Energy Psychology: Definition and Techniques
by Jef Gazley, M.S., LMFT, DCC
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 due in part because they target the more primitive parts of the brain. These would include the Limbic system, the Medulla Oblongata, and the Enkephalin system, that is in every cell of the body. EMDR or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing and Hypnosis are often 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 or Meridian System in Chinese medicine. 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 Meridian Systems are named for the main organs of the body such as the Lung Meridian or the Liver Meridian. Each of these systems corresponds with 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.
NET™ or Neuro Emotional Technique™ theory postulates that we create our own reality and therefore are responsible for our own story. Even if the story of past abuse when a person is a child is accurate and valid we are still responsible for repeating it if we do not deactivate the repetition compulsion and neutralize the energy that is stuck.
This is why NET™ is so effective for the problem of PTSD and repetition compulsions. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is about delayed grief. Energy that becomes stuck. A large part of this traumatic energy gets stuck in the body and NET™ is incredibly effective in relieving this energy. Neuro Emotional Technique has the effect of allowing the client to reestablish homeostasis and therefore drain the energy along with the original belief behind the repetition compulsion.
When used in conjunction with insight oriented psychotherapy to understand the reason behind the self-destructive behavior, and EMDR to assist in shifting the short term memory loop of the trauma to long term memory, NET™ seems to complete homeostasis by bringing the body back into balance. This is a major breakthrough in the treatment for PTSD.
Applied Kinesiology tests the Chi or energy 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 their arm straight out in front of them and lock it, while the clinician with an open hand firmly pushes down on the arm right above the wrist.
The body consists of 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 clients' 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, which is the same way that I became aware of these principles in 1990.
The energy therapies adapted and built on Dr. Goodhearts' 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 CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy. However, many repetitions of the treatment are often necessary with this particular type of energy therapy.
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 with the rationale that thereby they are bound to balance the affected meridian. EFT also varies the affirmations used in TFT. Most of the following systems that are offshoots of TFT also differ mostly in slight variations of tapping and/or affirmations and were developed later than TFT. These other systems include BSFF (Be Set Free Fast), EDxTM (Energy Diagnostic and Treatment Methods), ESM (Emotional Self-Management), EvTFT (Evolving Thought Field Therapy), FFFF ( Freedom From Fear Forever), HBLU (Healing from the Body Level Up), HSE (Human Software Engineering), PEAT ( Psycho Energetic Auro Technology), Seemorg Matrix Work, TAAP (TAAP Training Institute), TAT (Tapas Acupressure Technique), TEST ( Thought Energy Synchronization Therapies), and 3 in 1 (Three-in-One Concepts).
Dr. Scott Walker, a chiropractor and applied kinesiologist, developed Neuro Emotional Technique™ or NET™ in the early 1980's. 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 1970's and early 1980's 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 essential reason that I believe NET™ is so much more effective than any of the other energy therapies is that part of the muscle testing protocol involves assessing for the earliest event where a feeling or problem originated. Because of this component the energy balance is more complete, and as a clinician there usually isn't a need to repeat the corrections multiple times, which is often the case with the other energy therapies.
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 dramatically shrink due to the 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. I believe that NET™ will become the gold standard of these mind/energy therapies.
Jef Gazley, M.S., LMFT, DCC