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A note of caution

for those considering therapy using energy psychology

Practitioners of energy psychology tend to be enthusiastic about this modality, understandably so since it often brings about considerable relief of stress and favourable therapeutic results. Many of us find that, when used with skill, the work can be faster and deeper than is normally achieved with purely talk-based therapies. However, there can sometimes be a tendency for claims and hopes (implied or explicit) to stretch somewhat beyond their legitimate limits. Energy psychology is not a cure for all disease, nor a panacea for all of life's problems! There is a need for common sense and ordinary attention to evidence and science. The following points should be considered.

  • For common mental health conditions, and personality difficulties, there are well-established therapeutic modalities, supported by extensive research evidence. These include (but are not limited to) cognitive behaviour therapy, psychodynamic therapy, person centred counselling, and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR). These are the normally recommended therapies, and can all be accessed within the British National Health Service. You can find the British government's NICE guidelines [National Institute of Clinical Excellence] for various mental health conditions here.
  • Although energy psychology has existed in one form or another since the 1960s*, it is still not widely accepted amongst established psychologists and psychotherapists. There is some, modest but rapidly growing, research evidence to support these methods. The evidence is diverse, based on a variety of observational methods. A good summary of the research, published in a peer reviewed journal, is clinical psychologist David Feinstein's paper which can be accessed here:
  • The reference is: Feinstein, D. (2008). Energy Psychology: A Review of the Preliminary Evidence. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training. 45(2), 199-213. © 2008. American Psychological Association
  • For Feinstein's more recent 2012 summary click here
  • For ACEP's excellent up-to-date review of evidence, click here
  • Energy psychology modalities, including PEP, share much in common with other psychotherapeutic methods. Thus, thoughts, emotions, and behaviours are explored, attempts are made to understand the origins and maintaining factors relating to the presenting problems - looking, for example, at how patterns of thought and expectation affect mood and anxiety, and how avoidance may play a part in perpetuating and exacerbating anxieties and phobias. The procedures of energy psychology appear to be particularly effective modes of desensitisation, which facilitate the release of stress associated with distressing experiences. They are best combined with other therapeutic approaches. The skill and art of energy psychology modalities are in how the basic principles are applied and targeted.
  • Energy psychology methods do not suit everyone. Unless you feel particularly drawn to energy psychology modalities, CBT, psychodynamic, or person centred approaches may be better.
  • If you have a serious physical illness, please consult your (conventional) doctor. Please do not rely on energy psychology, meditation, strange diets, positive thinking, 'the law of attraction', Hawaian prayers, or other unconventional approaches as your main treatment**.
  • I am not personally aware of any instance of energy psychology methods curing a person of cancer or other serious illness. Whilst people may benefit from relief of stress, as the emotional aspects of illness are treated with energy psychology, I am not aware of any indication that a psychological method (of any kind) should be regarded as a primary treatment of physical illness. Although the mind, body, and energy system are intricately linked, once an illness is manifest in the physical body, it may not easily resolve without physical or biochemical intervention. On the other hand ... unexpected and wonderful events do happen!
  • Energy psychology methods are not based on any theory. They are simply based on what is observed to happen. Theories can subsequently be proposed and tested. For example, there is continuing debate as to whether the effects of energy psychology do in fact involve subtle 'energy' or may be explained more accurately in terms of neurobiology.
  • Energy psychology methods are not based on any religious belief - or indeed on any other kind of belief. In general, beliefs, as opposed to working hypotheses, are restrictive and unhelpful. A stance of scepticism and open-minded enquiry may be more facilitative of discovery.
  • Pain, anxiety and suffering appear to be inherent in the human condition. It may be that consciousness of the full horror of this is more than the human species can bear. Each person must find their own way of coping with these features of existence as best they can. Whilst energy psychology can help alleviate some problems, it provides no solution to the inherent pain of life. Proponents of energy psychology (or indeed any other form of psychology) are not privy to special wisdom or insight beyond that available to other human beings, and should not be regarded as authorities on the nature and conduct of life.
  • The main body overseeing the development, professional standards, and ethics of energy psychology is the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology [ACEP]
  • There are many skilled practitioners of energy psychology who are not licensed mental health professionals. They may incorporate these stress relieving modalities into other forms of therapeutic practice. However, the main professions specialising in mental health are psychiatrists, clinical and counselling psychologists, accredited psychotherapists, psychiatric social workers, and mental health nurses.

*Energy psychology began with the work of chiropractor George Goodheart in the 1960s. Although his own work did not contain much that was explicitly psychological, he provided the groundwork that led to later development by psychiatrist John Diamond beginning in the 1970s (to the present), followed by the emergence of clinical psychologist Roger Callahan's Thought Field Therapy (around 1979/80), and the establishment of the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology in 1998. Many practitioners have contributed to this emerging field - including clinical psychologists Fred Gallo, Greg Nicosia, David Gruder, John Hartung, MIchael Galvin and John Diepold, acupuncturist Tapas Fleming, and Jungian psychotherapist Asha Clinton, to name just a few.

**A useful counterbalance to undue optimism and its resulting distortions of perception is Barbara Ehrenreich's Smile or Die. How Positive Thinking Fooled America & The World [Granta 2009]

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