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Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) remediates dental fear: A case series

Citation (APA style): Cartland, A. M. (2016). Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) remediates dental fear: A case series. Energy Psychology: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 8(2), 42—66.


The suitability of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) as a treatment for dental fear was investigated, using a case series design. The sample comprised four women with high dental fear and one woman with anxiety in regards to gagging (but low dental fear), all aged between 52 and 70 (M = 60.8). Over eight weeks, repeated measures were collected during a three-week baseline phase, a four-week treatment phase, and at posttest. Follow-up was conducted at an average of 7.5 months. Weekly target measures tracked state anxiety, state dental anxiety, and the averseness of common dental stimuli. Trait dental fear, negative dental beliefs, and traumatic stress were evaluated at pretest and posttest. During the treatment phase, four sessions of EFT treatment (of one-hour duration) were administered to each participant. By study’s end, participants’ scores (collectively) on one to six (out of 10) commonly feared dental stimuli had moved into the normal range. Pretest and posttest analysis indicated that all four of the high dental fear participants achieved reliable and clinically significant change on measures of trait dental fear and/or state dental anxiety, and, for three of them, on negative dental beliefs. These changes mean a reduction in scores away from the clinical mean toward the normal mean, of a size equal to or greater than two standard deviations of the clinical mean, and which could not be due to measurement error (that is, it is more than 1.96 times as large as the standard error of the difference) but can be trusted to be reliable using the Reliable Change Index (RCI > 1.96, p < .05). Follow-up data for the three participants that responded to the request indicated that gains were held and in some cases increased. Results are consistent with randomized controlled trials, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses showing that EFT is an evidence-based treatment for anxiety.

Keywords: cognitions, dental anxiety, dental fear, EFT, Emotional Freedom Techniques, exposure, single case design, tapping, trauma, treatment

Click here for the article page on the Energy Psychology journal website