Can You Do EMDR and EFT at the Same Time?

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Can You Do EMDR and EFT at the Same Time

If you’ve lurked around psychology-related blogs or websites for a while, you will have encountered the term “EMDR,” which is short for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy. Francine Shapiro, a US-based psychologist, developed EMDR in the 1980s to help people heal from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

In recent years, it has been used to treat various traumatogenic disorders not limited to PTSD. EMDR involves talking to your therapist and consists of guided bilateral stimulation. Bilateral stimulation consists of finger tapping and repetitive horizontal eye movements while recalling traumatic images. Your therapist may also ask you to observe your emotions and bodily sensations while engaging in bilateral stimulation. 

What about EFT? Is It Related to EMDR?

While EMDR is quite popular in trauma-oriented circles, the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is rapidly gaining momentum as well. However, they are not the same and are not related to each other. EMDR is an evidence-based therapeutic approach, and literature related to EFT is scant. 

Much of the popularity associated with EFT is due to the viral nature of content related to it. However, according to clinical psychologists, it is not considered a valid treatment. Nevertheless, some choose to use EMDR alongside EFT. 

In this article, we will briefly explore EFT and allow you to decide for yourself whether you should use it alongside EMDR. 

What Is the Emotional Freedom Technique?

Gary Craig, the author of the EFT Handbook, popularized Emotional Freedom Techniques. Many proponents of EFT consider themselves “energy psychologists” and attempt to synthesize alternative therapies such as acupressure, energy medicine, acupuncture with cognitive behavior therapy, and exposure therapy. 

EFT also draws from the ancient Chinese philosophy of “chi,” which is thought to be the life force that flows through your body. Unfortunately, EFT does not seem to have any evidence-based support for its claims. The benefits you may see with the help of EFT may likely be due to the placebo effect or traditional CBT techniques that EFT proponents also use. 

How Is the Emotional Freedom Technique Performed?

According to the information we found on Medical News Today, EFT involves tapping, similar to EMDR. However, the tapping movements are closely associated with acupressure, an alternative treatment approach. The therapy involves five steps:

  1. Your therapist asks you to think about a problem you want to solve. You are urged to focus only on one problem at a time. 
  2. You are then asked to rate the severity of this problem on a scale of 0-10, so you can objectively gauge if tapping helped you post-treatment. 
  3. The therapist then asks you to tap your palm repeatedly before beginning to tap elsewhere. This step involves telling yourself that you will accept yourself regardless of your problem. This reminds me of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, which we had written about a while ago. 
  4. The practitioner may then tap various body parts in a sequence, starting from the top of your head to other body parts. 

The practitioner may also use CBT and other techniques in addition to tapping to help you cope with anxiety, depression, and trauma. Some studies show that EFT is effective, but most clinical psychologists do not use this method nor recommend it. 

Potential Benefits of Combining EMDR and EFT

By the looks of it, most psychologists would recommend EMDR over EFT to treat various psychological conditions. It is important to note that EMDR also has raised many questions as a therapeutic module, and many have criticized it for being ineffective

However, EMDR carries decades of research that at least posits it as an evidence-based treatment. If we were to evaluate the potential benefits of combining an evidence-based treatment approach such as EMDR with an alternative treatment approach such as EFT, one must exercise caution. Here are some potential benefits:

Some treatment is better than no treatment.

Most psychologists believe that any form of therapy is better than no therapy at all. Research shows that merely speaking to a counselor helps reduce anxiety and depression and assists you in processing trauma. Hence, if you have already chosen an EMDR therapist, you may also work with EFT if it gives you hope. Moreover, EFT practitioners seem to use CNT techniques, which may also help you with your symptoms. 

Placebo effect

Although acupressure is considered an alternative therapeutic module, some have suggested that it is pseudoscience. A psychological treatment that draws from acupressure may be ineffective if we were to adopt this thinking paradigm. However, there is also such a thing as the placebo effect. If you truly believe a treatment works, it may actually work in some cases. Hence, trying EFT alongside EMDR may at least give you the benefits you may see from the placebo effect. 

EFT may actually work

Although many have questioned the efficacy and logic behind EFT, very little is known about its effectiveness. It is not right to dismiss something that we don’t understand. It’s also probably not a good idea to throw the baby with the water just because evidence-based practitioners believe all alternative treatment methods are ineffective. There is a possibility that EFT may work, and hence, trying does not seem to cause any harm. 

The therapist’s role cannot be underestimated.

At the end of the day, a good therapist will help you manage your anxiety, stress, and traumatic experiences regardless of the therapeutic model he or she chooses to practice. For instance, although CBT-oriented psychologists are often at odds with psychodynamic therapists, both seem to have similar results in helping people cope with psychological difficulties. Hence, if you are lucky enough to find an EFT therapist who is skilled at helping people with mental health issues, you may benefit to a certain extent. 

Considerations and Risks

When you seek psychological treatment, it is essential to find a therapist who is licensed by the regulatory bodies in your jurisdiction. As EMDR and EFT have both raised questions from the traditional clinical psychologists’ groups, it is essential to consider that both forms of treatment may come with their own risks and benefits. Here’s what you need to do if you plan to seek EMDR as a therapeutic approach:

  • Ensure your EMDR therapist is also a registered mental health counselor or psychologist. 
  • Ensure that they have a valid certificate or training in EMDR
  • Enquire if they are willing to guide you towards traditional forms of therapy if you do not see results.
  • If, at any point in time, you feel you do not see the results you expected, do not be afraid to ask your frank questions to your therapist. 
  • Worse comes to worst, be bold and look for a new therapist. 

As far as EFT practitioners are concerned, we do not have any recommendations. It is an alternative therapeutic module that is not quite popular with clinical psychologists. It may or may not work, and combining it with EMDR may increase your therapy bills. However, if you are still curious or if you believe in acupressure and other forms of alternative therapies, there is no harm in taking up EFT. 

Consulting with a Therapist for Personalized Advice

Whether you choose to seek therapy for trauma, anxiety, depression, or a more severe psychological condition, it is essential to receive guidance from a registered therapist. 

As the term “therapist” can mean anything, we urge you to find mental health professionals who are accredited by local psychological or psychiatric bodies in your jurisdiction. In most countries, psychological therapy is offered by registered clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, and even psychiatric nurses. 

The terminology and licensing protocols vary greatly depending on the country and the state you live in. Hence, enquire with reliable people to connect with a licensed mental health professional who can offer you personalized advice. This will also help you decide if you need EMDR, EFT, or something else altogether. What’s most important is that you receive evidence-based personalized mental health care from a registered practitioner. 

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