Emotional Freedom Techniques reduce stress: Another study makes the point, and an APA journal publishes it

(by Sarah Murphy, LPC)  The journal Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy published a special issue on complementary and integrative approaches to trauma therapy a few months ago. The issue includes a study by Peta Stapleton and colleagues showing that EFT reduces physiological stress as demonstrated by significant decreases in the stress hormone cortisol. 

Study methods

This randomized controlled study replicated a 2012 study by Dawson Church. In the current study, researchers randomized 53 study participants into three, one-hour treatment conditions: EFT, psychoeducation, and a no treatment group. 

They measured salivary cortisol (a sensitive marker of stress) 30 minutes before and after treatment. The levels dropped significantly in the EFT group. Researchers also administered the SA-45, a brief measure of psychological symptoms.

Study results: EFT reduces stress

The difference between the EFT group and the control groups (psychoeducation and no treatment) was huge. The EFT group’s cortisol dropped almost 20% lower than the psychoeducation group. The no treatment group actually experienced an increase in cortisol. The researchers did not find significant changes in the SA-45 among any participants. However, according to Stapleton, the SA-45 is “not designed to measure change over one hour, but rather the previous 7 days.” They needed to use this measure, she said, as this study was a replication and the measure was used in the original.

The biomarker of stress reduction ― the cortisol reduction ― was clear. Interestingly, the drop in cortisol was almost double what was found in the original study: there was a 43.24% drop in the current study, compared to a 24.7% drop in the 2012 study. The current study used EFT in a group; the original study delivered EFT individually. This “suggests borrowed benefits are at play,” Stapleton observed.

Why this study matters

In their introduction to the special issue, editors Sandra Mattar and Paul Frewen wrote that mind-body approaches to healing have been used for thousands of years yet, until recently, they have largely been ignored by modern Western society. 

Today, they write, these methods are widely used. One in three adults in the US have used complementary and integrative health (CIH) approaches to healing, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (part of the National Institutes of Health). An international study found that 99.6% of psychologists have used at least one CIH treatment in the last year, and 64% were trained in delivering them. 

These methods are not just popular: There is a growing body of research demonstrating the effectiveness of these techniques in treating trauma. However, mainstream psychology has not embraced them. Yet. 

A win for EFT

The latest study adds to the body of research demonstrating the effectiveness of EFT for reducing stress. The fact that an APA journal published this study is a win for EFT and energy psychology. Kudos to Stapleton and her team for getting published in this APA journal! These techniques work, and there is strong experimental evidence that they do. Moreover, people need help. Let’s all commit to continuing our efforts to not just healing our clients but to spreading the word about energy psychology.

If you’d like to brush up on the science of energy psychology and energy healing, you can take ACEP’s course and earn CE/CME/CNE here. Want a free taste of the full course? Sign up for ACEP’s free master class on the Science of Energy Healing.

To read some research highlights, check out this blog and ACEP’s Quick Facts. Not an ACEP member? Consider joining us


Sarah Murphy, LPC, is a licensed professional counselor and coach with more than 12 years of clinical experience. She specializes in energy psychology, including EFT, as well as mindfulness and hypnotherapy. In her therapy practice, she works with individuals seeking to find peace within themselves, people who have serious medical diagnoses, and couples who want to resolve conflict and live in harmony. Sarah’s personal motto is that we are here to create a more peaceful world, one more-peaceful person at a time. She is an ACEP member and chair of the Communications Committee. Learn more at www.transformative-therapy.com

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash


  1. zanne1234 says:

    This is great news. An APA journal with a powerful impact factor. That’s what we need to gp for.


  2. While I appreciate inclusion of the link to the issue page for the journal (https://content.apa.org/PsycARTICLES/journal/tra/12/8) I’d love to see this DOI link (https://doi.org/10.1037/tra0000563) to the APA publication included in this article. That would make it much easier for people (EFT supporters and skeptics alike) to confirm publication & spread the word!

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