(by Robert Schwarz, PsyD, DCEP)
During one of our coaching calls in the Science of Energy Healing course, a number of people raised this question. “What can we say to organizations that state there is no research supporting energy psychology (or energy healing)?” As fate would have it, I am currently in the middle of just such a situation. ACEP had arranged for me to teach a webinar on energy psychology for therapists treating trauma. The webinar was for an organization that markets itself as supporting clients in getting effective therapy and therapists in giving the same. A few days ago, I was notified that they were canceling the webinar for a CE reason. I was able to immediately resolve that problem. I then asked if the webinar would now be held and I got this response:
I have reviewed your presentation content with the executive team at xxx.org. We have decided to stand by our original decision to cancel the presentation on energy psychology. We continue to have concerns about the lack of published, empirical evidence for the efficacy of this approach.
As many of you are aware, there is a great deal of misinformation or lack of information in the world about energy psychology. It is like a bad rumor in high school. Once the rumor is out, even if proven incorrect it just does not go away. This is why it is so important to challenge these things on an organizational level. In this case, apparently fairly high-ranking people in this organization that ought to know what is going on in the field are years behind the times. So, how to respond? Let me be frank, the first drafts of my email had a somewhat “different tone” than what I eventually sent. It’s okay to write those emails – just don’t send them. I think the email below strikes a good balance of information and assuredness without being hostile. It does then call them out on their process. That might be a questionable move. But I think it was fair in this instance, since they cancelled a webinar that had been on the books for months.
Your decision is deeply concerning. It would appear that your team is simply unaware of the significant amount of research on energy psychology. Exactly how have you reached your conclusion; based on what kind of review? Energy psychology has over 60 published studies in refereed journals, 20 RCTs, with 98+% of findings supporting the efficacy of energy psychology. Of the studies looking at follow-up from 3 months to 2 years, 100% found that the gains held. There is even a meta-analysis showing medium effect sizes. In a world of over 400 therapies, most of which have no research, these findings place energy psychology in the top 10% of all therapies in terms of research on effectiveness.
Furthermore, the research on energy psychology approaches suggests that not only is energy psychology effective, it may be more effective than many other approaches, especially for trauma. Energy psychology fits in with the cutting edge of trauma treatment such as, body-based approaches, polyvagal theory and memory re-consolidation work. Energy psychology is deeply supportive of patients. It is a non-abreactive approach that is non-pathologizing and offers self help protocols. This is why luminaries in the field such as Bessel van der Kolk and Stephen Porges are supportive of energy psychology.
As a matter of process, I am also disturbed by your unwillingness to have a conversation with me. I am the executive director of an organization that represents over 1200 practitioners who use energy psychology approaches. There are many thousands of therapists who are not in ACEP who also use energy psychology in one form or another. Hundreds of thousands of consumers are aware of or use “tapping”. If your team had concerns, why not arrange for conversation?
They have not replied to me yet. I will follow up in a few days. Feel free to use my “elevator speech” above.
A related issue is that people want a dossier of information to give boards or committees to help persuade them when they raise the “no evidence” issue. The issue becomes how deep do you want to go. Here is a starting point.
- A 2012 review of research in energy psychology in the Review of General Psychology. This is the reference that I drew most of my statistics from. This journal is considered one of the flagship journals of the American Psychological Association. (Feinstein, D(2012). Acupoint stimulation in treating psychological disorders: Evidence of Efficacy. Review of General Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0028602)
- The first meta-analysis of energy psychology. A meta-analysis is an analysis of other studies. It looks at how they all come together. A meta-analysis can’t even be conducted until there are sufficient studies to analyze, and when a meta-analysis finds an effect, it is a big deal in terms of a technique being “evidence based”. It should be noted that this analysis was super strict. It threw out some of the best studies for statistical reasons. Even with that, it still found a moderate effect. Most psychotherapy meta-analyses end up with moderate effects. (Gilomen, S. & Lee, C.W. (2015). The efficacy of acupoint stimulation in the treatment of psychological distress: A meta-analysis. Behav. Ther. & Exp. Psychiatry. 48 (2015) 140e148)
- A 2009 review of the best evidence of biofield therapies (that does not include energy psychology). This is still helpful in demonstrating that there is a context within science where these kinds of things are studied using the scientific method. ( Jain, S & Mills, P (2010) Biofield Therapies: Helpful or Full of Hype? A Best Evidence Synthesis. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine)
Finally, it is very important to note that the entire premise that evidence-based approaches are somehow superior to good clinical practice is not completely evidenced based. Irony – get it? This article by Wampold & Imel is an important read on this topic. I will discuss it in a later blog.
Robert Schwarz, PsyD, DCEP
Executive Director, ACEP
Update: July 22, 2016. Since this blog was published in Dec 2015 many changes have occurred. An additional 3 meta-analyses have been published and 2 more are in the process of publication. All have found large effect sizes. See ACEP’s research pages There are now a total of over 100 studies and publications in referred journals on EP. There are now over 82 studies published on EP – 98% of them have positive findings. The government agency SAMSHA has approved Thought Field Therapy as evidenced based for trauma in their National Registry of Evidenced Based Programs and Practices http://nrepp.samhsa.gov. Lastly, the National Institute of Health has an energy medicine data base of over 600 energy medicine publications.