The easy-to-read research summary you’ve been waiting for

(by Sarah Murphy, LPC) Many practitioners understand that energy psychology works, but find that they are hesitant to introduce it to neophytes, or stumble when defending it to skeptics and critics. If you have used energy psychology, you have likely experienced its effectiveness; if you are a member of ACEP, there is little doubt that you have witnessed its powerful effects, personally and professionally. And it’s not just “in your head”.

There are more than 400 kinds of therapy; most have little or no research backing them. In terms of research, energy psychology is in the top 10% of therapies, as ACEP Executive Director Bob Schwarz wrote in his 2015 blog on the topic.

A growing body of research demonstrates that energy psychology methods such as Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) and Thought Field Therapy (TFT) are effective for a variety of issues, from depression, anxiety and PTSD, to addictions and weight loss, to pain and health, to academic and sports performance.

Perhaps the need for all this research, and the persistent resistance to its acceptance, exists because people who adhere to the dominant Western medical paradigm have a hard time accepting the Eastern-influenced paradigm of energy psychology. Yet the research does exist. Here are some highlights. (Read all the way to the end to learn about some of the cool studies published last year, including a genetic-marker study and an fMRI study.)

The literature

To date, more than 200 articles about energy psychology published in peer-reviewed journals demonstrate its effectiveness. Publication in a peer-reviewed journal is significant; it means that your research has been vetted by professionals in the field; your paper is more likely to be scientifically valid, and its conclusions more likely to be accurate.

Among these 250 articles are more than 115 studies; 99% of the studies document efficacy for energy psychology modalities. These include more than 50 pre-post studies and 65 randomized controlled studies.

Pre-post studies measure changes before and after treatment with energy psychology. In randomized controlled studies, researchers randomly assign participants to energy psychology or another condition, and the results both before and after treatment and between treatment groups are compared. This kind of study helps answer the question, “was the benefit from just getting help, or from getting this specific type of help?”

Multiple research studies document the efficacy of energy psychology methods for:

  • Pain
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Food cravings
  • Trauma and PTSD
  • Peak athletic performance

Aggregate data

The body of research includes 12 systematic reviews. A systematic review includes only studies of higher quality, and which can be found by searching major databases such as PubMed, PsychInfo, ProQuest, and Science Direct. This allows the researcher to make conclusions about the validity of the findings. If the studies are of higher quality, the results are more likely to be valid.

To date, there have been five meta-analyses of energy psychology therapies. A meta-analysis is a statistical analysis of individual studies. Researchers use inclusion criteria to examine quality studies, and use statistical methods to aggregate and summarize the results of the collected studies as a whole. Typically, meta-analyses will also assess the methodological rigor of individual studies, rating them as low, medium or high quality. This kind of study allows us to make apples-to-apples comparisons, and to draw conclusions about the overall effectiveness of an intervention for a specific condition. It is also a measure of the rigor of the research: there must be five to seven quality studies meeting criteria of methodological rigor in order for a researcher to conduct a meta-analysis. Having 5 meta-analyses is a big deal, and speaks to the breadth and quality of the research.

Physiology

2019 saw an uptick in research on the physiological markers of energy psychology.

Stapleton et al published a preliminary study of neurological changes using fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging). They found that EFT facilitated structural changes in the brain. The changes occurred in the limbic system, which is associated with emotions, often called the “animal” or “emotional” brain. Structural changes did not occur in the control group. This study was part of Stapleton’s work with food cravings; the treatment group also experienced a decrease in food cravings corresponding to the brain changes.

Yount et al measured changes to micro RNA among veterans using EFT for trauma. Micro RNAs seem to play a role in gene expression. Certain micro RNAs seem to be factors in depression, and these were downregulated following EFT treatment.

Bach et al looked at a host of psychological and physiological markers and found that a four-day EFT training led to drops in depression, anxiety, PTSD, cravings, and pain, and a boost in happiness; as well as improvements in immune function (measured by salivary immunoglobulin-A), cortisol, resting heart rate, and blood pressure.

Answering the call

Energy psychology continues to gain popularity in the popular culture as a self-help tool, and it continues to grow in use by therapists and practitioners as well. As more studies demonstrate its effectiveness for different conditions, and more practitioners become aware of the research, energy psychology will assume its rightful place in psychotherapy. Many people will benefit.

We know how helpful these methods can be, and we can all be ambassadors of energy psychology! It is important to educate our friends and family, and to address questions from skeptics, to help bring energy psychology into the mainstream.

Sarah Murphy, LPC, is a licensed professional counselor and coach with more than 12 years of clinical experience. She specializes in energy psychology, including EFT, as well as mindfulness and hypnotherapy. In her therapy practice, Transformative Therapy, she works with individuals seeking to find peace within themselves, people who have serious medical diagnoses, and couples who want to resolve conflict and live in harmony. Sarah’s personal motto is that we are here to create a more peaceful world, one more-peaceful person at a time. Sarah’s therapeutic approach brings an Eastern influence to Western psychological modalities. Learn more at www.transformative-therapy.com

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