Baker, A. & Siegel, L. (2010). Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) reduces intense fears: A partial replication and extension of Wells, Polglase, Andrews, Carrington, & Baker (2003). Energy Psychology: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 2(2), 13-30. doi: 10.9769/EPJ.2010.2.2.AHB.LSS
Read more in Energy Psychology Journal
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.
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Summary from ACEP
Baker and Siegel inserted a no-treatment control condition in this new study and also changed the comparison condition used. In the Wells study, Diaphragmatic Breathing (which turned out to be quite similar to EFT in its effects on small animal phobias, although not as effective as EFT) was used as the sole comparison. In the Baker-Siegel study, a Supportive Interview condition in which participants were given an opportunity to discuss their fears in a respectful, accepting setting was used. It is quite similar to Rogerian Nondirective Counseling.
When Baker and Siegel compared their three groups, the results strongly supported the Wells study. As in the latter, EFT participants improved significantly from pre- to post-test in their ability to walk closer to the feared animal after having received EFT, while the other two conditions showed no improvement in this respect. With respect to the subjective measures used in the new study, EFT participants showed significant decreases on the two SUDS measures of fear, on the Fear Questionnaire, and on a special new questionnaire devised for this study (the FOSAQ). Participants in the other two conditions, Supportive Interview and No Treatment Control, showed no decrease in fear whatsoever on these subjective measures. As in the Wells study, only heart rate showed large but equal changes for each condition.
A minor drawback of the Wells study was that participants rated their expectations of success for the intervention to be used with them before they had actually been assigned to a specific intervention. This detail was corrected in the new study, where participants were told which of the 3 conditions they would receive and after the condition had been described to them only then were they asked to rate the degree to which they thought this described condition would help to reduce their fear.
EFT and Supportive Interview did not differ significantly in their mean expectation scores (i.e. participants thought each might help them) but despite equal expectations they did differ markedly in outcome, with EFT superior in terms of results. The Interview and No Treatment control conditions did differ significantly in terms of expectation however, participants didn’t expect that the no-treatment condition where they would sit and read for 45 minutes would help them very much. Yet despite this, the Supportive Interview did no better than the no-treatment control condition in terms of results. This shows that expectation of the participant cannot explain the superior results obtained by EFT.
Baker and Siegel conducted a follow-up study after a 1.4 years lapse between the time of the original testing and the follow-up. On most measures, the significant effects for the single session of EFT still persisted after this considerable lapse of time and were superior to the results for the two comparison conditions. It is striking that only one session of EFT could still show effects almost one and half years later. This can be said of very few interventions in the field of psychology.