Welcome to the fifth anniversary edition of Energy Psychology: Theory, Research, and Treatment. When I started this journal five years ago it was with a sense of expectation mixed with trepidation. It had long been apparent to me that the field of Energy Psychology required a professional journal.
I founded Energy Psychology Press in 2005 to meet the need for a publisher of record for the field. The first book published under the imprint was a revised edition of Personal Mythology by David Feinstein PhD and Stanley Krippner PhD, two legendary figures in the field (Feinstein & Krippner, 2006).
One motive for starting the journal was my mixed experience submitting my own papers to peer-reviewed journals. A few responded with puzzled but balanced reviews. But at most journals, reviewers were baffled by the studies they read, and their reviews were of little use in improving the quality of papers or the sophistication of research methodology.
One of the problems from which the field suffers is cognitive dissonance at the magnitude of the reported results.
This cognitive dissonance is not limited to novices or skeptics. Most of the statistical analysis for my own studies has been performed by research psychologists at the University of Arizona. The data goes to them, and the results are emailed back to me. When I read those results I frequently cannot believe them myself. The speed of healing is often so great that it violates my paradigm of what is possible.
One example is the Healthcare Workers Study, published by the professional journal Integrative Medicine in 2010 (Church & Brooks, 2010). When my colleague Audrey Brooks, PhD emailed me the results, my first reaction was, “There must be some mistake.”
They showed the severity of psychological symptoms like anxiety and depression reducing by a mean of 45% after a one-day EFT workshop, To me, the notion that a single day of group therapy with an energy psychology technique might produce these dramatic reductions in symptoms was inconceivable. My first reaction was, “I cannot believe this.”
An analogy I use in workshops is that of the gas mileage of my new car. If I told you I had bought a new Honda and it gets 65 miles to the gallon, you would be impressed.
If I told you it got 400 miles to the gallon, you would be incredulous. You would not believe me, because the claim is outside of the parameters of the possibilities your mind can entertain. The difference between the performance of the most advanced car models available, and my claims, would snap the thread of your credulity. The results seem too good to be true. Sometimes I would joke to my statistician colleagues, “I wish the results were just 10% better than existing treatment protocols.
Then we’d be credible.
These results are so far ahead of the paradigm that I cannot believe them and I’m the chief investigator in this study!”
Yet today, many studies, published in many different journals, and conducted by many independent teams of researchers, all demonstrate similar results. Still, when I read either raw data or the results sections of papers, my rational mind has trouble assimilating the magnitude of psychological change revealed in the data. And that’s after I’ve performed hundreds of demonstrations and offered energy psychology sessions to thousands of workshop participants.
When a professional colleague expresses skepticism, I am very sympathetic. If the mind of an investigator has trouble assimilating these results, what chance does the mind of a novice have?
One way I connect emotionally with the reality underscored by the data is by reading case histories. Here’s one from The EFT Manual (Church, 2013). It tells the story of “Don,” a 61 year old Vietnam veteran who has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He and his EFT practitioner Marilyn McWilliams, who tells the story, worked together for a total of six EFT session hours, as part of a study of veterans with PTSD:
Since returning from Vietnam, “Don” did not have one night of uninterrupted sleep. He usually went to bed between 9:30pm and 10:30pm, and got up between 8:15am and 10:00am, feeling fatigued. In this 10-12 hour time period that he spent in bed, he was woken up by horrific nightmares at least twice per night. He never slept more than 1-2 hours at a stretch, and never more than 4-5 hours total for forty years.
Our first session took only 20 minutes, as this was all that “Don” could handle that day. Before we started with EFT, he said his thoughts were like bumper cars, bouncing all over, but the tapping helped him relax and release the tension in his mind. It also stopped the tremors and shaking that are symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. We tapped on finding peace with the war and peace with Vietnam. After this brief session, his sleep already greatly improved: He now slept 6-7 hours, woke up twice briefly, and felt rested instead of fatigued.
In our second session we worked through the traumatic memory of having shot someone’s arm off two weeks before he returned home from Vietnam.
His sadness and guilt for the Vietnam soldier was overwhelming and had followed him for forty years. The Vietnamese had raised his weapon in front of him, and Don wasn’t sure if he wanted to give up or shoot at him, so he shot first. This happened two weeks before he was supposed to return home. We released the sadness and guilt using the gentle EFT techniques, the tearless trauma, sneaking up on the problem and the movie technique, and tapped on deserving forgiveness.
In his email the morning after the session, Don reported: “Sleep is improving, no nightmares last night. My overall energy has been on an upswing. My hands still shake, but not as much, I’ve been tapping on the shakes and it seems to help. I think what we’ve worked on is quite amazing. Thanks, “Don”.
The third session dealt with a very traumatic event – his best friend, who usually walked to the left of “Don”, this time took his right side while scanning the jungle. When he got shot, “Don felt that his friend had caught the bullet for him and never forgave himself for this. It didn’t matter that he received a bronze star for the dangerous rescue efforts that he made to save his friend’s life, “Don” felt that this was undeserved as he couldn’t save him, and after all these years still cried about the loss and guilt.
The images of turning his friend, whom he loved like a brother, over, and seeing his head exploded, haunted him daily.
After using EFT on this memory, he realized that if he had caught the bullet, and his friend survived, he would have forgotten and released him a long time ago. He would never expect or want him to feel the way he felt himself. This realization allowed him to finally find peace, love and forgiveness.
In his email he wrote: “Thank you for today’s session, I feel much more at ease. I slept for two full hours after the session, a fairly sound sleep, I couldn’t believe that it was for two hours, it seemed like only minutes. Thank you again for all your help”..”Don”
Two days later, “Don” had an intense dream relating to the death of his father, who had killed himself while driving drunk when Don was eighteen. So we worked through his trauma, releasing pain and guilt he had carried for more than four decades.
Sleep: By now, he was going to bed between 9:45 and 10:15, sleeping 7-8 hours, waking up briefly once or twice in between, but no more nightmares. He just rolled over, and went back to sleep. He woke up fairly refreshed between 7:30 and 8:15am. What an improvement for someone who had usually two serious nightmares each night and never got more than 4-5 hours!
In our fifth tapping session three days later, Don talked a lot about the improvements in his sleep and overall wellbeing. Then we tapped for the stress and feelings of lack of control resulting from the construction of his new home and people not doing what they were supposed to do. No more war memories came up for him!
Reviewing his progress two weeks later, Don said, “I still think about Vietnam but it doesn’t seem to bother me.”
After 60 days, we did another session, and one more war memory came up: He had to identify comrades that had been killed and found in the jungle several days earlier. After tapping on all the aspects of what he saw and smelled and the disgust and nausea that he felt, he took a deep breath and stated: “Now the bad spirits are gone.” He had felt as if these dead men had always been with him, somehow, weighing him down and taking his breath away.
Now he reported that he felt as if a huge weight is lifted of him, and he can breathe and think clearly.
Don’s voice has a very different sound now. It is clearer, lighter, and faster. There is less roughness and he laughs more. It is truly nice to hear the hope and confidence in his voice. His sleep has improved from getting 4-5 hours per night in a ten-hour time period, interrupted by an average of two nightmares, to getting an average of 7-8 hours with no nightmares, waking up refreshed.
Between the first session and his 30- and 60- day follow ups, “Don’s” scores for depression, anxiety, hostility and other psychological issues dropped gradually from 122 to 77. His PTSD score dropped from 65 to 34 after session 5, and remained there through the 30- and 60-day follow-ups.
He continues to tap on his Parkinson’s symptoms to keep the shaking under control. His wife has noticed that he seems happier and relaxed. He feels comfortable socializing now, and is a true believer in EFT.
Randomized controlled trials show that PTSD is remediated permanently in four to six sessions of EFT (Karatzias et al., 2011; Church et al., 2013). Behind every statistic in these studies, there’s a Don. Over 4,000 veterans and family members have now received treatment through the Veterans Stress Project (www.StressProject.org). That’s thousands of people who might have continued to suffer from PTSD.
In the words of one veteran, “I got my life back.”
Currently, the field of EP includes over 60 studies, including over 20 randomized controlled trials. These involve over 60 investigators in more than 10 countries. They have been published in over 25 different peer-reviewed journals.
When compared to the published standards of the APAs Division 12 (Clinical Psychology) Task Force on Empirically Validated Treatments (Chambless & Hollon, 2008), energy psychology is found to be an evidence-based practice for phobias, anxiety, depression, and PTSD (Feinstein, 2012).
While I was involved in many of the early studies, at present I am involved in very few. Graduate students and university faculty members at a variety of institutions have picked up the cudgels, and are conducting fascinating trials to which I am no more than an onlooker.
What this journal provides them with is a group of experienced peer reviewers. These reviewers are rigorous and academically gifted, but they possess a knowledge base that reviewers at other journals do not: a deep understanding of the existing body of knowledge, and training in the methods described.
This enables reviewers to offer critical but well-informed critiques of papers that are submitted, and to hold submissions to high academic standards while bearing the evidence base in mind as a background to their recommendations.
Five years on, I can point to several valuable papers that are unlikely to have been published in other peer-reviewed journals, not because of a lack of open-minded editorial perspective on the part of the editors, but because of a simple unfamiliarity with the literature of the energy psychology field, and the difference these methods make in the lives of people like Don. In this way, I believe this journal has provided valuable impetus to the maturation of the field.
Where might we be in another five years, when I or another editor is writing the ten year anniversary editorial for this journal? By that time I expect energy psychology to be an integral part of primary care. I expect it to be used especially in the early stages of medical treatment.
Added to the arsenal of biomedical and behavioral treatments available, it will be a component of “standard care” for pain, stress, and many physical diseases.
It will also have a place in end-of-life care. In the Pine Bluff, Florida Veterans Administration hospital, EFT is used to help relatives of dying veterans cope with the grief and emotional pain they feel. It will be used to help patients cope with anxiety they may feel before surgery, and to augment visualization, affirmation, and other placebo treatments that speed healing.
I also believe it will have made a large impact on mental health, dramatically reducing the prevalence of phobias, anxiety, depression, and PTSD. It won’t replace proven psychotherapy methods like cognitive and exposure therapies, but will be used in conjunction with them as part of a psychotherapist’s toolkit.
New therapies blending all these methods for client benefit will emerge from the minds of creative clinicians. A recent review paper antagonistic to energy psychology nevertheless noted that these methods are already used by over 42 percent of therapists (Gaudiano, Brown, & Miller, 2012).
Energy psychology won’t replace medication, but it will certainly reduce the unnecessary drugging of patients who have minor or short-term mental health problems. Medication will be prescribed appropriately rather than indiscriminately.
In another five to ten years I expect energy psychology to be prevalent in places it’s gained a foothold today. It’s in use in a few Veterans Administration hospitals and clinics, and in a handful of schools. It’s gaining ground with professional athletes, and quite a number of businesses. This trend will accelerate as the benefits become apparent. In a decade it might be the norm rather than the exception in schools, businesses, and athletic venues.
As it reduces symptoms, it will reduce costs. While falling medical costs to society might seem like a fantasy given the extraordinary rises in the past three decades, this trend is not inevitable. A population that is mentally and physically much healthier means reduced utilization of medical services.
In summary, I believe that energy psychology will change the trajectory of society as it affects wellness, productivity, and medical costs. All the patient work by this journal’s peer reviewers, and the dedicated investigators who have provided energy psychology with a robust evidence base, will have made a small but significant contribution to the process of positive change.
Chambless, D., & Hollon, S. D. (1998). Defining empirically supported therapies. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 66, 7-18.
Church, D. (2013). The EFT manual. Santa Rosa, CA: Energy Psychology Press.
Church, D., & Brooks, A. J. (2010). The effect of a brief EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) self-intervention on anxiety, depression, pain and cravings in healthcare workers. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal, 9(4), 40-44.
Church, D., Hawk, C., Brooks, A., Toukolehto, O., Wren, M., Dinter, I., & Stein, P. (2013). Psychological trauma in veterans using EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques): A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 201, 153-60. doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e31827f6351.
Feinstein, D. (2012). Acupoint stimulation in treating psychological disorders: Evidence of efficacy. Review of General Psychology, 16, 364?380. doi:10.1037/a0028602
Feinstein, D. & Krippner, S. (2006). The mythic path. Santa Rosa, CA: Energy Psychology Press.
Karatzias, T., Power, K., Brown, K., McGoldrick, T., Begum, M., Young, J., . . . Adams, S. (2011). A controlled comparison of the effectiveness and efficiency of two psychological therapies for posttraumatic stress disorder: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing vs. Emotional Freedom Techniques. Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases, 199, 372-378. doi:10.1097/MND.0b013e31821cd26.
Gaudiano, B. A., Brown, L. A., & Miller, I. W. (2012). Tapping their patients’ problems away. Characteristics of psychotherapists using energy meridian techniques. Research on Social Work Practice, 22, 647-655. doi:10.1177/1049731512448468