The science of energy medicine and energy psychology: A new direction

(by Rick Leskowitz MD) I went to medical school over 40 years ago, and its conceptual foundation was pretty straightforward: it was all about anatomy and physiology. First we learned about all the organs and cellular structures (it was called gross anatomy because the organs are so solid and tangible, not because dissecting them is unpleasant!), and then we learned how these components functioned together in health and illness. And not much has changed since then – doctor as auto mechanic, now upgraded to include regular maintenance checks (ie, lifestyle advice).

In many ways, the set-up is the same for energy medicine: subtle anatomy and energy physiology are the keys. Many people are aware of the three main energetic structures of our subtle anatomy: the biofield, the meridians and the chakras (in layman’s terms, the aura, the energy pathways and the energy centers.) Traditional Chinese Medicine states that the mind directs this energy (qi), and the blood (ie, the body) follows the qi. But how, exactly?  

This is where energy physiology fits in, by way of two key interfaces: the places where energy psychology and energy medicine techniques affect our subtle anatomy, and the places where energy-induced energy shifts impact our biology. For better or worse, energy psychology (EP) research overlooks qi by seeking to explain its effectiveness in terms that conventional medicine will understand (ie, fMRIs). But if energy is real, we should be able to make these EP-to-qi-to-body connections. So here are some next steps.

With respect to the first interface, each energy psychology and energy medicine modality has its own unique subtle anatomic target. One size does not fit all, because Reiki, EFT, TFT, TAT and EMDR each impact different layers and components of the energy body; see the reference below for a detailed map of how and where these interactions happen.

Regarding the second interface (energy-to-body), remember that biology and DNA can’t explain cell growth and differentiation – how stem cells decide to become, say, neurons, and grow over there – but the biofield can. Just as iron filings align to a magnet’s invisible lines of force, so will cells go and grow where and how the biofield tells them to. Consider post-amputation phantom limbs – many practitioners have palpated the invisible phantom with their hands. That’s possible because the phantoms are not illusory creations of the brain, but independent energy fields that exist in empty space, even when their corresponding physical structure (e.g., the iron filings) has been cut away. The body follows the qi’s template.

Another form of energy/biology interaction happens when strong emotions stir up sensations in our body. Feelings like being “choked up” or getting “butterflies in the stomach” aren’t just randomly located perceptions, but the results of specific chakra activations. Each of the chakras has an emotional function that is associated with a commonly felt bodily sensation (Figure 1).

7crownpinealblissscalp tingling
6browpituitaryintuitioninner “light bulb”
5throatthyroidcreativity“choked up”
4heartthymuslove“warm-hearted” glow
3solar plexuspancreaspower“butterflies”
2sacral gonadssexuality“turned on”
1rootadrenalfear adrenaline “rush”

Figure 1 – Chakra energy sensations

Here’s another connection – athletes using acupuncture to relieve muscle cramps after vigorous exercise. The standard explanation is that lactic acid has built up and must be metabolized, and that is true – as far as it goes. Energetically, though, muscle tension and pain result when energy flow through the meridians is blocked. That “friction” creates oxidative stress, which effectively causes the cells to “rust” by building up lactic acid; energy treatments (plus anti-oxidants) restore intracellular balance.

Bottom line: there are still many gaps in the story, but these energy psychology/energy/biology links show the direction to go if we really want to understand what energy psychology is all about.

Eric (Rick) Leskowitz MD, ABIHM was a consultant psychiatrist to the Pain Management Program at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston for over 25 years, is co-director of their Integrative Health Initiative, and is a research affiliate at Harvard Medical School. He is a long-standing member of the Association of Comprehensive Energy Psychology. For over 40 years, he has studied energy healing and energy psychology, meditation, hypnosis and their integration into mainstream medicine. He has edited three textbooks and produced a documentary film about group energies and sports, The Joy of Sox: Weird Science and the Power of Intention, that was broadcast on PBS stations nationally. His work can be accessed at:

Want to learn more about the science behind energy psychology and energy healing?
Join us for the 23rd International Energy Psychology Conference! Live, online, May 12-17, 2021. Free with conference registration – access to the 10th Annual Research Symposium, May 13, 2021. Early bird prices end March 31, 2021.


Leskowitz E. A cartography of energy medicine: From subtle anatomy to energy physiology, Explore: Journal of Science and Healing, Nov 2020. (PDF available here.) 


  1. Michelle Hughes says:

    Interesting article, there are nine energy systems in the body, including the Grid (like a chassey of a car) etc/ Look up Donna Eden she see’s them all. interesting article.

    • Rick Leskowitz MD says:

      Yes, Donna does amazing work and I join you in recommending her books, but in a limited article like this, I had to keep to a tighter focus. I’m glad you found it interesting.

  2. Awesome job my friend!
    Dr Erin Shannon

  3. This is one of the simplest and BEST descriptions of the potential healing effects of energy psychology and energy medicine that I’ve ever read. I love it! Thank you, Rick, for all of your work to move EP & EM forward!

  4. Dr. Rick! Thank you!

    As a Ph.D. in neuroscience and practicing Body Code practitioner, and a person who’s learning about Qi from the Chinese medicine perspective, I”ve been thinking about this East/West intersection a lot.

    Re Qi: According to Dr. Daniel Keown, author of “The Spark in the Machine”, meridians are in the fascia. Fascia is the net that ties us all together and it’s everywhere, and it is piezoelectric. And its because of the collagen in it. Also Dr. Daniel elaborates on link between our electrical properties and regeneration in his book. And this video shows bioelectrical signaling during the neurodevelopment of a frog!

    re: Athletes: according to Ashley Black, fascial restrictions, adhesions and distortions also contribute to pain. I’ve personally felt younger, had a break through in my workouts (more energy, more strength with my biceps that were not getting stronger for over 2 decades!) after releasing the issues in my fascia!

    Re: emotions: Candice Pert says that emotions are in the peptides.. thus anywhere! Neuroscience IS now recognizing the neurotransmitters associated with our emotions, Serotonin, Norepinephrine, endorphins are in our gut, heart and immune system. And the Chinese believe that emotions eminate from the organs. As a Body Code practitioner, I know that we have metaphysical issues (I like to call them issues in your tissues) and that releasing them can be the key to releasing pain or mobility issues.

    Would love to join the research effort!
    -Tina Huang, Ph.D.

  5. Rick Leskowitz says:

    Great points, Tina. These energy-oriented techniques must impact us on many levels, because humans are truly multi-dimensional. Thanks for your work.

  6. Dawna Salkiewicz says:

    Dr. Rick, my niece has suffered a brain injury almost 3 years ago and has tried so many modalities with little relief of her migraines. I was wondering if you are still practicing in the Boston area or if you can recommend a specific energy treatment that may help her?

    • Rick Leskowitz says:

      Sorry to hear about your niece’s brain injury, but there are some good treatment options out there. Craniosacral therapy would be a good place to start – it’s at the interface between manual medicine and energy medicine. I’m not in practice any more, but there are many clinicians who have trained in CST. To find one local to wherever you live, consult the website of the Upledger Institute, the main training grounds for CST. There are several acupuncture protocols designed for TBI, especially the Yamamoto New Scalp Acupuncture approach. Of the hands-on energy treatments, someone certified in Healing Touch should be able to help and their website also has a “Find a Practitioner” tab. Hope this helps – best of luck.

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