Background: In academic settings, fear of failure and associated emotional difficulties are common and often result in maladaptive behaviours, which often lead to failure or lowered scholastic achievement. Higher levels of self-esteem and resilience have been shown to protect against fear of failure and emotional difficulties, and predict improved academic outcomes in students. However, few studies have investigated the efficacy of group intervention methods aimed at improving self-esteem and resilience. We aimed to measure the effects of using Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), an emerging therapeutic technique that incorporates elements of acupuncture, exposure therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy, and somatic stimulation to target negative thoughts and feelings, as a universal intervention for high school and college students.
Methods: This study represented a non-randomised universal intervention, utilising both within and between-subject designs. The EFT intervention groups (N = 204) were drawn from two different school cohorts. The intervention aimed to improve four participant characteristics that have been shown to play a role in influencing academic success: global self-esteem, resilience (ability to adapt to change and cope with stress), total difficulties and fear of failure (cognitive, motivational, and relational appraisals of failure). These characteristics were utilised as outcome variables in the present study and measured by the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, Conners-Davidson Resilience Scale, Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, and the Performance Failure Appraisal Index-Short Form.
Results: Results showed a significant improvement in fear of failure, whereby fears were significantly lower from pre-intervention to 12-month follow-up. Findings also indicated a significant main effect of time for emotional and behavioural difficulties, however post hoc tests indicated no statistically significant changes between the time points measured. No significant changes were observed in measures of self-esteem or resilience.
Conclusion: This non-randomised universal intervention represents the first Australian study of the efficacy of a group treatment program within high schools, aimed at increasing student self-esteem and resilience, and decreasing fear of failure and emotional difficulties. The results suggested that EFT might be an effective group intervention for some students decreasing their fear of failure; however, further research is required.