress- related conditions.

For further research on other topics, follow the links below:
- EFT for Trauma and Post Traumatic Stress
- EFT for Depression
- EFT for Cravings, Weight Issues and Addictions
- EFT for Pain and Physical Issues
- EFT for Sports Performance

Boath, E., Stewart, A., Carryer, A. (2013) Tapping for success: A pilot study to explore if Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) can reduce anxiety and enhance academic performance in University students. Innovative Practice in Higher Education, 1 (3)

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), also known as tapping, is an emerging psychological intervention that has been used to treat a variety of conditions, including exam stress and public speaking anxiety.

Participants were a convenience sample of 52 3rd year Foundation Degree level students undertaking a Research Methods Module. The module included an assessed presentation, which was known to generate anxiety among students. The students were given a 15 minute assignment workshop. They then received a 15 minute lecture introducing EFT and were guided though one round of EFT focussing on their anxiety of public speaking. The students were assessed using the Subjective Units of Distress (SUDs) and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) pre and post EFT. The students were instructed that they could continue to use EFT at any time to reduce their anxiety regarding their assessed presentation. Immediately following their presentation, the students were invited to take part in a brief face- to-face interview to identify those who used EFT to explore their use of and feelings about EFT and to identify those who had chosen not to use EFT and explore their reasons for not choosing to use it.

Forty Six of the total sample of 52 students (88%) participated in the research. There was a significant reduction in SUDS (p=p<0.001), HAD (p = 0.003) and HAD Anxiety Subscale (p<0.001). There was no difference in the HAD Depression Subscale (p=0.67). The qualitative data were analysed using a framework approach which revealed the following three themes: helpfulness of EFT in reducing anxiety and staying calm and focussed; Using other complementary therapy skills; and their reasons for not using EFT.

Despite the limitations of the study, the results suggest that EFT may be a useful addition to curricula for courses that include oral presentations and that using EFT to reduce presentation anxiety may enhance academic performance.

Full text of the article available here.

Jain, S., & Rubino, A. (2012). The effectiveness of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) for optimal test performance: A randomized controlled trial. Energy Psychology: Theory, Research, & Treatment, 4(2), 13-24.

Test anxiety causes, effects and interventions have been widely studied. This study seeks to determine the efficacy of a single brief intervention—Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT)—to support the ability to shift attention appropriately to achieve optimal levels of both test anxiety and test performance. The sample consisted of 150 undergraduates from three universities in the Inland Northwest USA with debilitating test anxiety who were randomly assigned to 3 different groups. Group 1 learned EFT, Group 2 learned Diaphragmatic Breathing (DB), and Group 3 served as a no-treatment control. Participants in the two experimental groups received two 2-hour lessons. The Sarason RTT, SA-45 and Westside instruments were administered as pre- and post- measures, with a second follow-up at the end of the semester. Subsequent ANOVAs revealed significant improvements in both the diaphragmatic breathing and EFT groups on most measures, with gains maintained on follow-up.

Church, D., Yount, G., & Brooks, A. J. (2012). The effect of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) on stress biochemistry: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 200(10), 891-6.

This study examined the changes in cortisol levels and psychological distress 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 distress symptoms were assessed using the SA-45. The EFT group showed statistically significant improvements in anxiety (-58.34%, p<0.05), depression (-49.33%, p<0.002), the overall severity of symptoms, (-50.5%, p<0.001), and symptom breadth (-41.93%, p<0.001). The EFT group experienced a significant decrease in cortisol (-24.39%, SE 2.62) compared to the decrease observed in the SI (-14.25%, SE 2.61) and NT (-14.44%, SE 2.67) groups (p<0.03). The decrease in cortisol levels in the EFT group mirrored the observed improvement in psychological distress.

Temple, G. P., & Mollon, P. (2011). Reducing anxiety in dental patients using EFT: A pilot study. Energy Psychology: Theory, Research, & Treatment, 3(2), 53-56.

Adult patients awaiting dental treatment were screened for self-reported anxiety using an 11 point Likert scale. Those in the higher half of the range (N = 30) received a 10 minute intervention consisting of a 4 minute EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) explanation and 6 minute treatment. All patients reported a decrease in subjective anxiety, with a mean pre-treatment score of 8.03 and a post-treatment score of 3.03. Paired t-tests revealed a statistically significant decrease (p<0.001). These results are consistent with other published reports of EFTs efficacy for anxiety. They suggest that even a very brief EFT intervention can reduce anxiety and that a further controlled trial with both observer- and participant-rated measures should be undertaken.

Jones, S. J., Thornton, J. A., Andrews, H. B. (2011). Efficacy of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) in reducing public speaking anxiety: A randomized controlled trial. Energy Psychology: Theory, Research, & Treatment, 3(1), p 33-42.

Thirty six volunteers with Public Speaking Anxiety (PSA) were randomly allocated into a treatment group and wait-list control group. Subjective self-report measures were taken before, during, and after a forty-five minute treatment session with Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). Behavioural observations were recorded during a 4-minute speech immediately after treatment. Comparisons between groups revealed significant reductions in PSA on all self-report measures, but not in behavioural observations. Changes in scores taken before and after treatment for each participant revealed significant reduction in PSA on all subjective and behavioural measures. A significant reduction in PSA as measured by Subjective Units of Discomfort was demonstrated within the first 15 minutes of treatment with EFT, with further significant reductions also demonstrated at 30 and 45 minutes. EFT was found to be a quick and effective treatment for PSA.

Church, D., & Brooks, A. J. (2010). The effect of a brief EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) self-intervention on anxiety, depression, pain and cravings in healthcare workers. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician's Journal, Oct/Nov, 40-44.

This study examined whether self-intervention with Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), a brief exposure therapy that combines a cognitive and a somatic element, had an effect on healthcare workers’ psychological distress symptoms. Participants were 216 attendees at 5 professional conferences. Psychological distress, as measured by the SA-45, and self-rated pain, emotional distress, and craving were assessed before and after 2-hours of self-applied EFT, utilizing a within-subjects design. A 90-day follow-up was completed by 53% of the sample with 61% reporting using EFT subsequent to the workshop. Significant improvements were found on all distress subscales and ratings of pain, emotional distress, and cravings at posttest (all p<.001). Gains were maintained at follow-up for most SA-45 scales. The severity of psychological symptoms was reduced (-45%, p<.001) as well as the breadth (-40%, p<.001), with significant gains maintained at follow-up. Greater subsequent EFT use correlated with a greater decrease in symptom severity at follow-up (p<.034, r=.199), but not in breadth of symptoms (p<.0117, r=.148). EFT provided an immediate effect on psychological distress, pain, and cravings that was replicated across multiple conferences and healthcare provider samples.

Salas, M., Brooks, A. J., & Rowe, J. E. (2011). The immediate effect of a brief energy psychology intervention (EFT) on specific phobias: A randomized controlled trial. Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, 7(3), p. 255-160.

Background: Specific phobia is one of the most prevalent anxiety disorders. Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) has been shown to improve anxiety symptoms; however, their application to specific phobias has received limited attention.

Objective: This pilot study examined whether EFT, a brief exposure therapy that combines cognitive and somatic elements, had an immediate effect on the reduction of anxiety and behavior associated with specific phobias.

Design: The study utilized a crossover design with participants randomly assigned to either diaphragmatic breathing or EFT as the first treatment.

Setting: The study was conducted at a regional university in the Southwestern United States.

Participants: Twenty-two students meeting criteria for a phobic response to a specific stimulus (< 8 on an 11-point subjective units of distress scale).

Intervention: Participants completed a total of five two-minute rounds in each treatment intervention.Outcome Measures: Study measures included a behavioral approach test (BAT), Subjective Units of Distress Scale (SUDS), and Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI).

Results: Emotional Freedom Techniques significantly reduced phobia-related anxiety (BAI P < .042; SUDS P < .002) and ability to approach the feared stimulus (BAT P < .046) whether presented as an initial treatment or following diaphragmatic breathing. When presented as the initial treatment, the effects of EFT remained through the presentation of the comparison intervention.

Conclusions: The efficacy of EFT in treating specific phobias demonstrated in several earlier studies is corroborated by the current investigation. Comparison studies between EFT and the most effective established therapies for treating specific phobias are recommended.

Hodge, P. M., & Jurgens, C. Y. (2011). Psychological and physiological symptoms of psoriasis after group EFT treatment: A pilot study. Energy Psychology: Theory, Research, & Treatment, 3(2), 13-23.

Background: The documented relationship between stress and psoriasis suggests that noninvasive means of stress reduction may improve quality of life in persons with psoriasis.

Objectives: The purpose of this study was to (a) educate persons with psoriasis in the use of the innovative, self-applied, noninvasive emotional healing intervention Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) and (b) test its effects on psoriasis symptoms.

Method: A time series, within-subjects, repeated measures design was used. Persons with psoriasis (n = 12) were taught EFT in a 6-hr workshop and instructed to use EFT daily. Symptoms were measured using the Skindex-29 questionnaire. Psychological conditions were assessed using the Symptom Assessment-45 (SA-45), which has 9 subscales, and two general scales for the severity (GSI) and breadth (PST) of psychological distress. Participants were assessed pre-intervention, post intervention, and at 1 and 3 month follow-ups.

Results: Psychological symptom severity (GSI) improved post-workshop, demonstrating both clinical (raw score) and statistical significance (-56.43%, p=.043). Improvements (T score) (-50.67%, p=.002) were sustained at three 3-month follow-up (-50.54%, p=.001; -38.43%; p=.002). Symptom breadth (PST) also improved post-workshop clinically (-49.24%, p=.005), and that improvement was sustained over time (-46.93%, p=.019). Skindex-29 scores indicated improvements in emotional distress (-41.56%, p=.002), symptoms (49.05%; p=.001), and functioning (-58.31%; p=.001) post-workshop, with changes over time to -80.56% (p=<.001), -74.95% (p=<.001), and -89.99% (p=.001) respectively, and at 3 months. Differences by gender were found in psychological symptom severity and skin-related symptom distress.

Conclusion: Participants experienced significant improvement in functioning and psychological, emotional, and physical symptoms. Relief often was immediate and sustained, and improved over time. Highly significant findings from this small sample support the robust treatment effects found in other EFT research, and clinical trials of EFT for psoriasis and other chronic illnesses are warranted.

Baker, A. H., & Siegel, L. S. (2010). Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) reduces intense fears: A partial replication and extension of Wells et al. (2003). Energy Psychology: Theory, Research, & Treatment, 2(2), 15-32.

Wells, Polglase, Andrews, Carrington, and Baker (2003) found that Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT; an intervention involving manual stimulation of a specific set of acupuncture points accompanied by certain verbalizations) produced greater decrease in intense fear of small animals than did a comparison condition. The present partial replication and extension assessed whether such findings reflected (a) nonspecific factors common to many forms of psychotherapy, (b) some methodological artifact (such as regression to the mean, fatigue, or the passage of time), and/or (c) therapeutic ingredients specific to EFT. Participants were randomly assigned to EFT, a supportive interview, or no-treatment control. On a majority of the dependent variables, participants in the EFT condition showed significant decrease in fear of small animals immediately after, and again 1.38 years after, one 45-min intervention, whereas the other two conditions did not. These findings lend support for EFT’s efficacy in the treatment of intense fear, but further research is needed regarding the range of problems for which EFT may be efficacious, the treatment procedures required to maintain clinical gains, the relative power of EFT compared with other established therapies, and the mechanism(s) that produce EFT’s effects.

Church, D., Geronilla, L., & Dinter, I. (2009). Psychological symptom change in veterans after six sessions of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT): An observational study. International Journal of Healing and Caring, 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.

Sezgin, N., & Özcan, B. (2009). The effect of Progressive Muscular Relaxation and EFT on test anxiety in high school students: A randomized controlled trial. Energy Psychology: Theory, Research, & Treatment, 1(1), 23-30.

This study investigated the effect of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) and Progressive Muscular Relaxation (PMR) on test anxiety. A group of 312 high school students enrolled at a private academy were evaluated using the Test Anxiety Inventory (TAI), which contains Worry and Emotionality subscales. Scores for 70 students demonstrated high levels of test anxiety; these students were randomized into control and experimental groups. During a single treatment session, the control group received instruction in PMR and the experimental group in EFT, which was followed by self-treatment at home. After 2 months, subjects were retested using the TAI. Repeated covariance analysis was performed to determine the effects of EFT and PMR on the mean TAI score, as well as the 2 subscale scores. Each group completed a sample examination at the beginning and end of the study, and their mean scores were computed. Thirty-two of the initial 70 subjects completed all the study’s requirements, and all statistical analyses were done on this group. A statistically significant decrease occurred in the test anxiety scores of both the experimental and control groups. The EFT group had a significantly greater decrease than the PMR group (p < .05). The scores of the EFT group were lower on the Emotionality and Worry subscales (p < .05). Both groups scored higher on the test examinations after treatment. Although the improvement was greater for the EFT group, the difference was not statistically significant.

Benor, D. J., Ledger, K., Toussaint, L., Hett, G., & Zaccaro, D. (2009). Pilot study of EFT, WHEE and CBT for treatment of test anxiety in university students. Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, 5(6), 338-340.

Objective: This study explored test anxiety benefits of Wholistic Hybrid derived from EMDR (WHEE), Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Participants: Canadian university students with severe or moderate test anxiety participated.

Methods: A double-blind, controlled trial of WHEE (n = 5), EFT (n =5), and CBT (n = 5) was conducted. Standardized anxiety measures included: the Test Anxiety Inventory (TAI) and Hopkins Symptom Checklist (HSCL-21).

Results: Despite small sample size, significant reductions on the TAI and HSCL-21 were found for WHEE; on the TAI for EFT; and on the HSCL-21 for CBT. There were no significant differences between the scores for the three treatments. In only two sessions WHEE and EFT achieved the equivalent benefits to those achieved by CBT in five sessions. Participants reported high satisfaction with all treatments. EFT and WHEE students successfully transferred their self-treatment skills to other stressful areas of their lives.

Conclusions: WHEE and EFT show promise as effective treatments for test anxiety.

Wells, S., Polglase, K., Andrews, H. B., Carrington, P. & Baker, A. H. (2003). Evaluation of a meridian-based intervention, Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), for reducing specific phobias of small animals. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 59(9), 943-966.

This study explored whether a meridian-based procedure, Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), can reduce specific phobias of small animals under laboratory-controlled conditions. Randomly assigned participants were treated individually for 30 minutes with EFT (n = 18) or a comparison condition, Diaphragmatic Breathing (DB) (n = 17). ANOVAS revealed that EFT produced significantly greater improvement than did DB behaviorally and on three self-report measures, but not on pulse rate. The greater improvement for EFT was maintained, and possibly enhanced, at 6 - 9 months follow-up on the behavioral measure. These findings suggest that a single treatment session using EFT to reduce specific phobias can produce valid behavioral and subjective effects. Some limitations of the study are also noted and clarifying research suggested.

Further resources


For further research on other topics, follow the links below:
- EFT for Trauma and Post Traumatic Stress
- EFT for Depression
- EFT for Cravings, Weight Issues and Addictions
- EFT for Pain and Physical Issues
- EFT for Sports Performance