Reexamining the effect of emotional freedom techniques on stress biochemistry: A randomized controlled trial

Psychol Trauma. 2020 Mar 12. doi: 10.1037/tra0000563. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Objective: In a direct replication of Church, Yount, and Brooks (2012), this study examined changes in stress biochemistry and psychological distress symptoms in 53 participants randomly allocated to one of three 60-min group interventions: Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), psychoeducation (PE), and no treatment (NT). The Symptom Assessment-45 (SA-45) was used to assess psychological distress symptoms.

Method: Salivary cortisol assays were administered 30 min pre- and postintervention to test cortisol levels. The original study by Church et al. indicated the EFT group showed statistically significant improvements in anxiety (-58.34%, p < .05), depression (-49.33%, p < .002), overall severity of symptoms (-50.5%, p < .001), and symptom breadth (-41.93%, p < .001). The group also experienced a significant decrease in cortisol (-24.39%) compared to the PE group (-14.25%) and NT group (-14.44%).

Results: The present results indicated the EFT group experienced a significant decrease in cortisol greater than the original study (-43.24%, p < .05), but these results were not mirrored by subjective reports of psychological distress. The EFT group reduction in cortisol was significantly different from that of the PE group (-19.67%), and as expected, the posttreatment cortisol level detected among the EFT group was lower than that of the NT group (2.02%); however, there was not a statistically significant difference between the 2 groups. Additionally, there were no significant improvements in cortisol reduction among the NT and PE groups.

Conclusions: Findings support the original study indicating EFT to be an efficient and effective brief treatment for reducing biological markers of stress. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).

Associated data

  • ANZCTR/ACTRN12618001272280