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EFT Research Paper

The Effect of Emotional Freedom Technique, EFT on Stress Biochemistry: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Citation: Church, D., Yount, G. & Brooks, A. (2012). The Effect of Emotional Freedom Technique EFT on Stress Biochemistry: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 200(10), 891–896. Click here to view Abstract http://goo.gl/nt3riA


This study examined the changes in cortisol levels and psychological distress symptoms of 83 nonclinical subjects receiving a single hour long intervention. Subjects were randomly assigned to either an emotional freedom technique (EFT) group, a psychotherapy group receiving a supportive interviews (SI), or a no treatment (NT) group. Salivary cortisol assays were performed immediately before and 30 minutes after the intervention. Psychological distress symptoms were assessed using the symptom assessment-45. The EFT group showed statistically significant improvements in anxiety (-58.34%, p < 0.05), depression (-49.33%, p < 0.002), the overall severity of symptoms (-50.5%, p < 0.001), and symptom breadth (-41.93%, p < 0.001). The EFT group experienced a significant decrease in cortisol level (-24.39%; SE, 2.62) compared with the decrease observed in the SI (-14.25%; SE, 2.61) and NT (-14.44%; SE, 2.67) groups (p < 0.03). The decrease in cortisol levels in the EFT group mirrored the observed improvement in psychological distress.

Editor’s Note

This is a very important study published in the oldest peer-reviewed psychology journal in the U.S. I look forward to further exploration and follow up work to be done on this study. The potential for validating cortisol reduction as a result of EFT is a powerful mechanism for action that would offer a substantial explanation for many of the results seen with the application of EFT as well as further open doors to its potential use with a wide variety of physical and psychological symptoms and conditions that are stress mediated.

According to a press release from the Foundation for Epigenetic Medicine, “A study published in the prestigious Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, the oldest peer-reviewed psychology journal in the United States, found that Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) lowered the major stress hormone cortisol significantly more than other interventions tested. In a randomized controlled trial (the gold standard of scientific research), 83 subjects were randomly assigned to a single hour-long session of EFT, talk therapy, or rest. Their cortisol levels were measured via a saliva test before and after the session. Cortisol is the “master hormone” regulating many aspects of the body’s stress response mechanisms…The results showed that cortisol levels in the rest and therapy groups declined by an average of 14%, while the EFT group declined 24%. The decline in this physiological marker of stress was also significantly correlated with a decline in anxiety, depression, and other psychological symptoms as measured by a standard psychological assessment tool.”

Garret Yount, PhD, of the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute, the study’s primary author reported that “This is exciting because it is the first randomized controlled trial of EFT to evaluate a physiological biomarker (i.e., cortisol levels) and it shows robust, positive effects. It sets the stage for further research to explore whether EFT affects other physiological systems, including the expression of genes involved in the stress response.” Full study unavailable for review by author.