By Phyllis K. Stein & Audrey J. Brooks
Background: EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) is a validated method for treating posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that may be performed by both lay coaches and licensed mental health practitioners (LMP). It has not been known whether results would differ significantly when EFT is administered by LMPs compared with by trained lay coaches.
Method: A sample of 149 veterans with PTSD were approached to participate in the study; 59 were eligible and consented to participate. They were randomized to an active treatment (EFT, n = 30) and a wait list (WL, n = 29) control group and received treatment from either an LMP (n = 26) or a coach (n = 33). PTSD was assessed with the PTSD Checklist Military (PCL-M), and psychological symptoms were assessed with the Symptom Assessment-45.
All study participants met diagnostic criteria for PTSD on the PCL-M. Participants received 6 sessions of EFT over the course of a month. Questionnaires were repeated after 3 and 6 EFT sessions and again at 3 and 6 months posttreatment. The WL group was assessed at intake and 1 month before beginning EFT sessions.
Results: Results are based on postintervention data from the combined EFT and WL groups. Significant declines in the percentage meeting PTSD diagnostic criteria were seen after 3 sessions of EFT, with 47% of coach and 30% of LMP participants still meeting PTSD diagnostic criteria. Improvements continued to be seen after 6 sessions (17% coach, 10% LMP) and were sustained at 3 months (17% coach, 11% LMP).
Although the percentage meeting clinical PTSD criteria increased slightly at 6 months (24% coach, 17% LMP), the overwhelming majority of veterans with PTSD treated with EFT remained free of clinically defined PTSD. The trend for better outcomes for LMP did not reach statistical significance.
Conclusion: 6 sessions of EFT whether administered by a coach or an LMP is efficacious in treating PTSD among veterans, suggesting that EFT provided by lay coaches would be an effective strategy to address PTSD in this population.
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