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EFT; A Cutting Edge Fourth Wave Somatic Trauma Release Tool

Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) is a set of somatic trauma release modalities that focuses on the connection between the body and the mind. These techniques involves tapping on specific points on the body while focusing on a traumatic event or negative emotion. One might also make the case that EFT uses counterconditioning, gentle exposure (Exposure Therapy), and cognitive acceptance (CBT).  While many might still view EFT only as a way to remove energetic blocks from the merdian system as per the Traditional Chinese Medicine model of healing, here we make the case for describing EFT as a somatic trauma release and a counterconditioning tool. 

Counterconditioning is a type of therapy that involves changing the emotional response to a particular stimulus by pairing it with a different response. One form of therapy that uses counterconditioning is systematic desensitization. This therapy is often used to treat phobias, anxiety disorders, and PTSD.

Systematic desensitization involves gradually exposing the individual to the feared stimulus while pairing it with a relaxation response. This process aims to replace the fear response with a sense of calm and relaxation. For example, a person with a fear of spiders may be gradually exposed to pictures of spiders while engaging in relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation. As the individual becomes more comfortable with the stimulus, they can move on to more direct exposure, such as being in the same room as a spider.

In the example above a skillful trauma informed EFT practitioner might first have a client imagine even saying the word “spider” (trigger) and have the client tap (countercondition) on how they feel about that piece before proceeding. From there the practitioner might have the client imagine the next time they might encounter a spider and tap on that made up future scenario. Once that is neutral the client may be asked if they have any past memories where a spider might have been the cause of distress and each memory is then addressed gently using different EFT tapping techniques such as Tell the Story for traumatic memories. 

Only after releasing enough of these memories is the client asked if they feel comfortable looking first at a still image of a spider, then perhaps a video of a spider and finally seeing a real spider. At any point in the process if the client feels distress more tapping is applied since EFT, when done well, is not about “throwing someone off the deep end of the pool to learn to swim” but rather a well-paced thorough tool that uses a lot of calibration and titration. 

There have been several studies examining the effect of Emotional Freedom Techniques on cortisol levels, a hormone associated with stress. Cortisol levels are often used as a biomarker of stress and can indicate the effectiveness of stress-reduction techniques.

A 2012 study published in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease examined the effects of EFT on cortisol levels in veterans with PTSD. The study found that after six EFT sessions, participants had a significant reduction in cortisol levels compared to a control group that received standard therapy.

Another study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2013 looked at the effect of EFT on cortisol levels in women with food cravings. The study found that after four weeks of EFT, participants had a significant reduction in cortisol levels compared to a control group.

A 2019 study published in Psychological Trauma examined the effects of EFT on cortisol levels in adults with a history of childhood trauma. The study found that after six EFT sessions, participants had a significant reduction in cortisol levels compared to a control group that received talk therapy.

Overall, these studies suggest that EFT may be effective in reducing cortisol levels. It is clear that there is some sort of mechanism that allows the tapping to send stress-reducing signals to the brain make it both a form of counterconditioning and somatic release. 

Somatic therapy suggests that emotional and psychological traumas can be stored in the body. Therefore, it’s crucial to address the body’s sensations and feelings when working with emotional trauma. EFT provides a way to address emotional trauma by working with the body by physical tapping on points located on the face and upper body. This process aims to release the negative thoughts and dysregulation in the nervous system  associated with a traumatic or distressing event.

While these studies suggest that somatic release may be more effective than CBT in some cases, it’s important to note that every individual’s experience of trauma is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. It’s also important to work with a trained professional and choose a modality that feels safe and comfortable for you.

Research has shown that EFT is effective in reducing symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Studies have found that after several sessions of EFT, individuals experienced significant reductions in their symptoms of anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances.

There are many ways to use EFT as a safe self-help non-invasive technique that can be done at any time and in the comfort of your own home. However, it’s crucial to work with a trained trauma informed professional when dealing trauma, complex issues or when learning the most effective way to apply it.