Posts Tagged ‘Tapping Therapies’

As part of a smear campaign against me that has nothing to do with TFT, there has been rumor mongering recently on the internet that I have in some way returned to TFT, simply because I choose to call myself an “Independent Scholar”, a title which has been used by TFT proponent Steven Barger, but also many other people who have nothing whatsoever to do with TFT.

Even though to the best of my knowledge, the people involved in this smear campaign are upset about other therapies I have criticized, not TFT, they are attempting to use my past association with TFT to discredit me and are now making insinuations I have returned to TFT when nothing could be further from the truth. I want to state clearly that I have not returned to TFT. I remain and have remained since March 2004, firm and unwavering in my repudiation of TFT. I have had absolutely no regrets or second thoughts about this since that time and as my upcoming publications will show, I remain a critic of  TFT, which still has not met the burden of proof to support its many, grandiose claims.

Steven Barger certainly has no monopoly on the term “Independent Scholar” and I doubt very much he would claim to.

In point of fact, the term Independent Scholar is used by highly respected scholars such as the social psychologist Carol Tavris who uses the term on her CV under “EMPLOYMENT” from 1976 onward, to describe herself. Dr. Tavris’ usage predates Barger’s usage of the term by decades. I consider the work of Carol Tavris, who is among other things, known as a critic of pseudoscientific practices as well as being a feminist writer, to be highly influential on my current work. I consider the career path she has chosen for herself to be a possible role model for my own post-PhD career path and a possible alternative to obtaining a tenure track faculty position. Given the internet smear campaign I have been subjected to, such a faculty position might no longer be possible, although I still remain open to the possibility of accepting such a faculty appointment, should one be offered to me. In any case, Carol Tavris is a prominent example that one does not have to be affiliated with any faculty in order to be a highly respected scholar and make valuable contributions to the field. In addition to being a highly respected scholar, Dr. Tavris also highly values activism and for that reason, I regard her as a kindred spirit since this combination is quite rare and one I value and aspire to as well.

Also relevant to the topic of this article, Carol Tavris and social psychologist Eliot Aronson recently published a book Mistakes Were Made but Not By Me which discusses the unwillingness of people to admit they have made mistakes and the admission of having made mistakes and willingness to change ones position as an admirable quality to be valued, not something to trash a person for as my detractors have attempted to do with me for changing my mind about Scientology and TFT. This topic is even more important for people who are continuing to practice potentially dangerous therapies for children and parents who are listening to such “professionals” who have failed to update themselves on the latest data on the dangers of techniques such as prone restraints and harsh boot-camp style interventions which I consider to be far more dangerous than any tapping therapy. At least no one has ever been asphyxiated by tapping therapies.

In any case to get back to Barger, who at the time he wrote his response to critics of TFT (I have no idea what his current status is), made his living as a bicycle security guard and possessed no advanced degrees in mental health or mental health credentials of any kind, by his own admission, has nothing to do with my choice to use the title Independent Scholar. Barger’s response to critics is still available on the Callahan’s Thought Field Therapy website. Last I heard from Mr. Barger (which was in 2006), he indicated to me that he was working on writing a response to my Journal of Clinical Psychology retraction article and rejoinder to Callahan’s response to me that he claimed would be a devastating rebuttal to my critique of TFT that he indicated he intended to submit to the Journal of Clinical Psychology, but as far as I know, nothing to date has been published in his name in any peer reviewed journal.

Will I ever again embrace TFT? I consider myself an open-minded skeptic, which means I remain open to actual evidence, but I set the bar very high. The only way I would ever again approve of TFT is if double-blind randomized clinical trials were conducted by people who had no vested interest in the practice of TFT and 1) those trials compared tapping on TFT points to sham points; 2) a wait list no treatment control group was also included; 3) the results showed a both a statistically and a clinically significant difference between the group that received tapping on actual TFT points and the group that received the sham points with the TFT group showing superior results.

Such a study would need to be published in a peer reviewed journal with a decent impact factor and would need to meet all the accepted reporting requirements and include features such as fidelity checks and a full detailed description of how the randomization to treatment and control groups was conducted, as well as a full “intention to treat” analysis for any drop-outs.  The study would also need to have a follow-up period of at least one year and would need to use reliable and valid standardized assessment measures for the condition being addressed, not the SUD as an outcome measure. It would need to be replicated at least once. If such evidence were presented, then I might begin to reconsider my current position. I emphasis begin because what it would take to fully convince me is a full, Cochrane-style meta-analysis that included a systematic review and adhered to all the guidelines for conducting and reporting on meta-analyses, showing that TFT vs. sham points produced large effect sizes of between-group differences.

Note that studies comparing TFT to some kind of other control group such as supportive therapy or something not involving alleged “meridian points” would not be acceptable. The mechanism of action would need to be directly tested by having sham points as the control group. Note that changing ones mind based on evidence is not flip-flopping although to date, no such evidence has been forthcoming even though TFT proponents have had decades now to produce it.

These two peer reviewed published critiques of mine from the Journal of Clinical Psychology, which are highly critical of TFT also illustrate that contrary to what those who would smear me online would like people to believe, my use of “Independent Scholar” to describe myself is nothing new. I used that term in both of those critical articles since at the time (written 2004, published in 2005), I was unaffiliated with any academic institution. In 2006 when I began the PhD program at Florida State University, I dropped that term since I was the affiliated with FSU and I resumed using it following my graduation.

I hope this clarifies any confusion generated by thus-far-unidentified anonymous individuals who lack the courage to put their name to what they post about me — who now (following the dismissal of Federici v Pignotti et al) appear to be desperate to discredit me with any far fetched lie they can make up.


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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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There’s a very interesting article in the current issue of E-Skeptic by Larry Sarner on Emily Rosa’s seminal therapeutic touch (TT) experiment that was published in the JAMA in 1998 of a study she conducted at age 9, making her the youngest person ever to publish in a peer reviewed medical journal.

Sarner addresses many of the misconceptions people have about this study and he lists the postulates (assumptions) that TT is based on, most of which also hold for the newer energy psychology therapies such as TFT and EFT. Emily Rosa’s experiment addressed postulate #3, although many people, even some skeptics, misunderstood it as addressing #1, which it was not designed to do. He makes an excellent point that many skeptics focus on #1, whether the HEF exists at all. If any of these postulates are falsified, however, the entire theory collapses. These postulates were induced and deduced from the TT literature since the TT proponents themselves seem to have resisted making any clear statements in this regard.

  1. THE EXISTENCE POSTULATE. TT is a widespread (primarily nursing) practice predicated upon a belief in the existence of a “human energy field.” This field may be too esoteric or “subtle” to be capable of measurement or detection by conventional technology.
  2. THE ETIOLOGICAL POSTULATE. The HEF is postulated as a physical reality that permeates a human body and extends beyond it. Disease, illness, injury, or discomfort are manifest in the HEF as “differences” (disturbances, imbalances, congestion, or the like). Also, the elimination of such differences in the HEF either returns the body itself to health or removes impediments to the body’s own healing processes.
  3. THE PERCEPTIBILITY POSTULATE. Each person’s HEF is perceptible by any other person, especially with the intention to do so, though it may be necessary in individual instances for the other person to be trained to recognize the perceptions as HEF-related. In particular, differences in an HEF can be perceived, thereby detecting the presence (and with refinement, the locale) of disease, illness, injury, or discomfort.
  4. THE MANIPULABILITY POSTULATE. One person can effect changes in another person’s HEF. Those changes can be controlled by the changer’s intentions, though training may be necessary to allow selection of the proper intentionality for accomplishing desired ends, such as the elimination of differences.
  5. THE MANUAL POSTULATE. A practitioner’s hand alone is an effective and reliable means for the perception and manipulation of the HEF of another person. Coupled with the proper intentionality, healing can occur through manual intervention in the HEF.

I have found this to be a useful framework for a critical examination of the assumptions between TFT/EFT. The only one that would not necessarily hold true for TFT/EFT is #3, which is the one that Emily’s experiment focused on, very important to TT but not so much, for TFT/EFT. With TFT/EFT, people finger tap on specified points on the body and so it would not be necessary for them to actually be able to feel the HEF. In other words, they can do #4 without having to do #3. All they have to do is know where and (for TFT) in what sequence to tap. My published experiment addressed and falsified the notion that sequence of tapping points mattered (the basis for Callahan’s $100,000 VT) and Waite and Holder’s experiment falsified the notion that the points mattered, since they had control conditions of sham points and tapping on a doll. Both studies were published in the peer reviewed journal, The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice.

Also, #5 is only partially applicable to TFT, although many of its proponents do hold that assumption, in full. TFT’s inventor, Roger Callahan has strenuously objected to the idea that intention had anything to do with his claimed results. His claim is that all a person has to do is to tap on specified points in specified sequences and results will occur. The person being treated must be thinking about the problem being treated, so in that sense, intention is important, but the intention of the practitioner to heal, presumably has nothing to do with it. However, many EFT/TFT proponents disagree and see intention as critically important to both successes and failures and that, of course, can be used as a way to explain away failure.

Sarner’s article covers a great deal of ground, addressing TT’s basic assumptions, correcting misconceptions about Emily Rosa’s experiment and issuing a point by point rebuttal to the criticism of that experiment. The article is well worth the read and available on the E-Skeptic website.

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Oprah is holding open auditions for someone to get their own TV show on Oprah’s upcoming new channel. The way it works is that people post an audition video on Oprah’s website and people can vote on it. The five people with the highest votes are the winners.

Long-time TFT/Energy Psychology proponent Mary Sise, LCSW, is trying out for the show. You can see her video by clicking here and then you can post your comments. However, it appears that critical comments are not getting posted because I know for a fact that at least two people have tried two days ago and the comments have not shown up whereas other later, positive comments have. So I am calling Oprah’s producers out on not posting critical comments about what is in fact a highly controversial therapy that does not have adequate research evidence to support its claims for curing a wide variety of different types of conditions.

Mary’s Proposal is:

Beliefs create your reality, and most beliefs are formed under the age of 7. Beliefs have energy stuck in them – shame, anger, guilt, fear – and by using your own meridian system you can learn how to release the stuck energy and replace your negative beliefs with positive ones. I’ve done this thousands of times with my clients and more importantly, with myself. The show I envision would have different participants who are unhappy with something in their life. I would teach you how to figure out what childhood belief is causing it, and more importantly how to release that and reprogram yourself. Everyone watching at home could participate and we would be able to release fear, shame, and lack on a global scale.

This statement is so packed with myths, it is difficult to know where to begin. To start with the most obvious one, “beliefs create your reality”. Oh really, Mary? How about the “reality” of 9/11? How about the reality of Rwandan orphans who witnessed and experienced hideous trauma and are unhappy with that? Did they create that with their beliefs?

Mary also appears to buy into the myth, soundly debunked in Scott Lilienfeld’s book on the 50 most common myths in psychology, that if someone is unhappy with something in their life, it comes from something in their childhood, particularly a belief. Does she seriously believe that? Obviously, there are all kinds of reasons why a person could be unhappy with something in their life, having nothing whatsoever to do with their childhood. For example, if Mary were to get her wish and get her show, how would she respond if a mother came forward who was grieving due to the loss of a child to cancer? Would that unhappiness be coming from something in her childhood that Mary would then have her tap away? That is just one of countless examples where her presumption would be utterly absurd. Get real, Mary. Do you have any idea how much bad therapy that at best wastes a person’s time and money and at worst, does harm, is done because of the belief that everything that makes a person unhappy comes from childhood? Maybe she needs to tap that one away.

Her last sentence seems to imply that people can even tap away “lack” on a global scale. Does she mean eliminate poverty through tapping? Quite possibly because everything, from her point of view, seems to come from beliefs that have “energy stuck in them” — whatever that means. I could see a naive young person falling for something like this but when these words come from a 58-year old licensed mental health professional, that is downright embarrassing.

There doesn’t seem to be much of a chance, however, for Mary to get her show. She only has 4,785 votes so far, while the front runners have over a million votes. Dr. Phyllis, a teacher from Tampa, FL, who is proposing a teacher reality show, has over 8 million votes and Zach, a young man with cerebral palsy and a great sense of humor from Austin, Texas has over 9 million votes.

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The latest Callahan blog posting announces that a team of TFT therapists and trainers will be deployed to Haiti. Click here to read details. I have nothing against people going to Haiti and helping others. Although many of my colleagues think that I am being far too kind, I operate on the assumption that most TFT proponents have good intentions. However, what I do object to is people descending upon the scene of a disaster and imposing therapies such as TFT, that have no scientific evidence that they will truly help such people. Good intentions or not, this is taking advantage of vulnerable people. First, it was the Scientologists, now TFT proponents follow suit. TFT and Scientology touch assists are in pretty much the same category where lack of evidence is concerned.

Note that the Callahans have blocked me from accessing this page from my own computer, but there are other people who send me links to keep me updated. The person putting this altogether is Dr. Carolle Jean Murat. According to her website, Dr. Carolle also offers “intuitive consultations” by telephone and describes herself as “a medical intuitive, board-certified gynecologist and holistic practitioner.” For those unfamiliar with the term, Wikipedia states that:

A Medical Intuitive is an alternative medicine practitioner who uses their intuition to attempt to find the cause of a physical or emotional condition. Making a formal medical diagnosis is not in the scope of practice for many Medical Intuitives, but some medical intuitives are also M.D.s.

I will leave it to the readers to decide whether they think this practice is something that is appropriate for an MD to be engaging in. Whether she and her TFT team will also bring medical intuition to Haiti remains to be seen, but to date, there is no valid evidence that Thought Field Therapy is an effective treatment for PTSD or other after-effects of trauma although many TFT proponents claim (without basis) that it is superior to existing empirically supported treatments which is highly misleading and could dissuade people from trying treatments that do have strong research support. To date, there are no published randomized clinical trials demonstrating this, but of course there are many testimonials and anecdotes.

People ask, where’s the harm in tapping, which doesn’t in and of itself harm anyone? While true enough that, in my opinion, it’s not even in the same ballpark as some of the coercive restraint therapies I have been criticizing, there are a number of indirect ways proponents making unsupported claims can do harm. First, as I’ve already mentioned it could dissuade people from using treatments that do have strong support and this could prevent people from getting help while, as the woman on the NPR program, they continue to tap while their symptoms continue. Second, as illustrated by the woman on the NPR program, they could blame themselves for the treatment not working, thus adding to their emotional pain. Third, people could end up spending money that could better be used for something else. While of course, TFT proponents are not charging the recipients in Haiti for their treatment, they are doing quite an aggressive fund raising campaign and will inevitably need to use the resources of a country that is already depleted, while there, even if they do pay for them. People who have nothing of proven value to offer a country such as Haiti, ought to stay away and step aside for people who are properly trained and do have something to offer. Tapping and then trumpeting to the world how altruistic they are (Callahan’s wife is great at that), all the while continuing to charge people in the US outrageous fees. VT with Roger Callahan costs a minimum of 5 hours @ $600 per hour and other VT practitioners have been known to charge up to $400 per hour for a practice that has no controlled studies to support it and my own published study showed that the VT did no better than random sequences costing nothing to produce.

There are people who have been in VT therapy for years and years and keep having their “toxins” checked on a regular basis when their problems keep coming back, rather than realizing that all they had was very temporary placebo relief and sometimes not even that. Here is what I wrote about potential for harm in a 2005 article, published in The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice (for full article, click here – CTTFT stands for Callahan Techniques TFT; IET stands for Individual Energy Toxin):

Clinicians should consider the potential adverse effects of such advice, especially with people who are already suffering from such conditions as eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, or panic disorder. For instance, the declaration by a therapist that a common food in the patient’s diet is “toxic” and is causing panic attacks to recur could create new cues and triggers, thereby becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. There is at least one reported case (Buryani & Takasaki, 1999; Callahan, 1999) in which an anorexic patient was advised by Callahan to stay away from certain foods (although wisely, the attending psychiatrist overruled this advice). The harmful effects of telling an anorexic patient already obsessed with food avoidance that certain foods are “toxic” should be obvious.

It has been my experience and that of many other CTTFT practitioners that most patients do not comply with Callahan’s advice to avoid certain foods. However, a charismatic therapist could persuade the patient to comply, potentially resulting in harmful dietary restriction. I am aware of cases in which clients have become obsessed with finding IETs to the extent that they were checking with their CTTFT therapist before almost every meal. These are examples of potential negative effects, which are inherent dangers of using treatment approaches that have not been adequately studied.

Callahan’s test for IETs is highly questionable, as he has never formally tested his procedures for inter-rater reliability. This omission raises concern about conflicting results and conflicting dietary advice among practitioners (Craig, 1998).

Just to explain a bit more about the lack of inter-rater reliability, what this means is that two VT therapists can be testing someone’s voice at the same time and coming up with different meridian point sequences or even more troubling, coming up with different results on the so-called “toxin” testing. Gary Craig and his colleague who was also trained in VT reported having this happen. In my own experience practicing VT with a partner, we frequently got different results for the same client with “toxin” testing, which was one of the things that lead me to begin to question the reliability and validity of VT. When I suggested to Callahan that systematic testing be done where two VT therapists test the same person at the same time on the phone, while not being aware of one another’s results, he declared this to be a very bad idea. My partner chose to believe him and refrained from such testing. I did not. I suppose it would be a bad idea for him, especially if it exposed the unreliability of VT and also a bad idea for people who went into debt paying the $100,000 to train in VT. For people trained in VT that still honestly believe in it, though, I would highly recommend getting a colleague or two and trying this experiment. See if you can do better than chance in getting the same results for toxin testing or the same treatment sequences.

So yes, there are plenty of ways practices such as TFT can indirectly harm others. Think of that before opening up your wallet, either to make a donation for their trauma tourism or for treatment/training here in the US.

Note: This blog entry was updated after I received a comment from someone castigating me for criticizing anyone who would go to Haiti and asking where’s the harm? I chose not to post the comment because it was also full of personal attacks on me and I refused to be targeted on my own blogs with these kinds of malicious comments — there are plenty of those elsewhere, if people enjoy reading that sort of thing. I am, however, responding to issues she raised that many people seem to have misconceptions about. I welcome comments and questions about the issues being discussed. Please be forewarned, however, that personal attacks are not welcome here.

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Monica Pignotti TFT Article Journal of Clinical Psychology 2001 Retracted

My cyber-smearers are once again misrepresenting my work. They posted the half truth that I had a “scholarly article” on TFT in 2001 and have lifted the first two pages of the article from Mark Steinberg’s website, yet failed to mention that in 2005, I published a full retraction of that article. The article in no way supports the efficacy of TFT for the reasons the critics of the article stated.

Click here to read the full text of my retraction article.

Click here to read the full text of my response to Dr. Roger Callahan

Click here to read the abstract at the journal website.

This article is a retraction of the conclusions drawn in a previous article, published as part of a special October 2001 issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychology on Thought Field Therapy (TFT). I decided to write this retraction after reconsidering a number of issues raised in the critiques of the articles. Additionally, subsequent misinterpretations of the literature on heart rate variability (HRV) by Roger Callahan, which led to further questioning of his premises and claims regarding TFT and HRV as represented in the articles, are discussed. I conclude that the burden of proof is on TFT proponents to demonstrate its efficacy and that well-designed controlled studies using standardized assessment measures and long-term follow-up must be performed to allow the scientific community to take claims made for TFT seriously.

Unfortunately, my co-author, Dr. Mark Steinberg, continues to post this on his website, neglecting to mention the fact that it was retracted by the first author and failing to honor the agreement that we made with the journal, to put the disclaimer that the article had not been peer reviewed. He also recently mentioned this article in an appearance on a local television station, again, neglecting to mention the retraction and the fact that it was published under special circumstances and not peer reviewed. When he first posted this article on his website, I reminded him of the agreement we had that we were to post a disclaimer that it had not been peer reviewed, but he would not agree to do this. Essentially, he refused to post any disclaimer because he felt he was entitled to claim publication of this article without it, in spite of the fact we had made an agreement that the disclaimer would be published. Since I have no control over the contents of his website, there was nothing I could do to force him. Hence, my need to correct this now. What follows is the whole truth about this article, which I have always been completely honest about and written about in numerous places. In no way is this news, but here we go again.

I have written about the special circumstances under which this article and the special issue was published elsewhere, but I will once again explain it here. Back in 2000, Roger Callahan was invited to come onto the list serv of the Society of a Science for a Clinical Psychology (a subdivision of APA Division 12) to discuss Thought Field Therapy. When he was asked for peer reviewed publications to support the efficacy of TFT, he had to admit that there were none. He claimed that this was the case because editors and journal reviewers were biased against TFT. The Editor of the Journal of Clinical Psychology at the time, Larry Beutler, made an offer to Dr. Callahan. He offered to allow Dr. Callahan to publish five articles of his choosing that he believed supported TFT and Beutler agreed to publish them without peer review. The conditions for the publication would be two-fold: 1) The authors would have to agree to put a disclaimer on the articles that they were not peer reviewed and were not to misrepresent them and 2) Critiques would be published alongside each article. The special issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychology appeared in October 2001 with five articles (I was first author of one of them) and indeed, critiques were published along each article, which were highly negative and essentially stated that had they been peer reviewed, they would not have been acceptable for publication. Click here to read the abstracts.

In 2004, when I came to realize that TFT was not what it was claimed to be, I wrote a retraction of my 2001 article and the retraction was published in 2005 (see link to abstract above).

I also would like to point out that there are tenure-track faculty in major universities who are involved in research on Thought Field Therapy that is funded by believers in TFT and the university appears to have no problem with this at all, so if my detractors think they are going to spoil my academic reputation by posting these things about me, think again. A notable recent example is Dr. Dominique Roe Sepowitz, of Arizona State University who is not only involved in research, but according to her CV, has accepted $13,000 in funding in 2008-2009 from the Association of TFT (ATFT) to be involved in such research. Note that she is being funded by TFT believers since Roger and Joanne Callahan are Board members of ATFT and have been since its inception and the Board of ATFT has only believers in TFT, not critics. In spite of the fact she has been funded by an organization of TFT believers, she is a faculty member in good standing at Arizona State University, who apparently has no problem whatsoever with her involvement and the fact she is funded by the ATFT. Another notable example are two tenured faculty members at FSU (Joyce Carbonell in Psychology and Charles Figley who was at the time in Social Work at FSU) who have conducted research on TFT.  Isn’t it strange that people want to feature me on an “Axis of Quackery” blog for research on something that two major universities (FSU and ASU) had no problem with?

So once again, my cyber-smearers believe they are coming forward with some kind of startling revelation about me when I have been completely open and transparent about this whole matter and I have completely repudiated that article. Go figure. Perhaps this is their way of diverting attention away from questions I have been asking in another blog about the recommendation of restraints, which have nothing to do with TFT. Yes, I believe that TFT is a pseudoscience which makes unsupported claims, but at least no one has been killed by TFT. The same cannot be said for prone restraint procedures which have resulted in numerous deaths and this has been the case, even when the procedures were said to have been carried out correctly. My long-ago mistake with TFT pales in comparison to that.

This constant hammering away at ancient history also is a lame attempt to ignore my recent publications, including this one published in the journal, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics:

Is Longer-Term Psychodynamic Psychotherapy More Effective than Shorter-Term Therapies? Review and Critique of the Evidence
Sunil S. Bhara, Brett D. Thombsb, Monica Pignottic, Marielle Basselb, Lisa Jewettb, James C. Coyned, Aaron T. Beckd

aSwinburne University of Technology, Hawthorn, Vic., Australia;
bMcGill University and Jewish General Hospital, Montréal, Qué., Canada;
cFlorida State University, Tallahassee, Fla., and
dUniversity of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa., USA

Psychother Psychosom 2010;79:208-216 (DOI: 10.1159/000313689)

That can hardly be called fringe, but apparently, they think if they keep calling me a fringe “quack” all the evidence I am producing will just go away. Newsflash: It won’t. The truth always comes out eventually and more and more people are seeing it.

In conclusion, the concerns expressed on the Axis of Quackery blog that appear to be focusing on me, appear to be disingenuous. If the anonymous bloggers were genuinely concerned about quackery, it seems to me that they would focus on people who are currently practicing quackery, not someone such as myself who completely repudiated the practice of quackery over six years ago and is a well known, and highly published critic of pseudoscience and quackery. Genuine critics of pseudoscience such as Dr. Scott Lilienfeld, Dr. Steven Jay Lynn and Dr. Brandon Gaudiano, endorse my work. In stark contrast, people who support an intervention for children that has no controlled studies to support its efficacy attack me, while ignoring current TFT proponents other than the one I used to practice with. That speaks volumes for what they truly stand for and what their real agenda is.

Perhaps what really hits a nerve for the “Axis of Quackery” folks is that I am someone who actually admitted to my mistakes and retracted them, something I am highly respected by genuine critics of quackery for doing. In contrast, my critics continue to promote and defend face-down prone restraint methods which, according to my opinion based on my extensive review of the current literature, have been shown to be dangerous and interventions that have no evidence for their efficacy and will not admit, even when confronted with evidence in the literature, that they are wrong and are making serious mistakes. I must be a constant reminder to them of mistakes they are making that they refuse to admit to. No wonder they’re so upset with me that they have go spend so much time creating blogs smearing me.

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