ACEP Responds to Wikipedia Founder’s Rail Against Holistic Practitioners

censorship(By Robert Schwarz, PsyD, DCEP)

This blog post serves as a play-by-play account of ACEP’s petition created in December, 2013 to address bias and censorship in Wikipedia’s editing policies and procedures with regard to pages on holistic healing modalities such as energy medicine and energy psychology (i.e. EFT and TAT). As of this writing, these pages remain negatively biased and efforts to update the pages with the latest peer-reviewed research remain futile. Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia’s Founder, has at last responded to the petition–and his tone sheds light on where some of the problem lies. Read the full blog post to learn more.


Wikipedia is a valued source of information, serving 500 million users, according to their own figures. Most of these users are familiar with Wikipedia’s stance of having a neutral point of view and easy access to editing by those who are familiar with the subject. Therefore, users typically believe that what they read on Wikipedia can be trusted.

Unfortunately, this is not the case for those pages that relate to energy medicine, energy psychology (including Emotional Freedom Techniques & Thought Field Therapy), and other holistic approaches to healing. There is an increasing body of peer-reviewed research regarding energy psychology that has been published in mainstream scientific journals. But the pages of Wikipedia have repeatedly been overwritten to ignore any reference to these scientific findings.The content is controlled by a very small cadre of self-proclaimed skeptics who flagrantly disregard all research and commentary that doesn’t fit their own point of view. Repeated attempts over many years by ACEP members and others to engage with Wikipedia’s process in order to improve these pages have met with no success.

In December 2013, the president of ACEP received a routine end-of-year donation request from Wikipedia. Although she had previously donated and wished she could do so again, in appreciation for the value received from other sections of Wikipedia, she was unwilling to support them while this problem was unresolved. The result was a petition on

The Petition

Wikipedia is widely used and trusted. Unfortunately, much of the information related to holistic approaches to healing is biased, misleading, out-of-date, or just plain wrong. For five years, repeated efforts to correct this misinformation have been blocked, and the Wikipedia organization has not addressed these issues. As a result, people who are interested in the benefits of energy medicine, energy psychology, and specific approaches such as the Emotional Freedom Techniques, Thought Field Therapy and the Tapas Acupressure Technique, turn to your pages, trust what they read, and do not pursue getting help from these approaches which research has, in fact, proven to be of great benefit to many. This has serious implications, as people continue to suffer with physical and emotional problems that might well be alleviated by these approaches.

Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia, left the organization due to concerns about its integrity. He stated: “In some fields and some topics, there are groups who ‘squat’ on articles and insist on making them reflect their own specific biases. There is no credible mechanism to approve versions of articles.”

This is exactly the case with the Wikipedia pages for energy psychology, energy medicine, acupuncture, and other forms of complementary/alternative medicine (CAM), which are currently skewed to a negative, unscientific view of these approaches despite numerous rigorous studies in recent years demonstrating their effectiveness. These pages are controlled by a few self-appointed “skeptics” who serve as de facto censors for Wikipedia. They clothe their objections in the language of the narrowest possible understanding of science in order to inhibit open discussion of innovation in health care. As gatekeepers for the status quo, they refuse discourse with leading edge research scientists and clinicians or, for that matter, anyone with a different point of view. Fair-minded referees should be given the responsibility of monitoring these important areas.

I pledge not to donate to your fundraising efforts until these changes have been made.”

Sign the petition

The response from Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia

On March 23, 2014 Mr. Wales responded

No, you have to be kidding me. Every single person who signed this petition needs to go back to check their premises and think harder about what it means to be honest, factual, truthful. Wikipedia’s policies around this kind of thing are exactly spot-on and correct. If you can get your work published in respectable scientific journals – that is to say, if you can produce evidence through replicable scientific experiments, then Wikipedia will cover it appropriately.

What we won’t do is pretend that the work of lunatic charlatans is the equivalent of “true scientific discourse”. It isn’t.

ACEP’s response to Jimmy Wales

On March 25, 2014, ACEP President Debby Vajda, LCSW, DCEP, posted the following official response

Mr. Wales,

We appreciate the response. But it seems Wikipedia’s policies aren’t living up to the standard you    yourself have set. This research has been repeatedly published in respectable scientific journals. Attempts to update the Wikipedia page to reflect these findings have been continuously deleted. The editors responsible have offered an arcane and ever-changing list of excuses why peer-reviewed research published in American Psychological Association and other professional journals simply isn’t good enough for Wikipedia.

The prestigious, peer-reviewed journal of the American Psychological Association, Review of General Psychology, published a review of the research related to energy psychology in 2012 which included the following summary: “A literature search identified 51 peer-reviewed papers that report or investigate clinical outcomes following the tapping of acupuncture points to address psychological issues. The 18 randomized controlled trials in this sample were critically evaluated for design quality, leading to the conclusion that they consistently demonstrated strong effect sizes and other positive statistical results that far exceed chance after relatively few treatment sessions. Criteria for evidence-based treatments proposed by Division 12 of the American Psychological Association were also applied and found to be met for a number of conditions, including PTSD and depression.”

Additional research has appeared in the following professional journals: the Journal of Clinical Psychology, the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, Primary Care and Community Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, the Review of General Psychology, and Traumatology. But every edit to the energy psychology Wikipedia page that attempts to reference findings from these well-respected, scientific journals is summarily deleted. (Details on all of this research can be found at


The American Psychological Association does not think we are “lunatic charlatans.” Neither does the Association of Social Work Boards, the National Board of Certified Counselors, or the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors, all of which grant continuing education to their professional members for the study of energy psychology.*

The Wikipedia page is out of step with existing peer-reviewed research on this topic, and opinionated, self-described “skeptic” editors are resisting any change. We’re asking you to abide by your own principles on this topic.
 Wikipedia should reflect, not reject the research findings published in relevant scientific journals… even if volunteer editors don’t particularly like those findings.

Thank you for your consideration.

*To be clear, ACEP is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. ACEP maintains responsibility for this program and its content. The APA does not approve any specific course for CE, nor do they approve any specific treatment modalities, including energy psychology. ACEP is not representing that the APA or other CE bodies are giving energy psychology courses special preference or specific approval.


What specific changes is ACEP looking for from Wikipedia?

Even though energy psychology has met their rule of having a systematic review published in a reputable, third-party journal, the Wikipedia editor has concluded that it doesn’t meet his personal standards and has refused its inclusion. If research that is good enough for acceptance by the peer-reviewed journal of the American Psychological Association isn’t good enough for Wikipedia, they have a clear problem with their rules.

We want the rules to be changed so that pages relating to all healthcare (alternative or not) reflect the state of current, peer-reviewed research that appears in reputable journals. Wikipedia editors should not be able to judge whether or not it meets their personal standards. Because the editor has blocked inclusion of David Feinstein’s energy psychology review article, which appears in the APA’s Review of General Psychology, (as well as other published research) you’ll see that many of the comments on the petition reflect a lack of knowledge that such research already exists.

The Wikipedia editor claims that David Feinstein is not an independent source because he earns money from the field of energy psychology. This is a specious argument. That would be like throwing out all research on medications that is funded by drug companies. Feinstein is the author. The third-party source is the peer-reviewed journal of the American Psychological Association.

On a related note, much of the description on the Emotional Freedom Techniques Wikipedia page is clearly biased from a “skeptic” point of view. Again, the editor has full control of the description and certainly does not present a neutral point of view (breaking Wikipedia’s neutrality policy). Wikipedia needs to change their rules so that this is not allowed to happen.

Here are some examples from the Emotional Freedom Techniques page:

Description section: Wikipedia states: “The available evidence from studies done on EFT, however, have shown that while there may be small effects from use of this technique, they are likely due to well recognized conventional psychological techniques often used with the tapping, rather than the purported “energy” mechanisms.”

That is not an accurate description of available evidence. The description, as written in the Review of General Psychology abstract, should read:

A literature search identified 51 peer-reviewed papers that report or investigate clinical outcomes following the tapping of acupuncture points to address psychological issues. The 18 randomized controlled trials in this sample were critically evaluated for design quality, leading to the conclusion that they consistently demonstrated strong effect sizes and other positive statistical results that far exceed chance after relatively few treatment sessions. Criteria for evidence-based treatments proposed by Division 12 of the American Psychological Association were also applied and found to be met for a number of conditions, including PTSD and depression. (Wikipedia rules should not allow an editor to block this information just because he and other people do not like the author.)

Page Reception section: This section is equally biased. It states: “An article in the Skeptical Inquirer argued that there is no plausible mechanism to explain how the specifics of EFT could add to its effectiveness, and they have been described as unfalsifiable and therefore pseudoscientific.[4] Evidence has not been found for the existence of meridians or other concepts involved in traditional Chinese medicine.[5] A Delphi poll of an expert panel of psychologists rated EFT on a scale describing how discredited EFT has been in the field of psychology. On average, this panel found EFT had a score of 3.8 on a scale from 1.0 to 5.0, with 3.0 meaning “possibly discredited” and a 4.0 meaning “probably discredited.”[6] A book examining pseudoscientific practices in psychology characterized EFT as one of a number of “fringe psychotherapeutic practices,”[7] and a psychiatry handbook states EFT has “all the hallmarks of pseudoscience.”[8] EFT, along with its predecessor, Thought Field Therapy, has been dismissed with warnings to avoid their use by publications such as the The Skeptic’s Dictionary[9] and Quackwatch.[10]”

Quackwatch is a blog. The Skeptical Inquirer is the online publication of an advocacy group, founded to fight against things they don’t like. The Skeptic’s Dictionary defines themselves as being written from a skeptic’s (hardly a neutral) point of view. None of these are peer reviewed or scientific journals. How can Wikipedia be basing its comments about medical and psychological research on such comments?

In summary

Wikipedia editors use a double standard. They state that they will only include research on energy psychology that comes from a systematic review in a third-party professional source. They then not only block the reviews that meet that criteria, but freely cherry pick from any source they choose to make their own point.

ACEP is not looking for Wikipedia to take a pro energy psychology position. We simply want them to present both sides of the story accurately. For instance, the Reception section would more accurately be written something like this:

“Energy psychology is still a new and growing field surrounded by considerable controversy. On the one hand, it has a growing list of therapists using the approach as part of treatment. There is a growing body of research supporting its efficacy as a treatment modality that has appeared in numerous peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Clinical Psychology, the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, and the Review of General Psychology. Academic books on the subject have been published by Norton, McGraw Hill, Random House and Churchill Livingstone.

On the other hand, critics suggest that 1) the studies are methodologically flawed, 2) the positive effects found in the studies are due to placebo or other factors found in other therapies such as exposure, and 3) the concepts of energy flowing in the body are not measurable and are therefore subject to being called pseudoscience.

Despite these controversies, major mental health professional organizations allow continuing education credit for the study of energy psychology, including the American Psychological Association, the Association of Social Work Boards, the National Board of Certified Counselors, and the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors.”


  1. Kudos for a great response. Some audiences will be more receptive if we further elaborate on the concept of energy – it is used in so many ways that it can be confusing. In the particular case of wikipedia, however, it is unlikely to be helpful in the near-term. Some audiences just aren’t ready. There are plenty that are.


  1. […] is how Wikipedia’s founder, Jimmy Wales, recently described members of the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology (ACEP), a highly respected […]

  2. […] ACEP Responds to Wikipedia Founder’s Rail Against Holistic Practitioners […]

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