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Q: Are EFT”™s results due to either the placebo effect or the distraction of tapping?

A: Funnily enough, EFT works more effectively when someone is in the present moment (as in mindfulness) rather than distracted. Because the technique is focused on acknowledging one’s current problem/level of distress, being distracted means it won’t actually work. EFT works by someone staying present with the Reminder Phrases and continuing to tap to reduce any distress/discomfort. The research trials with long-term follow-ups (e.g., pain, PTSD, food cravings, depression, anxiety studies, and more) are all aimed at examining whether the effects of an EFT trial remain. The studies typically show that the gains made during the intervention remain many months and even years later. Participants don’t report a return to their baseline state; they usually report the gains are still there.

Placebos are common in medical trials and usually involve subjects taking a sugar pill, for example, but they believe, or are told, it is an active medication. When they take the sugar pill but report positive medical outcomes anyway, it is called the placebo effect. It is the subjects’ belief rather than the content of the sugar pill that impacted their outcomes. Exactly why the placebo effect works is still unknown, but many studies have shown that practically any treatment can induce healing as long as the patient feels they are being looked after and their problem is being treated. Fundamentally, if you think a treatment is going to work, then it will; if you believe you can and will get better, this allows your own mind to do the healing for you.

There have now been six dismantling studies of EFT, which have indicated that the acupressure component of EFT (tapping) is an active ingredient and not a placebo. The fact that EFT can still help relieve someone of distress even if they don’t believe it will work may be proof that belief is not required and that the placebo effect is not occurring.

–Peta Stapleton, PhD, Certified EFT Practitioner, Trainer, and Mentor