It has come to my attention that TFT proponents have started their own “peer review” journal. I put “peer review” in scare quotes because the “peers” as far as I can tell are all proponents of TFT so of course all the studies will be ones with favorable outcomes and based on the abstracts I have seen, appear to have the lack of rigor that’s been a longstanding pattern.
Just in case TFT proponents think that publishing in their own journal will qualify them as an “empirically supported treatment”, it won’t. It isn’t as simple as just publishing two controlled studies, and bingo, you’re an EST. That problem with the APA guidelines, which previously did not address study quality, was caught in the early 2000s. The APA has recently revised their standards which include a careful review of the rigor and methodology of the studies and they need to be up to current standards of rigor to qualify.
Peer review means independent peer review, not review by other believers. Anyone can create a vanity journal. What isn’t so easy is going through a peer review by someone who has no vested interest in the outcome. The attitude of TFT proponents appears to be that they already “know” it is effective and they are doing the studies as a mere formality to prove it to others so they will be accepted. That is not the way real scientists work. Real scientists, in the words of Richard Feynman, bend over backwards to prove themselves wrong.
For TFT “bending over backwards”, would mean stepping up to the plate and instead of comparing TFT to a no treatment control group which does not rule out placebo effect, compare TFT tapping to sham TFT (tapping on non-meridian points or tapping with random sequences). That is the kind of rigor that is needed. Even comparing TFT to a supportive treatment control group is not enough, because there is enthusiasm conveyed by proponents and those they train for the procedure itself. What would really test TFT would be to do a double-blind controlled study with a sham treatment group and also a no treatment control group. People unfamiliar with TFT could be trained with actual TFT points and sham points and not be told which is which and then they could carry out the treatments on others.
Instead of always doing studies with highly vulnerable, traumatized people in other cultures, they should first be done with people in our own culture. Going to a place such as Africa where the people who are carrying out the treatment are in a highly vulnerable position can create demand characteristics and results from a culture so different from US culture, would not be generalizable to people in the US. The best way to do a double blind study would be to train neutral people, such as graduate students in TFT, training them with the “real” points and sham points, not telling them which is which. Since many people still have never heard of TFT, it shouldn’t be hard to find people who don’t know the difference. Anything less than sham points is not going to be convincing evidence. Given the high degree of enthusiasm, it’s not surprising at all that TFT would do better than no treatment, especially under the conditions under which it was done in Africa. Just look at how the TFT therapists were so enthusiastically welcomed by the singing Rwandan orphans on the video, as if they were already heroes. That sets up a highly enthusiastic atmosphere from the get go and it is obviously designed to tug at people’s heart strings, but sets up a expectancy that is not conducive to a properly done study, to put it mildly. Now it may be that it was culturally appropriate to participate in this kind of ceremony, but that is a prime example of why it is important to test these things first in the culture from which the treatment came (invented by an American psychologist) rather than going to other cultures first. TFT proponents are moved to tears when they watch these videos but many of us who are not so emotionally involved, see things very differently.
The way these videos are shown on YouTube looks to me like they are an effort to create good PR and trumpet their altruism to the world, especially important for a therapy that charges people in the US such high fees. Then they can portray critics as being against helping orphans. What sort of horrible person would be against helping orphans? The only problem with that is that it is a classic straw man argument. The real issue is not helping orphans. The real issue is whether the treatment really helps, and testing it under those conditions with a no treatment control group is not the way to go about providing evidence. Just imagine how horrible the people not selected for the treatment must have felt, even though they were treated just weeks later, the point is that they knew they weren’t getting the miracle treatment by these therapists who are obviously so highly looked up to. Also, the fact that the control group was so quickly treated, does not leave room for any kind of lengthy follow-up comparison. Again, this would be difficult to do under these circumstances, which is another reason why they need to be done under less dire conditions, in the United States first.
It is interesting that both TFT proponents and proponents of coercive restraint therapies have tried this straw man argument with me, accusing me of being against helping orphans when what I am actually against is exploiting orphans with interventions that lack empirical support, in TFT’s case, using them as guinea pigs for their research. I’m all in favor of helping orphans, but let’s help them with treatments that have been shown to be effective, not use them as a PR tool.