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|The Case for Energy Psychology - Page 3|
Many of Donna's students turned out to be therapists who were interested in Energy Psychology (EP). After years spent grudgingly accepting that seemingly ephemeral energies could impact physical conditions, this new wave of therapists was now asking me to believe that tapping on the body, supposedly to move these questionable energies, produces desired psychological changes.
To better arm myself for the inevitable discussions with these renegade clinicians, I decided to attend a demonstration of one of the forms of EP called EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques). A woman suffering from longstanding, severe claustrophobia had been preselected to be the subject. She was shown where and how to tap on a series of points on her skin while remembering frightening incidents involving enclosed spaces. To my amazement, she almost immediately reported that the scenes she was imagining were causing her less distress. Within 20 minutes, her claustrophobia seemed to have disappeared. Her improvement was astonishing. When asked to step into a closet, close the door, and remain there as long as she felt comfortable, she stayed so long that finally she was beckoned to come out. She emerged triumphant, jubilant that she'd stayed calm in a situation that would have put her into uncontrollable panic half an hour earlier. Videos of live demonstrations featuring such single-session phobia cures are readily available; for example, check out http://phobiacase.EnergyPsychEd.com.
Although still suspecting that the claustrophobia demonstration was just a lucky shot, I was intrigued enough to enroll in a four-weekend EP training program for mental health professionals. The results I witnessed during the training, and that I began obtaining in my practice sessions between classes, continued to amaze me. The technique proved consistently effective when used with clients suffering from simple phobias. I soon found, however, that a whole range of problematic emotions—including irrational fear, anger, jealousy, and guilt—could be rapidly quelled by tapping. I then began to experiment with more complex dynamics, such as unresolved feelings toward a parent or the residue of traumatic experiences. I quickly realized that for the procedure to be fully effective, it was critical to identify and focus on the most salient aspects of the problem being addressed. To do this, I often had to draw on other clinical methods, particularly cognitive interventions and uncovering techniques. However, it was clear to me that acupoint tapping was turbocharging my therapeutic effectiveness with a wide range of issues. After years of resistance, I found myself applying EP with my clients—even before completing the training.
Despite the improved clinical outcomes I was enjoying, I was intellectually flummoxed. A wide range of EP treatment models existed, each claiming extraordinary results, while offering little evidence and only enigmatic, often implausible, theoretical explanations. Prompted by raw curiosity and encouraged by my previous experiences sorting through the "new therapies" at Hopkins and dissecting Donna's work as a healer, I decided to try to make sense of the strange mix emerging within EP. I gathered a team of 27 of the field's pioneers and leaders—advocates of a divergent range of EP approaches—and posed a challenge: to reach consensus on a coherent set of methods and principles and methods for the effective practice of EP.
My inbox became a lightning rod for the controversies within the field. Differences existed on dozens of theoretical and procedural issues, but a common denominator allowed consensual guidelines to emerge. All the approaches shared two elements: calling to mind a psychological difficulty or a desired psychological state while performing a simple physical intervention that purportedly affected the body's energies or energy fields. For me, the most striking finding was that as long as these two conditions were met—however they were met—the outcomes reported were surprisingly strong and rapid, particularly with a range of anxiety-based conditions.
The project ultimately resulted in a 2004 training program published as a book and CD program titled Energy Psychology Interactive, which quickly became the standard text for professional EP training. In reviewing this program, the American Psychological Association's online book-review journal referred to Energy Psychology as "a new discipline that has been receiving attention due to its speed and effectiveness with difficult cases. [This] ambitious work integrates ancient Eastern practices with Western psychology, [expanding] the traditional biopsychosocial model of psychology to include the dimension of energy." I expected that wide acceptance by mental health professionals wouldn't be far behind. I was dead wrong.
The problem was that by the time the book appeared, EP—which had been around in various forms since the early 1980s—had already established a reputation for vague, esoteric-sounding language, spectacular promises of quick cures, and an apparent disdain for accepted standards of scientific proof. The fact that some early practitioners were zealously proprietary about their techniques, charged exorbitant fees to teach them, and, in some cases, sued their own graduates for providing training in their method outside of a trademarked framework further damaged the field's reputation.