Energy psychology has trouble becoming more mainstream

    The American Psychological Association recently denied its stamp of approval to a form of therapy called “Energy Psychology”. Practitioners of this approach are not happy.

    The American Psychological Association recently denied its stamp of approval to a form of therapy called “Energy Psychology”. Practitioners of this approach are not happy.

    [audio:100213msenergy.mp3]

    Energy Psychology combines aspects of traditional and alternative medicine. Think – reflexology and massage meet talk therapy. Everyone understands that a mental condition – say stress – can cause a physical symptom, say a headache.

    Dr. Robert Schwartz, executive director of the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology explains that the approach is based on the connection between physical and mental health:

    Schwartz:
    Instead of just talking about something that is bothering you, people will focus their mind on it and then various aspects of the body’s energy system are stimulated while that person thinks about it, so you might be tapping on a point, or touching and breathing on a point.

    Practitioners say tapping the right parts of the body sends a message to the brain. That, in turn, can lessen symptoms from mental health problems.

    Schwartz says this approach has shown great success in small studies, especially in treating post-traumatic stress and anxiety. Still, his association has received a major snub from the American Psychological Association. Schwartz wanted to ensure that psychologists could get continuing education credits for training in energy psychology. The APA said no, and given that group’s stature, the rejection stung.

    Rhea Farberman of the APA says energy psychology needs more research:

    Farberman: There wasn’t enough to meet the association’s criteria for a strong science grounding, and the acceptance of the practice community. It wasn’t yet ready for prime time if you will.

    Schwartz calls the decision a “ban on energy psychology.” He sees a Catch-22: The APA’s ruling makes it harder to undertake the very research it is calling for:

    Schwartz: If you’re a researcher and you see this ban you’re going to think twice about doing something that might look too strange, or different if you’re concerned about getting funding.

    Other professionals, such as social workers and nurses, can get continuing education credits for training in energy psychology.

    Farberman says her organization is not looking to stunt developing therapies, but has to protect the interest of consumers.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.