Context: The World Health Organization (WHO) places major depressive disorder (MDD), or depression, as the fourth leading cause of disability worldwide. Some studies have found that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) represents the most superior approach in treating mild to severe symptoms. Recent literature has indicated a number of limitations to this therapeutic approach. An approach that has received increasing attention within the literature is the emotional freedom technique (EFT).
Objective: The current pilot study aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of CBT and EFT in the treatment of depression and comorbid anxiety.
Design: The research team designed a pilot study structured as a randomized, controlled trial with 2 intervention arms.
Setting: The study took place at Bond University in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.
Participants: Participants (n = 10) were local community members who had screened positive for a primary diagnosis of MDD.
Intervention: Participants were randomly assigned to an 8-wk CBT or EFT treatment program, the intervention groups. A sample of individuals from the community was assessed for comparative purposes (control group) (n = 57).
Outcome measures: Pre- and postintervention, all participants were interviewed using the Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI) 6.0, and they completed the following validated questionnaires: (1) the Beck Depression Inventory, second edition (BDI-2) and (2) the Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scales (DASS-21).
Results: Findings revealed that both treatment approaches produced significant reductions in depressive symptoms, with the CBT group reporting a significant reduction postintervention, which was not maintained with time. The EFT group reported a delayed effect involving a significant reduction in symptoms at the 3- and 6-mo follow-ups only. Examination of the individual cases revealed clinically significant improvements in anxiety across both interventions.
Conclusions: Overall, the findings provide evidence to suggest that EFT might be an effective treatment strategy worthy of further investigation.