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The Immediate Effect of a Brief Energy Psychology Intervention (EFT) on Specific Phobias

Citation: Salas, M., Brooks, A., & Rowe, J. (2011). The Immediate Effect of a Brief Energy Psychology Intervention (Emotional Freedom Techniques) on Specific Phobias: A Pilot Study. Explore, 7, 155-161. Click here to view Abstract http://goo.gl/nrcYPw

Abstract

Background: Specific phobia is one of the most prevalent anxiety disorders. Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) has been shown to improve anxiety symptoms; however, their application to specific phobias has received limited attention.

Objective: This pilot study examined whether EFT, a brief exposure therapy that combines cognitive and somatic elements, had an immediate effect on the reduction of anxiety and behavior associated with specific phobias.

Design: The study utilized a crossover design with participants randomly assigned to either diaphragmatic breathing or EFT as the first treatment.

Setting: The study was conducted at a regional university in the Southwestern United States.

Participants: Twenty-two students meeting criteria for a phobic response to a specific stimulus (≥8 on an 11-point subjective units of distress scale).

Intervention: Participants completed a total of five two-minute rounds in each treatment intervention.

Outcome Measures: Study measures included a behavioral approach test (BAT), Subjective Units of Distress Scale (SUDS), and Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI).

Results: Emotional Freedom Techniques significantly reduced phobia-related anxiety (BAI P = .042; SUDS P = .002) and ability to approach the feared stimulus (BAT P = .046) whether presented as an initial treatment or following diaphragmatic breathing. When presented as the initial treatment, the effects of EFT remained through the presentation of the comparison intervention.

Conclusions: The efficacy of EFT in treating specific phobias demonstrated in several earlier studies is corroborated by the current investigation. Comparison studies between EFT and the most effective established therapies for treating specific phobias are recommended.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Craig’s Comments

This study continues the exploration of whether EFT is an effective treatment for phobias. The authors compared EFT (5 two-minute rounds) to a known relaxation technique known as diaphragmatic breathing (DB). This small study of 22 participants performed at a university setting examined whether EFT reduced anxiety and behavior associated with specific phobias. Results were measured both by subjective scales (SUDs and the Beck Anxiety scale) as well as an observed behavior scale (BAT) which demonstrated stress behaviors as the participant approached the target fear source. Both groups received both interventions but either as the first or 2nd intervention. Results confirmed that EFT significantly reduced phobia related anxiety and an improved ability to approach the feared stimulus. This of course is a very small study, was not randomized, and had no long term follow up.