Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)

PW writes: “I recently heard of a technique called EFT-Emotional Freedom Technique from a very devout Catholic friend who found it to be very useful in healing some past emotional wounds she struggled with in combination with deep prayer. She indicated that research has found medical and neurological support of this technique. Not having ever heard of it before, I was wondering what you knew of it and whether or not it is an appropriate avenue for Catholics to pursue.”

EFT is a New Age alternative medical practice that is based on the balancing of an energy form that is not supported by science, and is therefore considered to be a pseudoscience. I’m not sure what research PW’s friend is referring to, but the only research supporting this technique has been found to be biased in some way or another – either it was funded by EFT promoters or published by pro-alternative medicine journals such as the International Society for the study of Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine Journal, and Integrative Medicine.

According to EFT founder Gary Craig, EFT combines two New Age techniques (which he refers to on his website as “well established sciences”) Mind Body Medicine and Acupuncture (he’s referring to the traditional Chinese medicine form of acupuncture, which is based on the alleged existence of opposing energy forces known as yin and yang rather than the medical form).

He calls EFT an “emotional version of acupuncture” wherein certain meridian points are stimulated by tapping on them with the fingertips. “This addresses a new cause for emotional issues (unbalanced energy meridians)” he says, but neglects to add that there is no known anatomical or histological basis for the existence of these meridians.

He goes on to claim: “Properly done, this frequently reduces the therapeutic process from months or years down to hours or minutes. And, since emotional stress can contribute to pain, disease and physical ailments, we often find that EFT provides astonishing physical relief.”

EFT is just another alternative medical practice with a long list of anecdotal evidence – and a short list of credible scientific research – to support its claims.

It is generally believed that any healing that may take place as a result of these treatments comes from traditional cognitive components such as the placebo effect, distraction from negative thoughts, rather than from manipulation of meridians, and the therapeutic benefit of having someone actually listen.

The discerning Christian can find many clues to the legitimacy of this practice just be studying its founder. Craig is neither a psychologist nor a licensed therapist. He is a Stanford engineering graduate and an ordained minister in the Universal Church of God in Southern California (a non-denominational church that embraces all religions). On his website, he openly admits that he is an avid student of A Course in Miracles, an occult-based mind-control program created by a woman who claimed to be channeling Christ.

But his story gets even worse when we learn that he was mentored by Dr. Roger Callahan, the inventor of Thought Field Therapy (TFT). TFT is also based on the premise that negative emotions cause blockage of subtle energies and if these energies are unblocked then all fears will disappear. TFT also relies on the tapping of acupressure points to relieve the blockage. Dr. Callahan claims the usual excessively high success rates and even says he can work cures by phone using “Voice Technology” on infants and animals. (According to the Skeptics Dictionary, his course in Voice Technology only costs $100,000!)

The website of cult expert Rick Ross contains excerpts from the book Science and Pseudoscience in Clinical Psychology, by Lilienfeld, Lynn and Lohr, (Guilford press, 2003) stating that scientific research on TFT “is minimal in both quantity and quality despite the expansive claims of effectiveness for trauma symptoms made by its promoters (American Psychological Association, 1999, J. Calllahan, 1998; Gallo, 1995). Moreover, this conclusion has been arrived at by other reviewers (Gaudiano & Herbert, 2000, Hooke, 1998). The scientific evidence for other “energy” techniques based loosely on TFT such as emotional freedom technique  (Craig, 1997) is even weaker. . .”

“The discrepency between the promotional claims and the scientific evidence for TFT has promped actions to improve the professional accountability of TFT promoters and practioners . . . .”

The book goes on to state that these actions included “‘(T)he action of a state licensing board (Arizona Board of Psychologist Examiners, 1999) that remprimanded a psychologist who used TFT as his principal therapeutic modality. Foremost among the reasons for the Board’s action was the inability of the psychologist to substantiate the advertised claims of effectiveness (American Psychological Association, 1999; 1996; see Lilienfeld and Lohr 2000, for a more detailed discussion of the issues involved in the decision.)

“The second was the action of the Continuing Professional Education Committee of the American Psychological Association in ruling that the absence of any compelling scientific support for TFT’s efficacy rendered this treatment an inappropriate subject for continuing education . (American Psychological Association, 1999).”

It is important to note that most states regulate psychological practices, however, many of these TFT / EFT practitioners get away with conducting their businesses under the cover of being “ordained ministers.”

There are definite spiritual risks for Catholics who wish to use practices such as EFT (and TFT for that matter) because these practices are based on a pantheistic belief in a universal life force which is not compatible with Christianity.

Practitioners who claim to manipulate or depend upon any kind of “spiritual energy” in their healing techniques are committing the sin of sorcery (See Catechism 2117), even if they are doing so for the purpose of healing. Also, because so many religions consider this universal life force to be a god, putting our faith in a practice which is based upon it could constitute the sin of idolatry (See Catechism 2113).

It’s also important to point out that unless there is a sound basis for a practice in science as well as faith, then the practice is considered to be superstitious by the Church (See Catechism 2110-2111).

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