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The immediate effect of a brief energy psychology intervention (EFT) on specific phobias: A randomized controlled trial

Citation (APA Style): Salas, M., Brooks, A. J., & Rowe, J. E. (2011). The immediate effect of a brief energy psychology intervention (EFT) on specific phobias: A randomized controlled trial. Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, 7(3), 255-160.


Background: Specific phobia is one of the most prevalent anxiety disorders. Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) has been shown to improve anxiety symptoms; however, their application to specific phobias has received limited attention.

Objective: This pilot study examined whether EFT, a brief exposure therapy that combines cognitive and somatic elements, had an immediate effect on the reduction of anxiety and behavior associated with specific phobias.

Design: The study utilized a crossover design with participants randomly assigned to either diaphragmatic breathing or EFT as the first treatment.

Setting: The study was conducted at a regional university in the Southwestern United States.

Participants: Twenty-two students meeting criteria for a phobic response to a specific stimulus (< 8 on an 11-point subjective units of distress scale).

Intervention: Participants completed a total of five two-minute rounds in each treatment intervention.Outcome Measures: Study measures included a behavioral approach test (BAT), Subjective Units of Distress Scale (SUDS), and Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI).

Results: Emotional Freedom Techniques significantly reduced phobia-related anxiety (BAI P < .042; SUDS P < .002) and ability to approach the feared stimulus (BAT P < .046) whether presented as an initial treatment or following diaphragmatic breathing. When presented as the initial treatment, the effects of EFT remained through the presentation of the comparison intervention.

Conclusions: The efficacy of EFT in treating specific phobias demonstrated in several earlier studies is corroborated by the current investigation. Comparison studies between EFT and the most effective established therapies for treating specific phobias are recommended.

Keywords: Specific phobias, energy psychology, Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), anxiety, exposure treatment

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