The term “energy psychology” refers to a number of related energy therapies that are based on the Chinese Meridian System of medicine. Energy psychology quickly and thoroughly relieves mental health problems by eliminating emotional traumas or blockages from the mind/body continuum by touching or tapping key points on the body. Some of the more popular forms of energy psychology are Neuro Emotional Technique™ or NET™, Thought Field Therapy or TFT, and Emotional Freedom Technique or EFT.
All these energy psychology techniques were developed in the mid-1980s to mid-1990s, but are still rather unknown by the general public. These energy psychologies have been dubbed “power therapies” because they work so quickly compared to traditional talk therapy. This appears to be because they target the more primitive parts of the brain, including the limbic system, the medulla oblongata, and the enkephalin system, which is in every cell of the body. EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, and hypnosis often are included as “power” therapies although they do not directly utilize the Meridian System.
EFT, TFT, and NET™ all work by accessing the mind/body matrix. Chinese medicine addresses the body’s need for balance or homeostasis. If the “chi” or energy of the body is in balance then it is assumed that the body will be able to cure itself and run at top efficiency. Practitioners assess the body’s balance by testing acupressure or acupuncture points in the body, which are divided up into 12 main “meridian systems.” These systems are named for the main organs of the body such as the lung meridian or the liver meridian. Each of these systems corresponds to particular emotions. For example, the lung meridian is associated with grief and sorrow and the liver meridian with anger and resentment. Through a process of tapping acupuncture points on the body, trauma is relieved and homeostasis is reestablished.
Applied kinesiology tests the chi by taking a strong indicator muscle, almost any major muscle, and asking the client or patient to lock that muscle while the practitioner tries to challenge the strength of the muscle to see if it will hold its position. The practitioner might ask a client to hold his or her arm straight out in front of the body and lock it, while the clinician with an open hand firmly pushes down on the arm right above the wrist.
The body contains water and electricity. It is believed that muscle testing checks to see if the muscle has enough electrical activity in it to hold. It appears that chi is essentially the same as this electricity. Dr. Goodheart, the father of applied kinesiology or AK, first demonstrated therapy localization. Therapy localization occurs when the therapist tests a strong muscle alone or in the clear. Then either the client or the therapist touches another part of the client’s body to test if a change of muscle strength occurs. If it does, then dysfunction is assumed to be present in the localized area.
Chiropractors who practice AK routinely test or challenge a vertebra in the neck or the back, and if the muscle goes weak then they can assume that the vertebra is misaligned. They then put the vertebra back in and retest. When the muscle is strong it is assumed the vertebra is back in alignment. The client routinely reports feeling much better.
Although there are great similarities among these three main forms of energy therapies in that they all are based on Eastern medicine, there are also many salient differences, at least between TFT and NET™. Robert Callahan is the formulator of Thought Field Therapy. He developed his system after being introduced to Chinese medicine from a chiropractor who was practicing applied kinesiology.
The energy therapies adapted and built on Dr. Goodheart’s work by applying AK to the emotional arena. Emotions are energy and therefore emotions can be muscle tested through the electrical system of the body. TFT differs from traditional AK, however, because most of Dr. Callahan’s techniques do not utilize muscle testing except minimally. Instead he developed several algorithms of tapping certain acupressure points while thinking of a problem such as an addiction or a phobia. This method often allows the body to return to homeostasis and therefore the craving is reduced or the fear is alleviated. Not only is it a highly effective system for many problems, but recent studies have shown that it is quicker and more effective than cognitive- behavioral therapy. However, many repetitions of the treatment often are necessary.
Emotional Freedom Technique is an offshoot of thought field therapy. It was developed by Gary Craig, a minister and personal trainer. There seems to be very little difference between EFT and TFT. EFT taps all the meridians so that the affected meridian becomes balanced. EFT also varies the affirmations used in TFT.
Dr. Scott Walker, a chiropractor and applied kinesiologist, developed Neuro Emotional Technique™ or NET in the early 1980s. He developed his system independently from Dr. Callahan and within the same time frame. Both men were influenced by Dr. John Diamond who worked with meridian systems in the late 1970s and early 1980s and developed behavioral kinesiology. Dr. Diamond stressed the use of positive verbal affirmations to change meridian systems.
All of the energy systems have great merit and are quite effective. What makes NET™ or Neuro Emotional Technique™ vastly superior and versatile is the tailored muscle testing that is the standard in this technique. Individual muscle testing makes pin point diagnosis of a problem possible.
Dr. Callahan was a cognitive behavioral therapist before becoming an energy therapist. Possibly because of this, practitioners of TFT often stress the theoretical importance of operant and classical conditioning or stimulus and response learning to explain why energy therapy is effective. Conditioning is certainly one of the main ways through which energy therapies work, but it is not the only component.
The theoretical basis behind NET™ is not only behavioral in nature, but psychodynamic. Freud’s concept of repetition compulsion is one of the central tenets of NET™. Freud believed that when a trauma is not fully processed or relieved an individual will develop a maladaptive symptom or behavior pattern in a fruitless attempt to resolve the original problem. A present stressor is more likely to become a trauma if it is similar to an event that was traumatic to an individual in their past. When the earliest trauma is relieved at the basic energy level, most present traumas collapse in response. Not addressing this earliest pain is the most common reason for psychological reversal, which shows up with much greater frequency in the other systems for energy rebalancing. Therefore, NET™ seems to be more thorough in its approach, although it is still relatively unknown by mental health practitioners and the general public compared to TFT or EFT.
The world continues to shrink through amazing advances in technology and communication. In the past knowledge was often encapsulated by individual cultures. The brilliance of Eastern and Western thought is now beginning to mingle. The scientific method of the West is now being applied to some of the techniques of the East. There have been several studies in Florida universities and South America where TFT has been proved effective and NET™ is now under extensive study at Oxford University. It will not be long until these recently discovered energy systems will take their place as accepted and respected treatment modalities.
Jef Gazley, M.S., LMFT, DCC has practiced psychotherapy for over thirty years and is the owner operator of www.asktheinternettherapist.com since 1998 and www.hypnosistapes4health.com. He is the author of eight mental health educational videos and DVDs and is currently writing a book on distance counseling. Jef is State Licensed in General Counseling, Marriage/Family, and Substance Abuse in Arizona and is a certified hypnotherapist. He is dedicated to guiding individuals to achieving a life long commitment to mental health and relationship mastery. In his private practice in Scottsdale, Arizona, Jef specializes in ADD, love addiction, hypnotherapy, dysfunctional families, codependency, and trauma. He is a trained counselor in EMDR, NET™, TFT, hypnotist, and Applied Kinesiology. Jef received his B.A. in Psychology, History, and Teaching from the University of Washington and his Masters in Counseling from the University of Oregon.