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|The Case for Energy Psychology - Page 4|
Despite the field's attempts to self-correct, including forming a professional organization to advance research, practice standards, and humanitarian projects, EP remained an outcast within the world of psychotherapy. As recently as last December, the American Psychological Association (APA) denied, for the third time, the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology's application to become a CE sponsor, in effect affirming a decade-old policy banning APA sponsors from granting CEs to psychologists for studying EP. Arguing that "sufficient controversy exists to render uncertain the credibility of [EP's] claims and theory," the ruling disregarded existing research as well as the APA's own published criteria on acceptable CE content (the basis for this assertion is presented at http://energymed.org/ep/ACEP-on-APA-CE-Standards.pdf), but it did affirm the old maxim that you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Despite continuing professional skepticism, empirical evidence for EP's effectiveness has been accumulating. After its rocky beginnings, the field cut its teeth by deploying treatment teams to more than a dozen countries to provide mental health services following natural and human disasters. Outcome data systematically collected in at least five of these countries, and corroborated by local healthcare authorities who had no stake in EP, were encouraging. The first research using established measures to investigate treatment outcomes with disaster survivors was conducted in 2006 by a team led by psychologist Caroline Sakai (see sidebar), working with an orphanage in Rwanda. Of the 400 orphans living or schooled at the facility, 188 had lost their families during the ethnic cleansing 12 years earlier. Many had witnessed their parents being slaughtered, and they were still having severe symptoms of PTSD, including flashbacks, nightmares, bedwetting, withdrawal, or aggression. The study focused on the 50 teenagers identified by the caregivers as having the greatest difficulties. All 50 were rated on a standardized symptom inventory for caregivers and scored above the PTSD cutoff. Each then received a single acupoint-tapping session lasting 20 to 60 minutes, combined with approximately 6 minutes spent learning two simple relaxation techniques. Not only did the scores of 47 of the 50 adolescents fall below the PTSD range following this brief intervention, these improvements in serious conditions that had persisted for more than a decade held at a one-year follow-up.
Another recent study, a randomized, controlled trial (the scientific "gold standard" for establishing the effectiveness of a treatment) with traumatized male adolescents in Peru also used a single acupoint-tapping session. The findings, currently under peer review, showed that 16 boys who'd been abused all scored above the PTSD cutoff on a standardized self-report inventory before treatment. Of this group, 8 were given a single EP session, after which none scored in the PTSD range, and they were still below the cutoff a month later. Scores for the 8 in the waitlist control group were unchanged at the one-month follow-up.
In the first randomized controlled trial of the use of EP with combat veterans, presented last April at the Society of Behavioral Medicine Conference in Seattle, 49 vets showed dramatic improvement after six treatment sessions—42 of them no longer scored above the PTSD cutoff. Conducted under auspices of the Vets Stress Project (see http://stressproject.org), participants were recruited from throughout the U.S. and treated by volunteer practitioners. The gains persisted at the six-month follow-up. There was only one dropout. In contrast, less than one 1 in 10 of the 49,425 veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars with newly diagnosed PTSD who sought care from facilities run by the Department of Veterans Affairs actually completed the conventional treatments recommended.
After the Seattle report, I contacted the study's principal investigator and asked whether I could interview some of the therapists involved. One of them, Ingrid Dinter, described to me her work with Keith, an infantry soldier who'd served in the Mekong Delta during the Vietnam War. He'd reported that in his initial therapy session in April 2008 that he'd seen "many casualties on both sides. More than three decades later, he was still tormented with nightmares and repeated flashbacks. "Sometimes I think I see Viet Cong soldiers behind bushes and trees," he added. His severe insomnia, complicated by the nightmares, made him fatigued and unable to function during the day. He'd been diagnosed with PTSD and reported that his group and individual therapy through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hadn't helped with his symptoms.
Keith had six hour-long sessions with Dinter, during which she had him tap on acupoints while he focused on traumatic war memories and other psychological stressors. In their first session, he reported that since the war's conclusion, he'd rarely gotten more than one to two hours of sleep at a stretch, and averaged about two nightmares each night. By the end of the six sessions, he was getting seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep and was having no nightmares. He said that other symptoms, such as intrusive memories, startle reactions, and overwhelming obsessive guilt, had abated as well. A six-month follow-up interview and further testing showed that the improvements held. A 10-minute clip containing brief excerpts of interviews with four combat veterans before and after EP treatment, along with snippets from the treatments they received, can be found at www.vetcases.com.