Energy Psychology: Snake Oil or Super Cure?

article image

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 13 percent of the American adult population is getting treatment for a mental health problem, through therapy or medications. With these levels, it’s inevitable that quick fixes and wonder drugs enter the conversation. But can energy psychology–an immediate cure for what ails you, executed by simply tapping on acupressure points on your skin–be for real?

Albert Szent-Györgyi, the 1937 Nobel Laureate in medicine, observed that, “In every culture and in every medical tradition before ours, healing was accomplished by moving energy.” But although energy psychology (EP) has been around since the 1980s, it still struggles to gain acceptance from its professional peers. In Psychotherapy Networker, psychologist David Feinstein writes of his quest to discover whether EP is hoodoo or good medicine. Here, he witnesses it cure a woman’s paralyzing claustrophobia:

She was shown where and how to tap on a series of points on her skin while remembering frightening incidents involving enclosed spaces. To my amazement, she almost immediately reported that the scenes she was imagining were causing her less distress. Within 20 minutes, her claustrophobia seemed to have disappeared.

The tapping technique has been found to soothe other phobias like the fear of heights and negative emotions such as anger, guilt, and jealousy. As clinical evidence of these small victories comes to light, the method’s reputation is improving.

Beyond standard therapy-office ailments, EP has also proven effective on treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Psychologist Caroline Sakai led an especially moving session at a Rwandan orphanage. The results are encouraging:

Of the 400 orphans living or schooled at the facility, 188 had lost their families during the ethnic cleansing 12 years earlier. Many had witnessed their parents being slaughtered, and they were still having severe symptoms of PTSD, including flashbacks, nightmares, bedwetting, withdrawal, or aggression. The study focused on the 50 teenagers identified by the caregivers as having the greatest difficulties. All 50 were rated on a standardized symptom inventory for caregivers and scored above the PTSD cutoff. Each then received a single acupoint-tapping session lasting 20 to 60 minutes, combined with approximately 6 minutes spent learning two simple relaxation techniques. Not only did the scores of 47 of the 50 adolescents fall below the PTSD range following this brief intervention, these improvements in serious conditions that had persisted for more than a decade held at a one-year follow-up.

In the end Feinstein, an initial skeptic, is convinced:

I can’t fully express how surprised I am to find myself standing here telling you that the key to successful treatment, even with extremely tough cases, can be a mechanical, superficial, ridiculously speedy physical technique that doesn’t require a sustained therapeutic relationship, the acquisition of deep insight, or even a serious commitment to personal transformation. Yet, strange as it looks to be tapping on your skin while humming “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,” it works!

Source: Psychotherapy Networker

Image by allegra_, licensed under Creative Commons.

In-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.