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The lived experience of chronic pain and the impact of brief Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) group therapy on coping

Citation (APA style): Stapleton, P., Chatwin, H., Sheppard, L., & McSwan, J. (2016). The lived experience of chronic pain and the impact of brief Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) group therapy on coping. Energy Psychology: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 8(2), 18—28.


Chronic pain is associated with a range of physical, psychological, and social risk factors, and successful treatment aims to reduce pain and improve function and quality of life for patients. In order to explore the impact, challenges, and current experience of chronic pain sufferers, an anonymous online open-ended qualitative survey was developed and analyzed for manifest and latent content. This then informed a brief four-hour therapy session using Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), a brief cognitive intervention with a somatic component. The qualitative study highlighted issues sufferers had with employment, interpersonal relationships, and emotions. An overwhelming 82% discussed the stigma they experienced from health professionals not believing the extent of their pain, and only 4% indicated they received any pain relief from psychological treatment. Paired samples t-tests revealed a significant decrease in the severity (—12.04%, p = 0.044) and impact (—17.62%, p = 0.008) of participants’ pain from pretest to posttest, and a significant improvement in their overall psychological distress from pretest to posttest (—36.67%, p < 0.001). There was also a significant improvement in participants’ depression (—29.86%, p = 0.007), anxiety (—41.69%, p < 0.001), and stress (—38.48%, p = 0.001) from pretest to posttest. A significant association was found between pain and psychological distress. Finally, a significant overall main effect of time was found at six-months’ follow-up, although pairwise comparisons did not indicate any significant results across all time points. Findings are consistent with other research indicating the effectiveness of brief and group-delivered EFT and are discussed in terms of psychological treatment for chronic pain. Future research is proposed.

Keywords: chronic pain, Emotional Freedom Techniques, EFT, tapping, coping

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