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TBI Symptoms Improve After PTSD Remediation With Emotional Freedom Techniques

Citation: Dawson Church (no citation information available in the PDF). Full paper.

Abstract

A group of 59 veterans with clinical levels of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms received Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) coaching in a randomized controlled trial. A significant percentage dropped below the clinical threshold after 6 sessions of EFT (86%, p < .0001) and remained subclinical at 3-month and 6-month follow-ups. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and somatoform symptoms isolated from the data set for detailed analysis are presented in the current paper. Compared with pretest, significant reductions in TBI symptoms were found after 3 sessions, with a further reduction after 6 months (−41%, p < .0021). Participant gains were maintained on 3-month and 6-month follow-up (p < .0006). These results point to the poorly defined distinction between TBI and PTSD symptoms, the potential for partial TBI rehabilitation as a sequel to successful PTSD treatment, and the possibility of long-term maintenance of clinical gains.

Notes

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) causes severe problems for many former soldiers deployed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. This, along with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and major depression cause tens of thousands of soldiers major suffering well after they have returned to civilian life. A 2008 RAND survey suggests that out of the 2.4 million US soldiers deployed since 2001, over 400,000 may have sustained a brain injury.

Many of the physical symptoms of TBI are similar to those of PTSD. But, research into TBI treatment is still in its infancy, many sufferers are left untreated, and costs to society are high. RAND estimated that the costs of treating TBI in the year following diagnosis was in the range of $554–$854 million, with moderate and severe TBI accounting for one third of the total number but 92% of total costs.

Although there is accumulating evidence of the efficacy of EFT for reducing the symptoms of PTSD, little is known about its effects on TBI or on comorbid TBI and PTSD.

This study sought to see if EFT is effective for reducing symptoms of TBD. Researchers postulated that since former studies have demonstrated the resolution of PTSD symptoms following the use of EFT, this might correlate with a reduction in TBI symptoms. Alternatively, they wanted to see if the study could simply point to the poorly defined distinctions between PTSD and TBI symptoms. Regardless of their source—whether TBI or PTSD—the point of the research was to examine how effective EFT was in reducing these symptoms.

Recruitment for the study was done through referrals by VA clinicians and through social networking, both online and through veteran’s groups. To be included in the study, participants had to show PTSD symptoms in the clinical range. They also had to be under the care of a clinician from a VA or other licensed health care facility. Researchers ended up with a total 59 subjects.

EFT was introduced to participants as peer-to-peer coaching rather than as therapy, although the EFT was administered by certified EFT Coaches, some of whom were licensed mental health professionals. All EFT treatments were given according the EFT Manual.

Participants completed assessments prior to beginning the study, and again after three sessions of the intervention, after six sessions of EFT coaching, at treatment completion; and at 3- and 6-month follow-ups.

Participants rated how often they were bothered in the 4 weeks preceding the survey using nine different common symptoms of TBD that had been determined by the researchers. They also rated whether they had ever had an additional 17 specific symptoms that were suggestive of TBI. Respondents rated each item on a 3-point scale (never, occasionally, or frequently).

So, what were the results? 

Study participants who received EFT experienced a statistically significant decrease in their TBI symptoms between the pretesting and Session 6, and there was also a significant decrease between Session 3 and Session 6. The wait-list control group remained unchanged. The study offers some initial, tentative evidence for the potential remediation of TBI symptoms for soldiers and others who present with both TBD and clinical PTSD.

Although researchers state they cannot be sure which elements of each disorder were resolved by EFT, the data indicate that EFT effectively addresses the multiple symptoms involved with both of these conditions. Further studies are needed to ‘disentangle’ PTSD from TBD, but the initial results are encouraging.