Acupuncture and acupressure are ancient practices that have intrigued Western scientists and researchers for many decades.
More recently, science has given these practices validity and acceptance to the extent that a wounded warrior can receive auricular acupuncture for
pain control within minutes of combat injury. Today, it is commonplace for medical centers and hospitals to offer acupuncture for a multitude of illnesses and symtoms.
In 1993, Gary Craig introduced the first Western system for acupoint tapping to reach the mainstream public: Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). Over the past decade, many public media articles have described positive outcomes for military veterans using EFT for combat-related traumas. More recently, academic institutions and clinicians have began to conduct research of their own to further investigate these initial observations.
RESEARCH REVIEW OF "TAPPING"
The RAND Corporation has provided systematic reviews for the treatment of PTSD in veteran populations. They have encouraged further research into new therapies due to the limitations of the currently accepted treatment options1
Recent pilot studies investigating EFT as a treatment modality for PTSD in warriors are summarized below in chronological order:
1.) An initial pilot study found statistically significant reduction in PTSD, depression, and anxiety symptoms in the treated patients, despite a small sample size (N = 7).2
2.) A subsequent pilot study examined the effect of EFT in 11 military veterans and family members during a five day intensive
treatment. This study also found EFT to improve PTSD symptoms. The treated veterans were followed at one month, three months,
and 12 months after treatment, and the benefits obtained during the study were maintained during the follow-up period.3
3.) A larger randomized trial of a six one-hour EFT treatment protocol was conducted next. The results of this study
showed that 85% of treated veterans (N=48) tested negative for PTSD on the PCL-M questionnaire after they received EFT
(score >50 on PCL-M indicated the presence of PTSD). The study did not use an active control group due to resource limitations, but a wait-list control group was used which demonstrated that the PTSD symptoms remained unchanged during the wait-period. The study has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease in 2012-2013.4
4.) Another study in 2011 compared the efficacy of EFT and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) in the treatment PTSD.
Both therapies demonstrated equivalence and a statistically significant treatment effect.5
EFT has also been used in civilian studies of PTSD with successful results.6,7,8 So far, EFT has been reported to be safe as well as a treatment of choice amongst some therapists treating highly traumatized populations.9,10,11 The technique is simple, recorded in literature, and delivered in a consistent manner in research.12,13 Additionally, EFT appears to be effective outside the clinical research milieu. Preliminary
clinical data from the Warrior Combat Stress Reset Program at Fort Hood supports the use of EFT in the treatment of deployment related stress in veterans.
Many warriors even learn to “tap” on their own and continue to use it even after discharge from the program.
It is important at this point to emphasize that EFT has not yet gone through sufficient number of randomized controlled trials needed to
distinguish a true treatment effect from placebo, chance, or confounders. On the other hand, due to minimal safety concerns, noninvasiveness,
cost-effectiveness, and its validated components (Exposure therapy, acupressure/acupuncture, and Cognitive Behavior Therapy), it is
in our opinion reasonable to at least inform our warriors that “tapping” is available for those who are interested.
1. Tanielian, T., Jaycox, L. H. (Eds). (2008). Invisible wounds of war: psychological and cognitive injuries, their consequences, and services to assist recovery. Santa Monica: Rand Corp. MG-720-CCF.
2. Church, D., Geronilla, L. & Dinter, I., (2009). Psychological symptom change in veterans after six sessions of EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques): an observational study. International Journal of Healing and Caring, January, 9:1.
3. Church, D. (2009). The treatment of combat trauma in veterans using EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques): A pilot protocol. Traumatology, 15:4.
4. Church, D. Hawk C. et al (2011). "Psychological Trauma Symptom Improvement in Veterans Using EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques): A Randomized Controlled Trial". Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. Accepted for publication for 2012-2013.
5. Karatzias, R., Power, K., Brown, K. McGoldrickm T., et al. (2011). A controlled comparison of the effectiveness and efficiency of two psychological therapies for posttraumatic stress disorder; Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing vs. Emotional Freedom Techniques. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. 100 (6), 372-378.
6. Feinstein, D. (2008) Energy psychology in disaster relief. Traumatology 141:1, 124-137.
7. Feinstein, D. (2008). Energy psychology: a review of the preliminary evidence. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training. 45(2), 199-213.
8. Lambrou, P. T., Pratt, G. J., & Chevalier, G. (2003). Physiological and psychological effects of a mind/body therapy on claustrophobia. Subtle Energies & Energy Medicine, 14, 239-251.
9. Mollon, P. (2007). Thought Field Therapy and its derivatives: rapid relief of mental health problems through tapping on the body. Primary Care and Community Psychiatry, 12:3-4, p 123-127.
10. Schulz, P. (2009). Therapists’ views on integrating energy psychology in work with survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Energy Psychology: Theory, Research, & Treatment, 1(1), 15-22.
11. Flint, G. A., Lammers, W., & Mitnick, D. G. (2005). Emotional Freedom Techniques: A safe treatment intervention for many trauma based issues. In J. Garrick & M. B. Williams (Eds.), Trauma treatment techniques: Innovative trends. New York: Routledge, 125.
12. Craig, G. (2008). The EFT Manual. Santa Rosa: Energy Psychology Press.
13. Craig, G. (2009). EFT for PTSD. Santa Rosa: Energy Psychology Press.