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Tapping away the past

MagazineApril 2009 (Vol. 20 Issue 1)Tapping away the past

Energy psychology' is a term that refers to a number of techniques that purport to heal psychological problems by tapping into the universal energy field

Energy psychology' is a term that refers to a number of techniques that purport to heal psychological problems by tapping into the universal energy field. They claim to be able to heal some of the most severe psychological traumas, and the emerging evidence shows that they do work, even in cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (see WDDTY vol 18 no 10, January 2008).

One of the most popular of these new forms of healing is Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), developed by Gary Craig, a master practitioner of NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP) and Thought Field Therapy (TFT). Craig came up with the idea of modifying the work of Roger Callahan, the originator of TFT, to make it more user-friendly. EFT claims to be a 'needle-free' form of acupuncture that uses 'tapping' on the various energy meridian points of the body. And rather than requiring the services of a professional, after training, EFT can be carried out by the patient himself through a compre-hensive, systematic tapping procedure while making a series of statements about his condition.

What's the evidence to support these claims? In one study, carried out at Curtin University of Technology in Western Australia, the researchers examined whether EFT could reduce phobias in 35 individuals who feared small animals. The participants were divided into two groups and randomly treated with either 30 minutes of EFT or diaphragmatic breathing.

An objective statistical measure revealed that EFT led to significantly greater psychological improvement than the breathing technique, although both groups continued to show an increase in pulse rate-a physical sign of stress-when exposed to their phobia triggers. Also, the improve-ments brought about by EFT persisted and were even enhanced over the six to nine months of follow-up.

The researchers concluded that even a single treatment of EFT to reduce specific phobias can produce valid behavioural improvements in those with emotional problems (J Clin Psychol, 2003; 59: 943-66).

Another study examined whether or not these improvements could be sustained over time by looking at the effects of an EFT experiential work-shop on psychological functioning over the long term. In this case, 102 participants took the short-form (SA-45) of a test to measure psychological distress at the following times: one month before the EFT workshop; at the start of the workshop; at the end of the workshop; one month after the workshop; and six months after the workshop. Analyses of the SA-45 test results revealed a statistically signifi-cant decrease in all measures of psychological distress at all of the measured points of time (Counsel Clin Psychol J, 2005; 2: 104-11).

Post-traumatic stress

Another study examined the effects of EFT on nine people involved in motor-vehicle accidents who reported post-traumatic stress afterwards. These nine participants were first given a series of psychological tests to evalu-ate their mental state, levels of anxiety and depression, and fear of driving or riding in a motor vehicle. They also took physical tests to measure their brain-wave activity.

When asked to give their own subjective 'intensity rating' to describe their level of distress-based on a score of 1 to 10 (with 1 representing no distress and 10 representing severe distress)-when they thought about the accident they'd been involved in, the average rating among these nine subjects was 8.3 prior to treatment. However, after two sessions with a trained EFT therapist and two weeks of home therapy on their own, their average intensity rating of distress had fallen to 2.5.

Nevertheless, although all nine participants had shown an initial positive change, these changes were maintained in only five of them over time. These changes were also con-sistent with their own subjective feelings of improvement. Furthermore, in the subjects who ended up feeling less fearful, the ratio of theta to beta brain waves, associated with beneficial mental quieting, was increased by an average of 33.3 per cent, while the presence of brain waves associated with physical calm was increased by 40 per cent.

The most interesting aspect of this investigation is that all of those who reported improvement with EFT displayed measurable physiological changes related to such improvements (Subtle Energies Energy Med, 2004; 15: 75-86).

Besides anxiety and trauma, EFT is also used to help people to clear away long-held negative emotions and beliefs. However, so far, the evidence to support claims of success are mostly anecdotal.

Nevertheless, these claims are also supported by impressive case studies. In one instance, a 45-year-old woman who had been diagnosed with clinical depression 10 years earlier and who was taking antidepressants was given a psychological test known as the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), the most widely used questionnaire to assess levels of anxiety and depression. A low BDI score indicates a low level of depression, and a high score indicates greater depression. Energy psychol-ogist Dawson Church, author of The Genie in Your Genes (Authors Publishing Co-operative, 2007), had the woman take the BDI test before and after her EFT session. Initially, she scored 23 out of 63 but, after the session, her score was 3. Two months later, she was still showing a 43-per-cent improvement-and after just one EFT treatment.

While more studies are needed on all forms of energy psychology, perhaps the most laudable aspect of EFT is that prospective users can get it for free. The website on the discovery of EFT also offers a free download of the method (see www.emofree.com).

Lynne McTaggart


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