Methodological and Theoretical Problems in the Waite and Holder (2003) Study on Fears and EFT
By Robert Pasahow
Energy psychology (EP) represents a paradigm for the treatment of mental health problems. A number of studies and case reports have demonstrated its efficacy in reducing psychological conflicts and symptoms. Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) are the most extensively researched model of EP. For EFT to be classified as an empirically based treatment according to American Psychological Association (APA) Division 12 Task Force criteria, research needs to demonstrate its efficacy in a number of experimental and clinical settings. It is also necessary to provide alternative explanations when experimental data are interpreted as disproving major hypotheses. In Waite and Holder’s (2003) study on EFT, inclusion of two sham treatment groups and a control group attempted to isolate the factors that cause symptom reduction. Initial reviewers interpreted these data as disproving the fundamental hypothesis of EFT. The APA’s Continuing Education Committee cited this study as 1 factor for disputing the scientific basis of EFT. Subsequent analyses have interpreted this study as being supportive of EFT hypotheses. However, numerous statistical omissions, incorrect applications of EFT procedures, and insufficient treatment time preclude meaningful conclusions regarding EFT. The only dependent variable was participants’ fear ratings, which many researchers do not consider an adequate outcome measure. Multidimensional assessments would have provided more precise data and limited how much demand characteristics influenced the results.