Psychological Trauma in Veterans using EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques): A Randomized Controlled Trial

Dawson Church, PhD, Crystal Hawk, MEd, Audrey Books, PhD, Oliver Toukolehto, Maria Wren, LCSW, Ingrid Dinter, Phyllis Stein, PhD. These data were presented at the Society of Behavioral Medicine, Seattle, Washington, April 7-10, 2010. In peer review.


This study examined the effect of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), a brief exposure therapy combining cognitive and somatic elements, on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and psychological distress symptoms in military veterans receiving mental health services. Veterans meeting the clinical criteria for PTSD were randomized to EFT (n = 30) or wait-list (n = 29; WL).

The EFT intervention consisted of six hour-long EFT coaching sessions concurrent with standard care.  PTSD was assessed using the PTSD Checklist-Military (PCL-M). Psychological distress was measured using the Symptom Assessment 45 (SA-45), which has 2 global scales and 9 subscales for conditions such as anxiety and depression.

The WL and EFT groups were compared pre- and posttest (at 1 month for the WL group, after 6 sessions for EFT group). EFT participants had significantly less psychological distress on the global and on all but one of subscales on the SA-45 (p<0.0002) and the PTSD total score (p<0.0001) at posttest.

90% of the EFT group no longer met PTSD clinical criteria vs. 4% in the WL.

Following the wait-period, WL participants received the EFT intervention. In a within-subjects longitudinal analysis, 60% no longer met PTSD clinical criteria after 3 sessions. This increased to 86% after 6 sessions, and remained at 86% on 3-month follow-up.

Statistically significant decreases in psychological distress and PTSD total scores were present after 6 sessions (p<0.0001), and remained stable at follow-up. The results are consistent with other published reports showing EFTs efficacy at treating PTSD and co-morbid symptoms, and its long-term effects.