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EFT Research Paper

Efficacy of Two Evidence-Based Therapies, Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), for the Treatment of gender Violence in the Congo: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Citation: Nemiro, A., Papworth, S., Efficacy of Two Evidence-Based Therapies, Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), for the Treatment of gender Violence in the Congo: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Energy Psychology Journal. November 2015. LINK HERE to see the source journal where you can purchase the study.


Psychological trauma in the aftermath of sexual violence is a persistent problem in both developing and developed nations, and appropriate treatment techniques are needed to address the special needs of this population. The objective of this study was to assess whether two evidence-based therapeutic methods for PTSD, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), are efficacious for sexual gender-based violence (SGBV). Participants were 50 internally displaced female refugees who had been victims of SGBV in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). They were assessed using the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire (HTQ) and the Hopkins Symptom Checklist–25 (HSCL-25), which measures general mental health. Participants received two 2-1/2 hour treatment sessions per week for 4 consecutive weeks (eight sessions total). Assessments occurred before and after treatment, and 6 months later. Participants demonstrated significant post test improvement in both groups on both measures. Follow-up assessments showed that participants maintained their gains over time whether treated with EFT or CBT. The results are consistent with earlier trials, and indicate that both EFT and CBT are efficacious when delivered in group format, as well as being effective treatments for SGBV in the setting of a developing nation.

Craig’s Comments

This study, conducted by a licensed professional counselor who has worked extensively in the Congo, and a biostatistician, adds to the already prolific body of studies showing that both CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and EFT produce effective and long-term positive results for sufferers of PTSD. This study focused on refugee survivors of sexual violence who suffered from PTSD as a result.

This side by side study, evaluating the effectiveness of EFT to an accepted “gold standard” psychological therapeutic intervention gives additional weight to the importance of this study.

The researchers note that a 2004 United Nations report stated that 59.5 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide, with 57.7 million being registered as refugees. They additionally note that female refugees are especially susceptible to sexual violence, which can cause higher rates of PTSD in the population. In war-torn Africa PTSD is the most common mental disorder, estimated to affect 30-40% of the population.

The study measured the immediate and longer term effects of both CBT and EFT on two separate groups of women refugees who were suffering from PTSD.

The participants were all clients of a center for displaced women who were survivors of the war in the Congo, and they were assessed using the Hopkins Symptom Checklist and the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire.

The CBT group received two therapy sessions per week with using Group Therapy Manual for Cognitive- Behavioral Treatment for Depression. The EFT group also received two sessions per week, using EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) based on the EFT Manual. Each session lasted 2 ½ hours. Both CBT and EFT therapists were trained mental health professionals. Assessments were completed before and after treatment, and again six months later. It is noteworthy that such a lengthy session for EFT, of 2 1/2 hours, is exceedingly rare as compared to most EFT intervention sessions in the research which is typically 60 minutes or less.

So – What were the results?

No significant differences were found between the two groups, indicating that CBT and EFT are equally effective in reducing symptoms of PTSD in refugee women who suffered sexual violence. Their scores were significantly reduced after treatment, and were still below baseline six months later. However, the CBT group showed an even greater reduction in the 6-month follow-up measurement.

Researchers speculated that there is a possibility that since all the participants lived in the same center during the six months that perhaps the EFT group could have shared some of the technique with the CBT group – which could explain the significant drop in scores for the CBT group in the 6-month followup. In a future study they recommend including a group that receives both CBT and EFT treatment to measure this.

This study adds to the body of work demonstrating that both EFT and CBT are effective treatment for PTSD symptoms. It indicates that these two therapies should be considered treatments for institutions that are assisting refugees.

Acknowledgments: I would like to acknowledge the assistance of Sarah Grace Powers with regards to the formulation of the Craig’s Comments section.