"In every culture and in every medical tradition before ours,
healing was accomplished by moving energy."
- Albert Szent-Gyorgyi,
Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine - 1937
For thousands of years, Chinese medicine has been used to treat ailments of the body. The "theory" is that the body's energy, which flows through and around our body, can get blocked, causing dis-ease. The techniques that are used to disrupt the blockage is called acupuncture and acupressure.
While the practice of acupuncture and acupressure use to be considered a new-age technique, it has now been accepted within the scope of acceptable medical treatment. For example, the following was taken from the Aetna insurance website -
Clinical Policy Bulletin:
Note: Most Aetna plans limit coverage of acupuncture to when it is used in a lieu of other anesthesia for a surgical or dental procedure covered under the health benefits plan, and the health care provider administering it is a legally qualified physician practicing within the scope of his/her license. Other plans may extend coverage of acupuncture for medically necessary indications, but only when administered by a health care provider who is a legally qualified physician practicing within the scope of his/her license. Please check benefit plan descriptions for details.
Aetna considers needle acupuncture (manual or electroacupuncture) medically necessary for any of the following indications:
- Chronic low back pain. (Maintenance treatment, where the patient’s symptoms are neither regressing or improving, is considered not medically necessary. If no clinical benefit is appreciated after 4 weeks, then the treatment plan should be re-evaluated); or
- Migraine headache; or
- Nausea of pregnancy; or
- Pain from osteoarthritis of the knee or hip (adjunctive therapy; if no clinical benefit is appreciated after 4 weeks, then the treatment plan should be reevaluated); or
- Post-operative and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting; or
- Post-operative dental pain; or
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMD)
In 1972, a psychologist, Dr. Roger Callahan, was working with a client who had a lifelong fear of water. This fear was so intense that she could not bathe her own children! His memos reflect that he tried every psychotherapeutic technique he had learned by Western standards: cognitive therapy, hypnosis, relaxation therapy, rational-emotive therapy, systematic desensitization, biofeedback and more. Nothing seemed to reduce her fears and her anxiety about water. During one session, the client mentioned that every time she talked about water, there was a discomfort in her stomach. At that moment, Dr. Callahan had what some may call a EUREKA MOMENT! Interestingly enough, Dr. Callahan had begun studying the Chinese medical system, which believes that the energy in our body flows through energy channels called Meridians, and that each Meridian is associated with a specific organ. Since he understood that each Meridian also has an "endpoint" where the one can access the energy associated with that organ, and by stimulating that endpoint once could unblock or balance the energy flow to that organ, he thought he would try having the client simply tap on the endpoint associate with her stomach. To both of their surprise, as she began tapping, her discomfort went away.
THEN she realized that her fears and anxiety while talking about water were GONE!!!!! Since there was a pool nearby, Dr. Callahan asked the client to go to the pool and stand on the edge (which she was not able to do prior to the tapping). Not only was she able to do so, her fear and anxiety about water were also GONE!! As it happened, the fear and anxiety of water NEVER RETURNED!!!
After that session, Dr. Callahan studied the endpoints and associated organs, and developed a set of protocols for different psychosocial problems. He called the technique Thought Field Therapy (TFT). Years later, a student of his, Gary Craig, developed one standard tapping protocol for all issues, which he named Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT).
And so Energy Psychology began!
What is Energy Psychology?
Energy Psychology uses evidence-based techniques for the treatment of many conditions. These techniques basically combine Eastern Chinese medicine with the Western traditional techniques of Exposure Therapy and Cognitive Restructuring. Research has shown that by stimulating these endpoints while exposing (speaking about) the issues of concern, the emotional energetic ties to the issue are released. Once that happens, one can often get a different perspective on the situation and process the issues without emotional pain. Often, once the pain is lessened or gone, the issue is "no longer an issue". Of importance to note is that Energy Psychology is now being researched in hospital systems such as Britain’s National Health Service (NHS), large private hospital chains such as Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health, and the United States Veterans Administration (VA) system with amazing results!
In 2012, psychologist Dr. David Feinstein published in the Review of General Psychology a review of all studies at that time. The article, Acupoint Stimulation in Treatment Psychological Disorders: Evidence of Efficacy, cited studies that gave evidence that, in one study, EFT was "markedly superior to supportive counseling and actually reduced stress related cortisol levels". In the same study, he gave evidence that one study found equivalent clinical improvements while using acupuncture or EFT. In the same article, Dr. Feinstein reported a study done by the insurance company Kaiser Permanente in Honolulu using TFT that reported that there was statistical significant improvement on the symptoms of anxiety, bereavement, chronic pain, depression, food cravings, obsessive traits, obsessive compulsive personality disorder, panic disorder, phobias, and post-traumatic stress disorder. These are only a few of the studies reported in the article by Dr. Feinstein.
Of importance to note is that the mechanism for how this process works is still unknown. However, in 2012 the American Psychological Association (APA) recognized that the studies given to them met their Division 12 standards for "empirically validated treatments" and that clinical EFT was, indeed, an "evidence based" treatment modality. Since that time, members of the APA, the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association are now allowed to receive Continuing Education credits when attending seminars, workshops, and trainings on Energy Psychology and EFT.
If you would like to do your own research, you may wish to try these websites:
Association of Comprehensive Energy Psychology - www.energypsych.org
The Association for Meridian and Energy Therapies - www.theamt.org
The Tapping Solution - www.thetappingsolution.com
Energy Psychology with David Feinstein, Ph. D. - www.innersource.net
Dr. Patricia Carrington - www.masteringeft.com
EFT for Veterans - www.stressproject.org
While EFT has not yet been designated as standard of care, it HAS proven to be an evidenced-based treatment for many symptoms and disorders.
The American Psychological Association conducted a critical review of 50 peer-reviewed clinical outcome reports and systemic studies. As a result, they published the following statement in its journal, Review of General Psychology:
"A literature search identified 50 peer-reviewed papers that report or investigate clinical outcomes following the tapping of acupuncture points to address psychological issues. The 17 randomized controlled trials in this sample were critically evaluated for design quality, leading to the conclusion that they consistently demonstrated strong effect sizes and other positive statistical results that far exceed chance after relatively few treatment sessions. Criteria for evidence-based treatments proposed by Division 12 of the American Psychological Association were also applied and found to be met for a number of conditions, including PTSD." (Feinstein, 2012).
Among the randomized controlled trials that were conducted, one clinical trial which focused on treating PTSD with veterans found that their symptoms dropped by 4% in 6 hour-long sessions (Church, Hawk, et al., 2013). To verify that outcome, the same trial was conducted with different veterans. It concluded that 90% of the veterans were free of clinical symptoms after completing treatment and that they did not later relapse (Geronilla et al., 2016).
As a result, the Veterans Administration Integrative Health Coordinating Center published a statement approving EFT as a "generally safe" therapy, thereby allowing clinicians to use EFT when treating patients suffering from PTSD, anxiety pain and many other conditions.
In addition, Kaiser Permenente, one of the largest hospitals in the United States, recently included in their peer-review publication, The Permanente Journal, practice guidelines for using EFT with their patients diagnosed with PTSD.
It is important to understand that EFT cannot be used to diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease or psychological disorder, and that EFT is not a substitute for medical or psychological treatment. Please know, also, that some people’s emotional and/or physical issues are such that they should not try ANY technique without the presence and guidance of a qualified health professional. The permanence of the successes of using EFT varies widely and cannot be predicted in advance. In some rare cases, symptoms may re-appear and require more EFT or other interventions. However, EFT has impressive results in most cases, and symptoms often vanish, never to re-appear. While Energy Psychology techniques such as TFT and EFT have been made into a user-friendly procedure so you can try it yourself after thoroughly learning the techniques, it is *NOT* a substitute for drugs, surgeries, radiation or other conventional medical interventions, and you are encouraged to get regular medical exams and talk to your doctor or other health professionals about what treatments are best for you. As always, you are responsible for good judgment in all your healthcare choices.
USING EFT WITHIN MY PRACTICE
While I am a licensed clinical social worker and have a certification as an EFT Master Practitioner, I have not been trained in medicine nor in acupuncture or acupressure. If EFT is considered as a technique that may be helpful with a client, and after discussing that possibility with my client, I request that they first do their research. I prefer to work with those who are informed by given the opportunity to learn as much about the processes we use and ask questions should they have any. Before using EFT in our sessions, I have my client read the the Disclaimer and ask any questions they may have. If they wish to continue, they are then asked to sign the Consent.
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