What Is Energy Psychology?

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What Is Energy Psychology?

Energy psychology is a relatively new method of therapy that combines Eastern approaches to the mind and body with Western psychology and psychotherapy ideas. Practitioners of energy psychotherapy claim that tapping acupuncture points while thinking about an anxiety-producing event can improve conditions such as anxiety disorders, phobias, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Though this therapy is still somewhat controversial, continuing research is showing it to be a potentially promising treatment.

Energy psychology techniques were first popularized in the early 1980s by Roger Callahan, PhD under the name of "thought field therapy." David Feinstein, PhD, a clinical psychologist, has developed an energy psychology program that provides training for mental health professionals and non-professionals.

Types of Energy Psychology

There are a number of different types of treatments that are part of energy psychology. Some of these include:

  • Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT): EFT is a type of energy psychology in which anxiety-producing memories are paired with tapping specific points on the body along with the use of spoken affirmations. This process can be performed by a trained therapist or self-administered at home.
  • Thought Field Therapy (TFT): This type of energy psychology involves tapping different areas of the body in specific sequences. These sequences are determined using different algorithms that are intended to address different issues. Like EFT, thought field therapy involves pairing this tapping with a painful, difficult, or traumatic memory. These sequences can be performed by a trained therapist, but people can also learn to self-administer the treatment.
  • Tapas Acupressure Therapy (TAT): This approach, developed by an acupuncturist, utilizes applying pressure with the fingers to locations on the head and face. While applying this pressure, people progress through a series of thoughts focused on their current problems, positive imagery, the sources of their problems, and finally on forgiveness and healing. Like other forms of energy psychology, this type can be administered by a trained professional or practiced at home.

Techniques

Treatment begins similarly to any other form of psychotherapy with the therapist and client developing trust and rapport and zeroing in on problems. The therapist starts by identifying a particular trigger, which is a thought, image, or memory that sparks upsetting or anxiety-producing feelings, and then asks the patient to rate how distressing that trigger is on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being the highest distress.

The next step is to have the patient tap on certain acupuncture points, called acupoints, while repeating a statement about the trigger that has been agreed upon by both the client and therapist.

The way it is thought to work is that the brain is expecting a highly unpleasant emotional reaction to occur in response to the trigger, but it doesn't because the tapping of the acupoints is purported to temporarily deactivate the limbic response.

With many repetitions, people learn to neutralize the emotions evoked by painful or upsetting thoughts or memories. 

After the tapping is complete, the therapist has the client rate the trigger again, perhaps describing physical symptoms as well. The tapping is repeated until the rate goes down to a zero, or very close to it. This generally takes very little time, though follow-up sessions may be needed.

What Energy Psychology Can Help With

While further research on energy psychology is still needed, this approach has been used to treat a number of different conditions. Some of the uses that are being explored include the treatment of:

More research is needed, but energy psychology may also be helpful for addressing other problems as well such as grief, worry, irritability, and relationship problems.

Benefits of Energy Psychology

Energy psychology offers a number of benefits that might make it an appealing treatment option. Some benefits include:

  • Accessibility: Because energy psychology techniques are easy to learn, they can also be administered and taught by a range of professionals including doctors, psychologists, therapists, counselors, and holistic healers.
  • Simplicity and approachability: Many of these techniques can be learned and practiced at home, so it can be a great option for people who are looking for strategies they can incorporate into their daily lives.
  • Low risk: Energy psychology techniques also appear to be safe and may help promote relaxation. Some proponents have described it as having many of the same benefits of acupuncture but without the needles.

For people interested in trying complementary and alternative medicines (CAM), energy psychology can be a way to incorporate such strategies alongside other psychotherapeutic treatments.

Effectiveness

It's too early to know for certain whether or not energy psychotherapy will prove to be an effective therapeutic technique. A number of studies have been published on the efficacy of energy psychology, with many showing that these techniques can be effective for a variety of issues.

  • One 2016 systematic review found that EFT was as effective or even more effective than some other treatments for reducing symptoms of depression.
  • In a 2017 study comparing the efficacy of thought field therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy for the treatment of agoraphobia, the results showed that both types of therapy were equally effective for reducing symptoms.
  • A 2012 study found that TAT was as effective as social-support group meetings for weight loss maintenance.

To many, the research looks extremely promising, and energy psychology may turn out to be an effective option for some people. But more studies are needed to explore specific techniques used in energy psychology as well as which conditions may be more effectively treated by this type of therapy.

Things to Consider

It is important to note that the exact mechanisms by which energy psychology works are not fully understood. Advocates of energy psychology suggest that tapping acupuncture points stimulates "mechanoreceptors," or nerve endings that are sensitive to touch. This stimulation is theorized to somehow normalize the body's energy channels and fields.

Different kinds of energy work are becoming more popular among holistic health practitioners, and it is true that we do not yet understand much about the energy fields that surround the human body. It could be that the techniques work, but that they work for reasons that have nothing to do with the human energy field.

How to Get Started

If you are interested in trying energy psychology, there are some steps you can take. Start by talking to your doctor to see if they can refer you to an energy psychology practitioner. Look for a professional who has been certified by an organization such as the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology, the Energy Diagnostic and Treatment Methods, or the Canadian Association for Integrative and Energy Therapies.

You may also find it helpful to look at online therapist directories to find a professional who specializes in this area.

During your first sessions, your therapist will ask you questions about yourself and talk to you about your current life, functioning, and problems in order to establish a trusting, comfortable therapeutic relationship. You may be asked to recall difficult memories while your therapist guides your treatment. Your therapist may also teach you how to practice these tapping or pressure sequences on your own so that you will be able to administer or practice them anywhere.

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5 Sources
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  1. Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology. What is energy psychology and why should you care?.

  2. Feinstein D. How energy psychology changes deep emotional learningsThe Neuropsychotherapist. Published January 2015.

  3. Nelms JA, Castel L. A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized and nonrandomized trials of clinical emotional freedom techniques (EFT) for the treatment of depression. Explore (NY). 2016;12(6):416-426. doi:10.1016/j.explore.2016.08.001

  4. Irgens AC, Hoffart A, Nysæter TE, et al. Thought field therapy compared to cognitive behavioral therapy and wait-list for agoraphobia: a randomized, controlled study with a 12-month follow-upFront Psychol. 2017;8:1027. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01027

  5. Elder CR, Gullion CM, DeBar LL, et al. Randomized trial of tapas acupressure technique for weight loss maintenance. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2012;12(1):19. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-12-19