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Reductions in Pain, Depression, and Anxiety Symptoms After PTSD Remediation in Veterans

Citation

Dawson Church, Ph.D, These data were presented at the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology conference, San Diego, June 4, 2012. Full paper.

Abstract

A randomized controlled trial of veterans with clinical levels of PTSD symptoms found significant improvements after EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques). Although pain, depression, and anxiety were not the primary targets of treatment, significant improvements in these conditions were noted. Subjects (N = 59) received 6 sessions of EFT coaching supplementary to primary care. They were assessed using the SA-45, which measures 9 mental health symptom domains, and also has 2 general scales measuring the breadth and depth of psychological distress. Anxiety and depression both reduced significantly, as did the breadth and depth of psychological symptoms. Pain decreased significantly during the intervention period (– 41%, p < .0001). Subjects were followed at 3 and 6 months, revealing significant relationships between PTSD, depression, and anxiety at several assessment points. At follow-up, pain remained significantly lower than at pretest. The results of this study are consistent with other reports showing that, as PTSD symptoms are reduced, general mental health improves, and pain levels drop. The ability of EFT to produce reliable and long-term gains after relatively brief interventions indicates its utility in reducing the estimated trillion-dollar cost of treating veteran mental health disorders in the coming years.

Craig’s Notes

The researcher notes that 30% of veterans suffer some form of PTSD, which when considering Vietnam and Iraq war veterans, looks like well over one million veterans suffering. Combat trauma affects spouses, children and many aspects of the veterans’ lives. Many are in prison, homeless or suffer from depression, anxiety, pain and other psychological symptoms, and the passage of time does not seem to ameliorate the symptoms. In fact, PTSD has been reported to become more acute with the passage of time.

Since the 1980s, much research has been done in an attempt to find efficacious therapies. In the 1990s when Iraq war veterans began presenting with PTSD, some pilot studies were undertaken on the efficacy of EFT for this disorder. Both veterans and their families received up to six sessions of EFT and results were positive.

In this study, veteran participants with a PTSD Checklist score of 50 or more were recruited. A range of other psychological symptoms were assessed as well as pain levels. These levels were assessed immediately before beginning a series of six EFT sessions. EFT was offered as peer-to-peer coaching in order to minimize a perception of a power differential. Assessments were completed after 3 sessions and again after 6 sessions, and follow up data gathered after 3 and 6 months. EFT was administered to roughly half of the participants according to the Manual. Practitioners and participants created lists of traumatic events, which participants rated on the SUDs scale. EFT was performed on each memory until it was down to 0 or close, and participants were encouraged to use EFT between sessions.

So, what were the results?

All participants experienced reduced levels of anxiety and depression based on their clinical scores. These gains remained fairly stable at the follow-ups. Pain levels also changed over time with the most significant change being after 3 sessions.

Since EFT can be administered by individuals who are not medical professionals, and since positive results can be achieved after a relatively short time period (6 EFT sessions), the study indicates that it is indeed an efficacious therapy for PTSD. Veterans who are PTSD sufferers are far more likely to commit to a shorter program of therapy, rather than the traditional year-long treatment at VA centers.

This study adds to a body of work showing that a wide range of psychological symptoms can be relieved through the use of EFT, most notably anxiety, depression, pain and related PTSD symptoms.