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Knock, and it will be opened to you? An evaluation of meridian-tapping in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Citation: Moritz, S, Aravena, S, Guczka, S, Schilling, L., Eichenberg, C., Raubart, G., Seebeck, A., Jelinek, L. Knock and it will be opened to you? An evaluation of meridian-tapping in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, March 2011.

Abstract

Meridian-tapping (MT) is a body-oriented therapeutic technique which among other psychological problems targets anxiety disorders. Despite bold claims by some of its advocates that it brings lasting success in the vast majority of patients with anxiety disorders, solid empirical evidence for its effectiveness is scarce and its theoretical foundations are refuted by many scientists. The present study tested the effectiveness of a published MT self-help approach for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Following a baseline assessment over the internet including standard outcome measures for OCD (Y-BOCS, OCI-R) and depression (BDI-SF), 70 participants with OCD were randomly allocated to MT or to progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). Four weeks after the dispatch of the self-help manuals (including video demonstrations of the technique), participants were requested to take part in a post assessment. Whereas subjects found MT more helpful than PMR in retrospect (39% versus 19%) and would continue to use it in the future (72% versus 48%) there was no evidence for a stronger decline of OCD symptoms under MT on any of the psychometric measures. Moreover, Y-BOCS scores did not significantly change across time for both interventions. The present study does not support bold claims about the effectiveness of MT as a stand-alone technique. Cognitive-behavioral therapy remains the treatment of choice for OCD. While self-help MT may enhance the well-being of a subgroup of participants, its potential for OCD appears to be small. Exaggerated success claims on the effectiveness of MT in conjunction with degrading appraisals of conventional psychotherapy as made by some of its leading figures may in our view foster fatalism in patients not experiencing major symptom relief by MT.

Craig’s Notes

This study was conducted by a team of researchers, some of whom took a skeptical view of meridian tapping (specifically EFT) on the anxiety disorder known as OCD.

The study, conducted in Germany, aimed to test the effectiveness of meridian tapping (EFT). It was conducted by an academic psychologist with the help of an EFT Therapist. Meridian tapping (MT) was compared with Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR). Patients were recruited via the internet and received instruction online and with videos. The researchers cite several reasons for conducting the study via the internet, including that it would allow them to reach a larger group of varied OCD sufferers. Participants were recruited via an online forum for OCD sufferers and were selected based on a series of criteria, including having a professional diagnosis of OCD.

Study participants were not told that the study would be comparing the two modalities. Before beginning the procedure each completed three questionnaires, The Obsessive-Compulsive Inventory Revised, The Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale, and the short form of the Beck Depression Inventory. They were then randomly allocated to either the EFT group or the PMR group and given detailed instructions on how to self-administer. The EFT group was instructed to read the entire 116-page manual online as well as view four videos.

EFT protocol involved first identifying a SUDS level, then repeating a setup statement where they specified their particular issue, then summarizing it as they tapped through the points, and then doing the 9 gamut move. They then estimated their level of stress again and repeat the entire cycle.

Four weeks after receiving instructions, participants were given the same psychological questionnaire, and asked to answer a series of questions about how carefully and how often they had followed the procedure as instructed.

So, what were the results?

Researchers did not feel that this study demonstrated significant effectiveness for either protocol in treating OCD. Although the EFT group did achieve better results than the PMR group, 28% of the EFT group reported improvement versus 17% of the PMR group. However, the researchers speculate that some study limitations could have impacted these results, most notably the fact that it was conducted solely over the internet and that the EFT was not delivered by a qualified practitioner or therapist. There was no real oversight during the four weeks and participants just self-reported how often they did the EFT. Most did not do it every day. Additionally, the researchers note that OCD has a low improvement rate (no more than 50%) when treated by traditional methods such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.