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A Narrative and Systematic Review of the Effectiveness of Emotional Freedom Technique

Boath, EH.,  Stewart, T & Carryer A. (2012) A narrative systematic review of the effectiveness of Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).  Staffordshire University, CPSI Monograph.



EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) is a new and emerging energy psychology. This narrative systematic review aimed to identify and assess the quality of all published randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of EFT in order to: evaluate the effectiveness of EFT in treating a range of psychological disorders and to compare the effectiveness of EFT with other interventions used for treating those disorders.


A literature search was carried out of CINAHL, Cochrane Library, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, PsychARTICLES, Proquest, PubMED, Sciencedirect, SPORTdiscus, Swetswise, Web of Knowledge, Web of Science and ZETOC, using the key terms EFT and energy psychology. Calls for published, unpublished and ongoing RCTs of EFT were sent to Newsletters and to the Association of Energy Psychology and the Foundation for Epigenetic Medicine. Contact was made with researchers and practitioners in the field. Conference proceedings and reference lists of retrieved articles were hand searched. Abstracts of articles were reviewed and full copies acquired if they title and/or abstract identified the paper as an RCT of EFT. Two authors independently rated and assessed the quality of each trial using the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP) for randomised controlled trials and the Jadad Scale.


The search strategy identified a total of 42 published studies of EFT. Seven RCTs of EFT were included. Methodological flaws in the studies are highlighted and discussed. EFT was shown to be effective in treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ( PTSD), Fibromyalgia, Phobias, test anxiety and athletic performance. EFT was shown to be superior to diaphragmatic breathing (DB), Progressive Muscular Relaxation (PMR), an inspirational lecture and a Support Group. Only Eye Movement, Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) was superior to EFT. EFT may be an efficient and effective intervention for a range of psychological disorders. Given the methodological limitation of these RCTs, further good quality research on EFT is warranted.

In conclusion, this review suggests that EFT may be an efficient and effective intervention for a range of disorders. However, given methodological flaws in the studies outlined above the results presented here are tentative and as such further good quality research into the effectiveness of EFT is warranted.

Craig’s Notes:

This was an early systematic review performed in 2012 when only 6 clinical trials had been performed. Since that time, over 40 trials have been performed and published regarding EFT.  This early review was right to both point out the limitations of many of the early studies and recommend significant further research be performed of an increased quality and on a wider range of disorders.