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Making sense of chronic disease using Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT): An existential view of illness

Citation (APA style): Kalla, M., Simmons, M., Robinson, A., & Stapleton, P. (2020). Making sense of chronic disease using Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT): An existential view of illness. Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, 16(4), 214-224. doi:10.1016/j.explore.2020.03.006


Objective: This article explores chronic disease patients’ personal symbolic meanings of their diseases, as emergent from their experience of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) therapy. The present study is part of a larger study that explored chronic disease patients’ and EFT practitioners’ experiences of using EFT to support chronic disease healthcare.

Design: Eight chronic disease patients who had received EFT were interviewed for this study. Semi-structured interviews were conducted face to face, or via telephone or the online videoconferencing platform Zoom. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and data were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis methodology.

Results: Three themes emerged, namely “illness as an embodiment of unresolved emotional issues,” “illness as body’s call for time-out and attention,” and “illness as a boundary from other people.”

Conclusion: EFT offers promise as a suitable therapeutic approach to help chronic disease patients make sense of their life stories and lived experiences and, consequently, symbolic meanings of diseases. The exploration of illness symbology and meaning-making may offer therapeutic value to patients, from both an existential and a health behaviors perspective.

Keywords: Emotional Freedom Techniques, EFT, chronic disease, Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, IPA, symbolic disease, illness construction

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