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Archive for February, 2011

Another reposting from the Monica Pignotti, MSW blog, still relevant today as they are continuing efforts along these lines. Just so readers are clear on what I am referring to, this article is about TFT proponents traveling to Africa and having people tap on acupressure points on the body to supposedly treat Malaria. These efforts, fortunately, began after I had already ceased practice of and involvement with TFT, so I never participated in any of this. In a 2006 NPR interview, Callahan claimed:

Dr. CALLAHAN: Its really remarkable the number of things we can successfully treat. We just successfully treated malaria down in Africa.

Here is the “research” his claim is apparently based on, as published in an Association for Thought Field Therapy newsletter. To date, I am not aware of any peer reviewed research.

So-Called TFT Malaria Research: Sloppy Reporting or Fancy Cooking?

February 19, 2007

A write-up of the TFT “humanitarian” mission to Africa and their so-called “research” has just been posted on the ATFT website [the reference is ATFT Update, Issue 4, Winter 2006, p. 5-6].

I have to say that I have never seen anything like this in my life. The infamous Journal of Clinical Psychology Special Issue Oct 2001 on TFT doesn’t even begin to compare.

First, there’s the stunning theoretical overview that I will fair use quote from without comment (ATFT Update, p.5-6 at above URL):

“Then in September of 2004, during a TFT training in Mexico City, one of the nurses from a nearby village told Joanne and Roger how she helped with dengue fever using TFT algorithms. While at dinner that evening with friends, including Alvaro and Dr. Racquel Hazas, Joanne and Roger talked about an article in Science News that reported that mosquito-born illnesses, such as malaria and dengue fever, are an electrical phenomenon in the body. Racquel, a physicist, verified this fact. They realized this might offer an explanation why TFT has been able help with these problems and talked about the possibility of the ATFT Foundation, of which Joanne is President, sending a team to Africa and explore how TFT might help relieve the suffering caused by malaria.”

And then there is the methodology (although I’m being overly generous to call it that). The report reads (see p. 6):

“In order to determine what kind of effect Thought Field Therapy had on malaria patients, we needed to collect certain data before and after TFT treatment. The plan was to focus on people whose blood tested positive for malaria.

“We would then obtain four pre- and post- TFT measurements of people testing positive for malaria:

“1) Ratings of malaria symptoms, from 0 to 3 (0=none, 1=mild, 2=moderate,

3=severe); “2) Body Temperature (fever is a common symptom of malaria);

“3) Subjective Units of Distress (SUD), from 1 to 10, for the overall problem;

“4) Heart Rate Variability (HRV).”

The most obvious post test outcome is not mentioned here. What about a post Malaria test? Blank out! Malaria tests were only done prior to the treatment, not after the treatment. Instead, they chose to measure relief of Malaria symptoms with subjective ratings of distress, body temperature, and Heart Rate Variability. Some of the patients were on legitimate medical treatments, such as Quinine drips, when the TFT was done. Do any of these folks know what a confound is or has Callahan developed amnesia for his past research training? The report emphasized that the Malaria blood tests were quick and easy to administer. Why not do a post test? Callahan, later in the same newsletter, said that one Malaria test showed changes but “Alas, our researchers did not have time to stay and take further blood tests.” Oh please. Does Callahan really think that any intelligent person would find it credible that these “researchers” who were on what was a very important and meaningful mission to them, would not have “the time” to administer a test that can be easily and quickly done?

And then there are the numbers. They just don’t add up and the report raises puzzling questions that ought to immediately come to the mind of anyone even remotely familiar with the scientific method or basic arithmetic, for that matter. Following the “Methods” section, is a rambling, rather confusing conglomeration of anecdotes, including trivia such as the team leader and then-ATFT President Mary Cowley having her luggage lost and how others would have to put up with the stench of her clothing (talk about TMI — too much information !). Once in awhile, between anecdotes, they threw in a few numbers here and there. They report hundreds of people coming to them for testing. At one site alone, 60 people came in for testing, they reported (p. 10) and 45% of those tested positive. Okay, that would be 27 participants just from that site alone. This raises another question. The “researchers” reported that they came with 200 test kits and ended up with a paltry sample of only 15 people, and only 7 on some of the post tests such as HRV. Did that low a percentage of people test positive for Malaria? It doesn’t seem likely given the numbers earlier in their report. What happened with the others who tested positive that they supposedly treated? Some, they claimed, were treated in groups but why were there no pre or post tests on them of any kind?

What gives here? Were the “researchers” on some kind of permanent safari or did they tap their left brains away so they could no longer perform simple arithmetic? There was no accounting of any kind in this report for the discrepancy in the numbers. What comes to mind here is the famous saying: If it doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t make sense. This is simple, but good advice since the more common human response is to try to rationalize or explain away things that just don’t make sense.

I have to wonder, was this just incredibly sloppy reporting or did these “researchers” fail to report all of the results, especially if they conflicted with their desired outcome? We’ll never know. A reasonable person might think that if they really wanted to see whether TFT helped with Malaria, the easiest most obvious test to do, pre and post, would be the Malaria test which they report is quick and very easy to administer. Instead all we have are subjective reports and meaningless HRV tests (there are no publications testing the reliability and validity of HRV as a measure of malaria whatsoever). And of course, as usual with Callahan TFT testing, there was no control group. Callahan doesn’t believe control groups are needed because TFT is so “robust” and “powerful” and he claims HRV doesn’t respond to placebo (even though most HRV testing in journal studies does use control groups).

It doesn’t look like this report is going to convince anyone who is not already such a true believer they have lost their ability to think critically or question the obvious gaping holes in this report. If there are any of Callahan’s therapists (or as he likes to call them, “trainees”) out there who still have any kind of ability to question, please, for starters, ask him and the “research” team the following (come on, I dare you):

How many people in the sample tested positive for Malaria? (according to their own report, there were at least 27 at one site alone, yet the final report had an N of only 15)

How many of those were included in the study? How do you explain the discrepancy?

How many post Malaria tests did you actually do? Was it just the one Callahan reported and if so, why didn’t you bother to post test the very small number of people in your sample (15) with such a quick and easy test? Why didn’t you have the time (as Callahan claims) to stick around for a few extra minutes and run a test that might actually measure what you’re claiming to treat?

Alas, I doubt we’ll ever get answers to these questions, but I want to put Roger Callahan, Joanne Callahan and the so-called “research” team on notice that they are being asked.

PS: Since I see in my blog stats that someone Googled the question of whether ACEP is connected to Scientology, the answer is no, definitely not. ACEP has no connection or relationship whatsoever to Scientology. In fact, active Scientologists in good standing are forbidden to do the sorts of practices promoted by ACEP — that would be considered “mixing practices”, a major no-no in Scientology. Scientologists are forbidden to do any kind of “other practices” while doing Scientology. I’ve seen this come up before on the internet where someone apparently has the misconception that tapping therapies have a connection to Scientology. They definitely do not. I am wondering if this misconception got started due to the internet smear campaign against me, where I have constantly been hammered for my long-ago involvement in Scientology, which the cyber smearers conveniently neglect to mention that I fully repudiated and left 34 years ago.

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Since my Psychjourney blog, Monica Pignotti, MSW has closed down due to all Psychjourney Blogs on Typepad being discontinued, I am going to begin reposting some of the more salient articles from that blog. I will repost the TFT articles on this blog and certain others on another blog that will be replacing the Psychjourney blog. The following is a reposting of  two blog articles I wrote on a 2006 NPR program on TFT and its use with survivors of Hurricane Katrina, for which I was interviewed. Other guests included Drexel Professor of Psychology James Herbert and Roger Callahan. Fortunately, the links to this program on the NPR website that I provided, still work.

For those who would prefer to read rather than listen, a transcript is also available on the NPR website.

National Public Radio Program on Thought Field Therapy

March 26, 2006

This is an announcement to let you all know that on Wednesday, March 29th I will be a guest on the National Public Radio program “All Things Considered”. The topic will be the Thought Field Therapy.

James Herbert, who is a Psychology Professor at Drexel University and was co-author (with Brandon Gaudiano) of the 2000 Skeptical Inquirer article on TFT, will also be a guest on the show.

The Association for Thought Field Therapy has managed to get a team of TFT therapists into a Charity Hospital program in New Orleans to work with survivors of Katrina.  One of the reporters from NPR picked up on this and decided to devote a program to this topic.  I will be speaking about my experiences with TFT and my recently-published study on the TFT Voice Technology.

Link and my Comments on NPR Program on TFT
March 30, 2006

There is now a direct link for the NPR program (aired 3/29/06) on TFT, now available for people who wish to listen to the program on the internet:

In response to the comments, yes, I was very pleased with how Alix Spiegel put together this program. Given the tremendous amount of interview material she had to put together for a 12-minute segment, I thought she made wise choices on what to include and she gave a well balanced presentation and that the way she put together segments from my interview was very accurate. I give her kudos for not taking the ATFT’s claims at face value and really doing her homework.

Had there been more time available, there were a few additional points I would have like to have made. The saddest part of the entire program was the interview with the survivor of Katrina who blamed herself for not tapping enough when the results of the TFT treatment did not last with her and her panic returned. Callahan’s explanation is even worse than that; if TFT treatment results do not hold up over time, he maintains this is due to “toxins” and this (for paying clients) would require signing up for the more expensive TFT “Diagnostic” or VT treatments (I have discussed toxins elsewhere in this blog).

The biggest surprise for me was that Callahan actually claimed on the program that TFT could treat Malaria — he didn’t say the stress from Malaria — just “Malaria”! I was aware of the ATFT team’s activities in Africa but didn’t think he would openly claim such a thing without any qualifying statements. This amounts to making medical claims, as I understood him. Of course, I have known that privately many TFT proponents really do believe that they can actually treat diseases, but I thought that for PR purposes they would be more subtle about the claims they made in order to protect themselves. It looks like I was wrong about that.

Bottom line: The NPR program did an excellent job in conveying the message that Callahan and other TFT proponents are making grandiose claims that are unsupported by good evidence. I only hope that the hospitals and relief organizations that are supporting the ATFT team being there will take notice and do something about this. What they are endorsing is inexcusable. There are empirically supported, effective treatments for trauma and the kinds of symptoms the survivor on the show was experiencing. There are very effective existing treatments for panic so I have to ask these hospitals why this woman did not receive those and instead received a bogus therapy that did not help her in the long run? The administrators of these hospitals and relief organizations can expect to hear from me and a number of other concerned mental health professionals and doctors very soon asking why they are depriving their patients of empirically supported treatments and giving them quackery instead. We expect some answers.

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