Research shows Energy Psychology tools are effective in healing sexual trauma

By John Freedom and Sarah Murphy

Sexual violence is one of the greatest traumas a human can experience.  It affects millions of Americans, leaving lasting effects on functioning and wellbeing. It is notoriously difficult to address using conventional talk therapy. Moreover, the research on conventional talk therapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), for sexual violence is poor, with high dropout rates and only modest gains. Clearly, we need tools for healing sexual abuse. Research shows that energy psychology tools such as EFT may fit the bill.


Sexual violence affects more than one third of women worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Men can also experience sexual violence; the rates are difficult to determine due to underreporting, according to the United Nations. More than one half the time, people are sexually assaulted by someone they know. Moreover, there is such a stigma of guilt and shame, where many victims blame themselves for what happened.

Energetic and somatic therapies are particularly effective at addressing trauma. Therefore, it stands to reason that they would be effective in addressing the trauma of sexual violence. EP has demonstrated efficacy with traumatized populations. Recently, Feinstein (2021) found that almost all – 77 of 79 – studies that included long-term follow-up found participant gains held over time, demonstrating how powerful and effective these techniques can be.

Research overview: Studies show EP helpful in healing sexual abuse

Clearly, we need for effective therapeutic tools to help people who have experienced sexual abuse. Thankfully, there is hope: EP techniques might fill that need. Clinicians who are interested in incorporating EP in their work with survivors of childhood sexual abuse may find this article particularly relevant. Our hope is that the results can provide guidelines for therapists considering incorporating these techniques into their practices. This article explores what the research tells us so far:

Adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse:

The first study we will explore was done by Kirsten Schulz (2009). She evaluated the experiences of 12 therapists (with a minimum of ten years’ experience) who had integrated EP into their treatments for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.  In this qualitative study, the researcher explored the therapists’ experiences with their clients. The therapists reported that using EP with their clients who had experienced childhood sexual abuse was helpful because:

  • EP does not require clients to talk about their trauma,
  • EP reliably reduces trauma without having the client re-experience distress,
  • After EP therapy, clients can discuss core issues without discomfort,
  • EP techniques are the most effective treatment for anxiety disorders, and
  • Finally, the rapid rate of healing can affect treatment goals.

Sexual assault-specific PTSD:

For our second study we will discuss the findings of Anderson, Rubik and Absenger (2019). They explored the effectiveness of combining EFT and Hypnosis in the treatment of sexual assault-specific post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.  This study was conducted in a private psychotherapy office and utilized a sequential mixed methods design.

In this study, participants were 30 individuals with self-identified sexual assault-specific PTSD. The investigators used the PCL-5 (PTSD Checklist – 5), which is a standard assessment for measuring symptoms of PTSD.

After treatment, researchers found an overall decrease of 34.3% on PTSD symptom severity based on PCL-5 assessment scores. All this, after just four sessions of the combined EFT and hypnosis treatment.

Survivors of Sexual Violence

The third study for our purposes was done by Nemiro and Papworth (2015). Here, the researchers explored the effectiveness of two therapies, CBT and EFT, in the treatment of sexual violence in the Congo.

Fifty internally displaced female refugees participated in the study. All were survivors of sexual gender-based violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). At the outset, they completed the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire (HTQ) and the Hopkins Symptom Checklist–25 (HSCL-25), which measures general mental health. After that, for treatment, they received two, 2 ½ hour group treatment sessions per week for 4 consecutive weeks (eight sessions total).

Assessments occurred before and after treatment, and 6 months later. Participants demonstrated significant posttest improvement on both measures for both groups. Furthermore, follow-up assessments showed that both groups maintained their gains over time.

Hope. And a new paradigm for healing sexual abuse?

To sum up: trauma is difficult to talk and think our way out of. When we have experienced trauma, we need tools that can help us heal. EP offers a set of tools that help us do just that. As these ideas become more widely known, EP methods will come increasingly into the mainstream. When this happens, we will be able to help many people in healing sexual abuse.

Finding Recovery and Empowerment from Abuse (FREA) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to teach self-help tools and skills empowering people in recovery from abuse. You can learn more about FREA here.

If you would like to work with me to heal from issues like this, contact me.

Author bios:

John Freedom, CEHP, is author of Heal Yourself with Emotional Freedom Technique. He serves as the chair of ACEP’s research committee and as the executive director of FREA. In addition, he leads trainings and events throughout the US and in Europe.

Sarah Murphy is a licensed professional counselor and nationally certified counselor with more than 15 years of clinical experience. She is Communications Committee Chair for ACEP and serves on its board. She is in private practice and is staff therapist for Unite for HER.