I am part of a group of EFT practitioners who are introducing EFT to veterans on a community college campus. Most of the veterans are young and recently enrolled in classes after returning from deployment. Many of them have experienced traumatic events and we practitioners, having participated in the Veteran Stress Project, believe that EFT can be of great value to them in many areas of their lives.
Where’s the proof?
One of the first questions from the students is “Where’s the scientific proof?” As students they are being taught how to use the library research tools. They are baffled when they look for the research we have been telling them about, because they can’t find it in Medline or PsycInfo which, to the traditional academic, means it doesn’t exist. The Energy Psychology Journal (EPJ), where much of the EP research is published, is not indexed by APA, so many of the research articles don’t show up in online searches.
What does show up are several very slanted critiques of energy psychology (EP), such as those by Bakker in Clinical Psychologist (2013) and Gaudiano, Brown and Miller, in Research on Social Work Practice (2012). What the students aren’t aware of is that these articles are written by staunch critics of EP, citing negative reviews, and refusing to review more recent and positive studies on these modalities. Although several advocates of energy psychology wrote rebuttals to these articles, correcting errors and mis-statements (Feinstein in response to Bakker and Sise, Leskowitz, Stein and Tranguch in response to Gaudiano, et al), the editors of the journals refused to print them. This is parallel to what is happening with the online “encyclopedia” Wikipedia that claims it is “a multilingual, web-based, free-content encyclopedia project supported by the Wikimedia Foundation and based on an openly editable model.” That is, unless the page is locked, like the EFT page.
When the term “energy psychology” is typed into the search box, it is redirected to the “Energy (esotericism)” page, and the term “Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology” does not exist. For more information on the saga of the attempts to get Wikipedia to fairly represent energy psychology approaches, see these previous blog posts by ACEP:
- ACEP Responds to Wikipedia Founder’s Rail Against Holistic Practitioners
- Deconstructing the Six Anti-Scientific Strategies for Denying a Highly Effective Therapy (EP)
An April, 2014 article in the Epoch Times, “Can You Trust What Wikipedia Tells You About Science?” gives a helpful overview of the topic from a perspective outside of the energy psychology community: “A team of activists under the label “Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia” are making concerted efforts to change science content on Wikipedia. Some are concerned this group could skew public perception of scientific principles and studies.”
Entire issue of Energy Psychology Journal devoted to EP Research
In order to shed light on this controversy and more fairly represent the true current status of EP research, Dawson Church recently devoted an entire issue of the Energy Psychology Journal (6:1, 2014) to this topic. He includes abstracts of the two critical articles and rebuttals by Feinstein and by Sise, et al, that the editors of Clinical Psychologists and Research on Social Work Practice refused to print. In his editorial essay Church describes the “Translational Gap” or the lag between scientific discovery and the translation of these discoveries into clinical practice. According to Church, this usually takes about 17 years and only about 30% of innovations actually make it through that gap.
Funding for research in new therapies is often difficult to obtain. An additional barrier for EP approaches is the lack of support for innovation in established journals’ peer-review process. “Little or no attention is given to the strengths of a paper, while the deficiencies, real or supposed, are mercilessly scrutinized.” (Church, p. 10) ACEP Executive Director, Dr. Robert Schwarz, describes in this edition of EPJ (and summarized in a blog post referenced above) the pattern of six interlocking and antiscientific strategies used by biased writers and editors to block the publication of evidence of the efficacy of EP therapies. These include the strategy that is obvious in both Bakker and Gaudiano, et al, of claiming to write reviews of the current literature while ignoring almost all the recent research and continuing to cite the outdated anti-EP articles. These reviews rarely include current research from parallel fields such as acupuncture.
Reading the original articles by Bakker (2013), “The current status of energy psychology: Extraordinary claims with less than ordinary evidence,” and Gaudiano, Brown and Miller (2012), “Tapping their patients’ problems away? Characteristics of psychotherapists using energy meridian techniques,” helped me to understand what Schwarz is referring to. Both articles reflect the use of the anti-scientific strategies mentioned above as well as making ad hominem attacks on supporters of EP. Framing positive findings as placebo is another dismissive technique used by the skeptics.
Gaudiano has been a long time skeptic, publishing “Can we really tap our troubles away? A critical analysis of Thought Field Therapy” published in The Skeptical Inquirer (2000). He uses many of the same references in his 2012 article on the characteristics of therapists who use energy meridian techniques (EMT). He concludes, based on a survey of only 149 therapists, that those who use these techniques suffer from “poorer critical thinking skills,” put more reliance on intuition and have higher reliance on “erroneous health beliefs” than therapists who don’t use EMTs. The original research study was to identify the factors associated with critical thinking in psychotherapists. He used an unvalidated critical thinking questionnaire along with a self-report Treatment Approaches and Techniques Questionnaire. Gaudiano claims that 42% of participants who used EMT scored significantly lower on his critical thinking test. Interestingly, his claim that, of those with doctorates, 73% did not use EMTS is perhaps a result of the APA’s 1998 ban on offering CEs for energy psychology—a ban that has since been lifted due to the strong body of research on EP modalities published in the interim.
Sise, Leskowitz, Stein and Tranguch, (2014), clinicians who use EMTs in their practices, submitted a rebuttal to the Research on Social Work Practice journal. The journal had originally agreed to publish their response, but later declined. Their article covers the wide range of efficacy research studies as well as studies that offer empirical support for the theories underlying EMTs. Gaudiano, et all was offered the opportunity to respond to Sise’s commentary, but simply responded that they do not believe that Sise et al “raise any additional points or new arguments … and that a detailed response is not necessary at this time.” He instead refers to Pignotti and Thyer (2009) who concluded that the evidence for EMTs was “premature and based on incomplete evidence,” neglecting to consider the research published since 2008.
Bakker (2013) claims to present a review of the empirical support for EP treatments and concludes that EP is a pseudoscience and not a justifiable research or clinical option. He too cites much of the early research articles and neglects the more recent ones. He claims that any results shown in the research are attributable to placebo effects. Refuting Bakker’s claim that he has written a current status report, Feinstein describes the body of more recent EP research as well as research that may be linked to the active ingredients of EP. Bakker and Feinstein agree that there is a need for dismantling studies to determine what ingredients are necessary. Bakker, however, inaccurately claims that “research in EP has flatlined” and responds to Feinstein’s rebuttal by saying that “a bigger swamp is still a swamp” and basically reiterates his previous article. Feinstein, citing the growing number of studies supporting efficacy for EP, responds by writing that Bakker is “calling an avalanche a swamp” and notes that “Energy psychology is at the center of a perfect storm of cognitive dissonance and paradigm clashes” (2014, p. 50).
Can we close the translational gap?
So where does that leave these students and veterans who are interested in learning more about EFT and comprehensively reviewing the research on EP? We have pointed them to the ACEP research pages, The Energy Psychology Journal, Benor’s Wholistic Healing Publication online and the most recent research review published online in Current Research in Psychology.
As a research coach who participated in the Veteran Stress Project (www.stressproject.org), I saw the power of EFT to reduce the symptoms of PTSD. The research, which involved six sessions of EFT for veterans with PSTD, is part of the research that was ignored in the Bakker and Gaudiano, et al reviews. The five veterans I worked with in the replication trial started with an average PCL-M of 60, and had, at the 6-month follow-up, an average of 24. Their average SA-45 scores pre-treatment was 144, and after 6 months was 66, and their insomnia index scores dropped from an average of 18 to 5.
To me, it seems criminal to disregard or misrepresent the research and prevent traumatized veterans and others from receiving the promising treatments of energy psychology. I have tremendous appreciation for Dawson Church for publishing this debate in an open forum, and exposing these ‘anti-scientific strategies’ which have led to a ‘translational gap’ for EFT and other CAM therapies. I am also grateful to all who are lending their voices, time and resources to correcting the misinformation that is out there. Together we can continue to help close the gap and expand access to all who might be helped by these amazing healing tools.
Lorna Minewiser, PhD, an active member of the ACEP research committee, coaches and teaches energy psychology methods in California, online and by phone. http://www.coachminewiser.com
Energy Psychology 6: 1 May 2014
Bakker, G. (2013).The current status of energy Psychology: Extraordinary claims with less than ordinary evidence. Clinical Psychology, (17)3, 91-99.
Gaudiano, B. A., Brown, L.A., & Miller, I.W (2000). Can we really tap our troubles away? A critical analysis of Thought Field Therapy. Skeptical Inquirer, 24, 29-33, 36.
Gaudiano, B. A., Brown, L.A., & Miller, I.W. (2011) Factors associated with Critical Thinking Abilities in Psychologists. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (40) 2 647-137-146.
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.
Pignotti, M., Thyer, B.A.,(2009). Some comments on “Energy psychology: A review of the evidence”: Premature conclusions based on incomplete evidence? Psychotherapy. 46(2):257-61