Biological and psychological measurement of EFT for depression: A case study

By Dawson Church

While stories like the thousands on this site are valuable, research allows us to give numerical scores to the improvements people experience. If you have a cut on your arm, you can observe how long it takes to heal. You can also see visually if the healing process slows or speeds up. Using scores for psychological wellbeing allows us to do the same thing for the mind and emotions as observation allows us to do for the body.

One of my early studies examined the use of EFT in treating depression. The subject of the experiment was Anne, a 45 year old woman who was diagnosed with clinical depression more than ten years previously. She used an antidepressant medication called Zoloft for the first few years, and it allowed her to function, though she found the side effects to be unpleasant. Her depression lifted temporarily three years previously when she fell in love, but after the brief relationship ended, she found herself back in the hole. Rather than going back on antidepressants, she decided to “white knuckle it” without them.

I measured her depression in two distinct ways. One was by using a widely used questionnaire called the Beck Depression Inventory or BDI. It has 23 questions that measure various aspects of depression, and a low score indicates a low level of depression, while a high score indicates greater depression.

I also used a second test called a “bioassay.” This particular bioassay was developed by a research team at the University of Arizona led by a distinguished psychologist named Gary Schwartz. Bioassays measure the degree of plant growth. The theory is that if the life energy of a seed is compromised, it will grow less rapidly. If the life energy is enhanced, it will grow better.

In my experimental design, my research assistant had Anne hold a packet of 20 seeds in her hands at the beginning of the session, after completing a BDI questionnaire. An EFT practitioner then did a 2 ½ hour session with Anne, addressing many aspects of her depression. Anne then held a second packet of seeds in her hand, and completed a second BDI.

Back at Soul Medicine Institute, the seeds were carefully prepared for germination in Petri dishes, and sprouted for 72 hours. A third group of seeds was simultaneously sprouted; this third control group had not been held by anyone. All three groups of seeds were treated identically. The person caring for the seeds was blind to which dish was which.

  • Seeds held before treatment: 5 failed to germinate, 4 developed root hairs.
  • Seeds held after treatment: 1 failed to germinate, 14 developed root hairs.
  • Seeds not held: 2 failed to germinate, 4 developed root hairs..

The results of the BDI echoed the growth rate of the seeds. Anne scored 23 on the BDI before treatment. Right after treatment, she scored 3. This was a very large drop. We tested her again 30 days after the session to see if the results had held, and her score was 16. In 60 days, it had gone down even more, to 13.

So her score of depression on the BDI, which is the most widely used questionnaire for depression, was much lower two months after a single comprehensive EFT treatment. The plant growth measurements corroborated this change.

These results are consistent with published studies showing EFTs efficacy for depression.