From Lunatic Charlatans to Crackpot Mental Health Therapy


(by Robert Schwarz, PsyD, DCEP)

Do you remember the Wikipedia scandal when Jimmy Wales called us lunatic charlatans? Well the radical skeptics are at it again. This time it was in Forbes online magazine.

The commentary was titled, “You Won’t Believe The Government Is Supporting This Crackpot Mental Health Therapy”.

It bemoaned the fact that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which is part of the U.S. government, now lists the energy psychology approach of Thought Field therapy (TFT) as evidenced based. This is a huge step toward creating greater acceptance of this approach. Click here and then search under TFT.

The commentary was co written by Scott O. Lilienfeld, a well-known radical skeptic and Dr. Sally Satel, who I have not heard of before, but apparently is in the same camp. You can and should read the article for yourself. But before you read the article, read my earlier blog on the six anti-scientific strategies used by radical skeptics. Then read the Forbes article and see them played out. How many can you find? Leave a comment below.

I wrote a response to the Forbes article, along with 18 other people. All those responses were unanimously against Satel and Lilienfield. It is very hard to access the comments , so I include my response here with two changes. I’ve corrected the number of published articles and the percent of positive findings.

This article claims to be scientific, yet it is completely the opposite. Notice the inflammatory language use of the word “crackpot”. Lilianfield continues to be one of the virulent naysayers who refuse to accept any data that disconfirms his story. There have been numerous research articles published in refereed scientific journals that support TFT and other related approaches. Now a completely independent NREPP* has reviewed the research and found that TFT is evidenced based. Instead of updating the database in their heads, Lilianfield and now Satel continue to tow the true “anti-believer” line. They continue to use the “it’s placebo” argument. NREPP has a series of rules it uses to evaluate programs. And those rules are the same for everyone. TFT passed those rules. Therefore, according to Lilianfield and Satel, NREPP must be faulty. It could not possibly be that Lilianfield and Satel are in error.

There are now as many as 90+ published studies on TFT and related “tapping” approaches. 99% of them have found significant positive results. This data is not consistent with the placebo narrative. But no amount of data will change their long-standing opinion. Perhaps a reasonable business example might be senior executives at Blackberry saying, “The iPhone phenomena is not real! It will be a flash in the pan”!

Actually, we should be feeling good about this. It is far better to be attacked than ignored. We are in fact making headway. And the article in Forbes has the taint of desperation. Can you smell it?

Remember to see how many anti-scientific strategies you can find in their opinion piece and post your findings below!

Robert Schwarz, PsyD, DCEP
ACEP Executive Director

Want to learn more about the latest science that supports energy psychology and explore new body-mind healing methods? Join us at the 18th International Energy Psychology Conference, June 2-5, 2016. Learn more.

*National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices, which is created by SAHMSA



  1. Deirdre Oliver says:

    Electroshock ECT claims to be evidence- based too, but as we actuall examine it, most of that ‘evidence’ exposes the fact that it is brain damaging and ineffective. Hostility to criticism is a major pointer to weak or pseudo science and acceptance by psychiatric mainstream is not evidence of anything except possibly good marketing. I am not saying that EP is not valid, merely that the defence has some of the trappings found in the rest of psychiatry, which puts up a pink flag at least. Still it’s not going to destroy neurones or kill you so it should be given a chance.

    • Hi Deirdre, You make a good point that tapping has no known significant adverse effects. We are not hostile to real scientific criticism. In fact. it was such criticism that has generated a wealth of studies in the last 5 years including up to 3 meta analyses (2 of them are about to be published) that have found moderate to large effects for Energy Psychology. Many of us have questions that can be submitted to scientific questioning. One of them is how important is the tapping of acupuncture points when it comes to the effectiveness of these approaches. This blog was a comment on the anti-scientific arguments dressed up as science (a wolf in sheep clothing) that we find so objectionable. My point has been to call people out on this rather than to attempt to have a real intellectual conversation when that is not the interest of Extremist Skeptics, who refuse to accept or admit that there is any data at all and who use disrespectful and incendiary language such as “crackpot”.

  2. Well done. Thanks to you and all the others who responded to this article. Evidence is mounting even as new efficacious approaches are developing. As I tell my clients and trainees regarding change, “Don’t take my word for it. Rely on the evidence or lack of evidence in your own experience.” As science moves to catch up with practice, this is one way we can stay in in integrity regarding providing evidence based practice. Again, thank you.


  1. […] The website has a great deal of information that anyone can use to shine a light on the radical skeptical community. One of the nice things about the website is that it has a list of radical skeptics with their bios. However, the list is not complete. The website is of British origin so they are not familiar with many American “skeptics”; for example, Scott O. Lilienfeld, who co-wrote an article in Forbes decrying the fact that the federally funded the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has found that TFT is evidenced based. (I wrote about this in my blog last week. You can read it here.) […]

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