What is Energy Psychotherapy?
Energy Psychotherapy is an integration of Energy Psychology methods into psychotherapy. These methods can be integrated into most forms of psychotherapy to bring together the insights of western psychotherapy with the gentle power of connecting to the body’s subtle energy system.
Energy Psychology is a collection of mind-body approaches which focus on the relationship between thoughts, emotions, sensations and behaviours, and the known bioenergy systems (chakras, meridians and the biofield). The underlying principle behind all these methods is that trauma is encoded in our energy system and can be released by gently stimulating the system while focused on the issue.
Phil Mollon, Psychoanalyst and Clinical Psychologist writes: “Many of us, having worked for years with other psychoanalytic or cognitive methods, find that energy psychology appears to offer results that are more rapid, deep and gentle than we or our clients have hitherto experienced.” Psychoanalytic Energy Psychotherapy 2008.
NICE Guidance on the treatment of PTSD published in December 2018 includes Energy Psychology interventions (which they call “Combined Somatic and Cognitive Therapies”) among the most cost effective interventions and encourages further research.
“The universe is one indivisible dynamic whole in which energy and matter are so deeply entangled it is impossible to consider them as independent elements.” (Bruce Lipton, 2005 – Cell Biologist)
There are two distinct forms of energy that are involved in energy psychology:
(1) Electrical and Electromagnetic energy – This is relatively well understood and can be detected by suitable instruments. Our cells contain hundreds of billions of neurons that each connect electrochemically with up to ten thousand other neurons creating a complex electrical system. Wherever there is an electrical current it creates and is surrounded by an electromagnetic field.
(2) Subtle Energy which, like gravity, is demonstrated by its effects, but is so far unexplained. Such energies, while outside the Western paradigm have long been recognised in other cultures e.g. in China as Qi – the basis for acupuncture.
Energy Psychology Methods
Simple procedures are used to guide the client to gently stimulate his or her own energy system while focusing the mind upon the target problem. Often this will rapidly release the underlying psycho-energetic structure that is generating or maintaining the current issue.
When working with complex presentations and major traumatic experiences, it is possible to work slowly and gently, focusing on one element of the complex matrix of memories, feelings and behaviours at a time to release the energy that is held by that element. This gradually weakens the power of the complex, just as a piece of loosely woven cloth will collapse if enough threads are pulled from it.
Energy Psychologists also pay attention to factors that can completely block the process of healing until corrected. There are two kinds of blocks:
(1) Disturbances in the body’s energy flow, which can be easily corrected with simple exercises.
(2) Psychological reversals which express the self-sabotaging power of the mind. The most common blocking beliefs to healing are:
"It is not safe",
"I do not deserve",
"I will not still be me" (identity violated),
"I am too angry to heal",
"I want to keep expressing my suffering through my symptoms"
Muscle Testing (MT)
Muscle Testing, also known as ‘energy-testing’, is derived from Applied Kinesiology, and is used in many Energy Psychology methods to make enquiries of the energy system. Muscle testing is based on the finding (since verified by computerised muscle strength testing devices) that muscles are stronger when responding to a true statement than a false one. This can be understood as a form of bio-feedback. Muscle testing is more art than science and can be distorted, like any form of communication by error and misunderstanding and by lack of skill in the tester. However, used sensitively and respectfully it can help to guide the work by providing working hypotheses on how to proceed and to track progress.
In 2016 Anne Jensen was awarded a DPhil by the University of Oxford department of Evidence Based medicine for her thesis demonstrating "The Accuracy and precision of Kinesiology-Style Manual Muscle Testing Response".
A Very Brief History of Energy Therapies
1964 George Goodheart, a Chiropractor, became interested in changes in muscle strength in his patients. He developed a new method called “Applied Kinesiology” which incorporated ideas from Chinese Medicine about meridians.
Dr John Diamond, a psychiatrist, was the first to move from the physical focus of Applied Kinesiology to its application in emotional and psychological issues.
1979 Roger Callahan, a clinical psychologist, cured a patient of a long-standing and severe water phobia by inviting her to tap on the end of her stomach meridian. He then developed a method called Thought Field Therapy (TFT) to extend this chance discovery to other patients.
Gary Craig was a student of Roger Callahan’s and developed a simple self help form of TFT which he called Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).
There have now been many other adaptations and integrations of energy psychology ideas and practices into other forms of therapy. Among the most therapeutically sophisticated of these are Asha Clinton’s Advanced Integrative Therapy (AIT) and Phil Mollon’s Psychoanalytic Energy Therapy (PEP). The Converging Streams Courses teach psychotherapists and other mental health professionals to integrate energy psychology methods into their own therapeutic framework.
Energy Psychology is now supported by a substantial body of contemporary research with over 60 research studies, including multiple randomised controlled trials published in peer-reviewed journals, confirming the efficacy of these treatments. Taken as a body of knowledge, these findings suggest that Energy Psychology meets the criteria for evidence-based treatment. See See the ACEP website for more information on the research.
In one study*, researchers measured levels of the stress hormone cortisol before and after treatment. Eighty-three participants were divided into three groups: the first group received an hour of EFT tapping; the second group received an hour of psychotherapy ("talk" therapy); the third group (control group) received no treatment. The EFT tapping group demonstrated a 24% decrease in cortisol levels, which was significantly better than the second and third groups which showed the regular decrease in cortisol levels that happens over time. The study findings showed that EFT tapping significantly reduces cortisol, so balancing activity between the sympathetic and parasympathetic regions of the brain to produce an emotionally balanced state which best supports health and well-being.
*(Dawson Church, Garret Yount, Audrey Brooks, The Effect of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) on Stress Biochemistry: A Randomized Controlled Trial -Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease - 2011).
Expressions of Energy Psychotherapy
See Expressions of Energy Psychotherapy for a collection of articles on energy psychotherapy written by practitioners from a variety of therapeutic traditions.