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EFT and EMDR

by Jacqui Footman
3 minutes
EFT and EMDR

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR is a therapy that has a little similarity with EFT but has been established longer and has a very well-established evidence-base as a therapy for the treatment of trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  It is recommended as a treatment in the NICE guideline for PTSD.

The first controlled comparison of EFT for PTSD has now been published in a peer-reviewed journal by a team led by Thanos Karatzias and Theresa McGoldrick in NHS Fife. A Controlled Comparison of the Effectiveness and Efficiency of Two Psychological Therapies for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing vs. Emotional Freedom Techniques, Karatzias et al, was published in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease in June 2011.  In this research EFT was compared with EMDR.

The researchers observed significant therapeutic gains at post-treatment and follow-up in an equal number of sessions for both the EMDR treatment group and the EFT treatment group.  They observed similar treatment effect sizes in both treatment groups, albeit with a slightly higher proportion of patients in the EMDR group achieving clinically significant improvement.  With only a very slight difference in effect results, it would seem reasonable to conclude from this study that EFT has the potential to be equally as effective as EMDR for the treatment of PTSD.  That is based just on a research paper; anecdotally practitioners of both modalities often favour EFT and have found positive change to be more easily and quickly achieved with EFT.

EFT has a number of significant advantages over EMDR:

  • EFT, when properly applied is an extremely gentle technique that enables trauma to be dispersed safely and gently, whereas EMDR is known for the possibility of unpleasant abreactions.
  • At an EFT session the client can be taught the basics of EFT for Emotional First Aid, which can be self-applied and of great support between sessions.  Once learned, this is a skill for life, ever available at times of stress.  Thus, with EFT a client can be supported if unpleasant emotions resurface between sessions whereas EMDR is less accessible in self-help situations
  • There is no need with EFT for expensive equipment to create a movement for the eyes to follow.  EFT can even be done over the telephone, although many would prefer in-person sessions for PTSD.
  • The use of EMDR is restricted to expensively-trained psychologists and accredited mental health professionals.  Many well-trained lay EFT-practitioners are able to facilitate this type of work with EFT.
  • Anecdotally participants in the Karatzias et al study preferred the EFT.