At the time, Callahan was studying applied kinesiology, and knew that one of the acupoints for the stomach is on the face, just below the eye. With little else to try, he asked Mary to tap her fingers on the point, as if repeatedly stimulating it. Almost immediately, her phobia was gone.
That miracle cure was the start of what Callahan went on to develop into Thought Field Therapy (TFT). Underlying TFT is the idea that thoughts generate a field that can carry information patterns or 'pertur-bations'. When people are distressed, says Callahan, those perturbations are activated and trigger the entire emotional experience.
In conventional medicine, nega-tive emotions such as depression and phobias are believed to be linked to changes in brain chemistry. However, Callahan argues that these emotional states and biochemical changes are really due to perturbations in the thought field. Abolish these, says Callahan, and the biochemistry cor-rects itself-the patient is cured.
Callahan spent the 1980s testing his theories and techniques, mapping out the links between negative emotions and acupuncture points. He found that each psychological problem is related to a number of acupoints, and that successful treatment involves the patient tapping on these points in proper sequence. Callahan calls these sequences 'algorithms'-precise treatment recipes that he says can cure over 80 per cent of patients (Callahan R, Callahan J. Stop the Nightmares of Trauma. Chapel Hill, NC: Professional Press, 2000).
A typical treatment session starts with the patient deliberately putting himself in the problem mental state, thus generating the 'thought field' and the associated perturbations. The corrective treatment then starts. The patient may, for example, tap the eyebrow five times and then continue tapping on other parts of the body in a specific sequence, as instructed by the therapist.
TFT practitioners report success with a wide variety of psychological problems-not only phobias and depression, but also anger, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic, addictions, compulsions and sexual problems. Some therapists even claim to have cured phobias in animals.
Although much of the evidence for TFT is anecdotal, there have been clinical trials. In one involving patients with assessed by the patients' own scores for how they felt-by more than half (Traumatology, 1999; 5: 18-22).
In another study of people suffering from a more objectively measurable psychiatric problem-the fear of heights, or acrophobia-there was a statistically significant greater improvement in sufferers who had received genuine TFT compared with those who had received sham TFT-using random fingertapping over the body (The Thought Field, 1997; 2: 1-6).
Tapping tragedy away
TFT's most astonishing success involved the mentally wounded of wartorn Kosovo-Albanian refugees who had fled to Norway and who were suffering from severe PTSD, notoriously difficult to treat.
A small team of TFT therapists set out for Kosovo and met the local doctors. Ian Graham was among them. "The inhabitants of Kosovo were some of the most troubled people I have ever encountered," he recalls. "Their Serbian enemies had deliberately set out to produce total community breakdown. By slaugh-tering only half the members of family groups, for example, they caused the survivors severe psych-ological trauma-not so much from grief, but from the guilt of still being alive."
It is difficult to imagine a greater challenge than this and, indeed, conventional psychiatrists working for relief agencies were not having much success. When the TFT team arrived, they were met with incredulity but, nevertheless, many patients were referred to them, including some of the most trauma-tized patients. Treatment was often given in family groups, and therapy sessions were sometimes as brief as five minutes.
The results were nothing short of astonishing. "The success for every patient was 100 per cent and they are still smiling to this day," says Graham. "As chief of medical staff,I have full authority over medical decisions in Kosovo. I am starting a new national programme [where] the emphasis will be Thought Field Therapy."
In one extraordinary intuitive discovery, Callahan appears to have found the key to human emotions-by tapping into The Field of thought itself.
For more information on trained practitioners offering TFT, go to www.thoughtfieldtherapy.co.uk (UK)
or www.tftrx.com (US).