How the Emotional Freedom Technique Treats Anxiety

Alternative Treatment for Panic and Anxiety

Sports woman hyperventilating panic attack
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The Emotional Freedom Technique, or simply EFT, is an experimental method that has grown in popularity. If you have been contemplating the use of EFT for the treatment of panic disorder, it is important to be aware that the effectiveness of this alternative method has not been established and has often been considered "pseudoscience" by the clinical psychology community.

The following describes an overview of EFT and considerations about this alternative method.

How It Works

The Emotional Freedom Technique, or simply EFT, is a method that was developed by Gary Craig with the desire to help clients let go of negative thoughts, memories, and emotions. This technique involves stimulating specific pressure points on the body while recalling painful memories or upsetting thoughts. Craig derived EFT out of Thought Field Therapy (TFT), a technique created by psychologist Dr. Robert Callahan that incorporated traditional psychotherapy and tapping. When creating EFT, Craig simplified the TFT process so that most people can easily benefit from this method.

During the EFT process, a person is either guided by an EFT practitioner or is self-guided to focus on distressing thoughts or emotions while tapping on certain places throughout the body. These specific spots where the person is instructed to tap are considered points of energy, known as meridians, which are similarly stimulated during acupuncture. Instead of using needles as an acupuncturist would, the EFT client is instructed to use one's own on fingers to gently press on these points. By tapping on these areas and bringing one’s awareness to negative emotions, EFT purports that one may be able to let go of some negative emotional energy.

One study found the EFT resulted in significant improvements in mental well-being, including declines in anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), pain, and cravings, as well as an increase in happiness.

Can EFT Help With Panic Disorder?

EFT is thought to assist a person in releasing emotions that are holding one back from experiencing more happiness and satisfaction. This technique has grown in popularity as an alternative method to help cope with challenging emotions associated with various mental health disorders, including mood and anxiety disorders. Initial research on EFT has shown that this method can potentially help reduce the feelings of stress and anxiety associated with numerous mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), specific phobias, and panic disorder.

It should be noted that these initial research studies have been thought to have some significant methodological flaws making their interpretation problematic. Additional studies are needed to determine if EFT can be useful to treat panic and anxiety symptoms. Additionally, this method is not endorsed or approved for training by major professional associations of mental health practitioners, including the American Psychological Association (APA) and the American Counseling Association (ACA).

Finding Help for Panic Disorder

People diagnosed with panic disorder often struggle with intense feelings of fear, stress, and anxiety. These difficult emotions and other symptoms can negatively impact the panic sufferer's quality of life. As a person’s life is interrupted by panic and anxiety, relationships may suffer, a career can be affected, and goals and responsibilities may be put off.

If you believe that you are struggling with anxiety or other symptoms of panic disorder, it is important that you seek help from your doctor or qualified mental health specialist. Only your doctor or licensed practitioner can provide you with an accurate diagnosis. They can also assist you in developing a treatment plan that is appropriate for your needs.

There are several main treatment options available that can assist panic sufferers in managing symptoms and getting back on track.

Some of the most common treatment methods include attending therapy, taking prescribed medication, and practicing self-help techniques. Most panic sufferers will choose a combination of these options as a safe and effective way to cope with panic attacks and other symptoms.

Psychotherapy and medications for panic disorder have been scientifically evaluated and proven for safety and effectiveness. Alternative treatment methods, including EFT, should only be used as a complement to these treatment options. If you are considering EFT, be certain to discuss this option with your doctor. He will be able to help you determine if this alternative method would be an appropriate addition to your treatment plan.

4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Bach D, Groesbeck G, Stapleton P, Sims R, Blickheuser K, Church D. Clinical EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) Improves Multiple Physiological Markers of Health. J Evid Based Integr Med. 2019;24:2515690X18823691. doi:10.1177%2F2515690X18823691

  2. Bach D, Groesbeck G, Stapleton P, Sims R, Blickheuser K, Church D. Clinical eft (emotional freedom techniques) improves multiple physiological markers of healthJ Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2019;24. doi:10.1177/2515690X18823691

  3. Clond M. Emotional freedom techniques for anxiety: a systematic review with meta-analysisJournal of Nervous & Mental Disease. 2016;204(5):388-395. doi:10.1097/NMD.0000000000000483

  4. Church D. The Treatment of Combat Trauma in Veterans Using EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques): A Pilot ProtocolTraumatology. 2010;16,(1), 55-65.doi:10.1177/1534765609347549

Additional Reading
  • Benor, D. J., Ledger, K., Toussaint, L., Hett, G., & Zaccaro, D. (2009). Pilot Study of Emotional Freedom Techniques, Wholistic Hybrid Derived from Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing and Emotional Freedom Technique, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Treatment of Test Anxiety in University Students. Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, 5(6), 338-340.
  • Church, D. (2010). The Treatment of Combat Trauma in Veterans Using EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques): A Pilot Protocol. Traumatology, 16,(1), 55-65.
  • Ortner, N. (2013). The Tapping Solution: A Revolutionary System for Stress-Free Living. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House.
  • Wells, S., Polglase, K., Andrews, H. B., Carrington, P., & Baker, K. H. (2003). Evaluation of a Meridian-Based Intervention, Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), for Reducing Specific Phobias of Small Animals. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 59(9), 943-966.

By Katharina Star, PhD
Katharina Star, PhD, is an expert on anxiety and panic disorder. Dr. Star is a professional counselor, and she is trained in creative art therapies and mindfulness.