On December 28, 2009 the American Psychological Association (APA) denied the appeal of The Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology, a non profit association of practitioners and researchers in Energy Psychology, to provide APA Continuing Education credit for Energy Psychology. This action sends a potentially chilling effect on the utilization of one of the most promising treatments for PTSD and trauma at a time when hundreds of thousands of our returning soldiers are suffering from PTSD and more effective treatments are desperately needed. Energy Psychology methods have been used successfully throughout the world to treat thousands of traumatized disaster survivors and US soldiers and have been adopted by three international disaster relief organizations as a core modality in working with the mental health needs of disaster survivors.
One “Energy psychology” technique involves the stimulation of acupuncture points by tapping on them at the same time that a traumatic memory or stressful trigger is brought to mind. The procedure is believed to send signals to the brain that counteract the stress response. Early research is finding it to be surprisingly effective. A paper presented at the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine Conference in San Jose last September, for instance, showed that symptoms of traumatic stress were dramatically reduced in 19 military veterans with PTSD after six hour-long sessions using the method, and that 16 of the 19 of the veterans no longer scored within the PTSD range. Scores for a comparison group that did not receive treatment were unchanged. These outcomes are stronger than outcomes reported for conventional treatments such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy, where a 50% success rate with PTSD after twelve sessions is considered a highly favorable response.
Despite findings such as these the APA forbids any of its CE providers to give credit for course offerings in Energy Psychology. For the last 2 years The Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology, has been working to end this practice by becoming the first APA approved CE provider offering courses in Energy Psychology. First one application was denied; followed by a second that was denied, followed by a request for reconsideration that, too, was denied.
The essence of the CE Committee’s (CEC) denials that prompted the appeal was that Energy Psychology remains “controversial and of uncertain acceptance” and that, “the CEC decision found that sufficient controversy existed to render uncertain the credibility of their claims and theory in the broader communities.”
Continuing education is one of the primary ways a profession introduces new developments to its members. A course meets the APA’s published standards for CE credit if it meets any one of four criteria. The first is that the psychological community has been studying or applying the approach. More than two dozen papers on energy psychology have appeared in peer-reviewed mental health journals, most of them showing favorable outcomes in systematic studies of the method. Meanwhile, at least three international disaster relief organizations have adopted energy psychology as a core modality in working with the mental health needs of disaster survivors.
Another criterion that would define a course as appropriate for APA CE credit is if its “program content has peer-reviewed, published support” beyond publications devoted primarily to the promotion of the approach. Besides the numerous papers mentioned earlier, the APA’s own prestigious journals, such as Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, have published highly favorable assessments of energy psychology.
In June, 2009, ACEP filed an appeal with the APA that was accompanied by a 80 page brief listing 17 counts establishing that the APA CE committee’s decision was 1) arbitrary, capricious or otherwise not in accordance with the standards and criteria and the procedures of the Committee; or (2) not supported by substantial evidence
On Dec 14, the appeal was heard. During that meeting the representatives of the APA CE committee claimed that they followed proper procedure and that the Committee gave our application careful review. Upon further questioning, the CEC Committee Chair stated that the CEC Committee did not have measurable criteria for their decision and that it was based solely on their “professional judgment”. ACEP repeatedly asked what the threshold was for Energy Psychology reaching credibility in their eyes. They stated that there was “no line”.
Despite the substantial evidence submitted by ACEP and their admission that there was no measurable criteria used by the Continuing Education Committee, the APA appeal panel upheld the original decision of the APA CE committee. This ban is antithetical to APA’s stated CE objective of “the encouragement of psychology in all its branches in the broadest and most liberal manner.”
Greg Nicosia, PhD the President, Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology and Member of the American Psychological Association stated, ”Frankly we were stunned by the APA’s lack of ability to give a measurable objective that could be used to demonstrate the effectiveness of energy psychology. We wonder can this bode well for any new therapy that could be effective. Has the APA become so large and powerful that all it can do is defend their status quo? Because continuing education is one of the primary ways a profession introduces new developments to its members, we can only hope that the APA will someday see fit to stop defending its errant position and support the education of psychologists in a method that has the potential to significantly improve treatment for our soldiers and other suffering individuals. Our response now is to raise the funds necessary to conduct the state-of-the-art research that cannot be ignored.”
In love and service,
Gregory J. Nicosia, Ph.D., D.CEP
President, Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology
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