Posts Tagged ‘Tapping’

Is this the title of a satirical article from The Onion? It sounds like it but no, this is real life. Someone just informed me that a TFT true believer asked Roger Callahan if he had an algorithm to treat skeptics. Now I realize the person probably was saying this tongue and cheek, but it really is quite telling about the mindset of certain true believers . Such people appear to think that critical thinking and skepticism about a treatment that has offered scant evidence is an attitude that needs “treatment”. Since what they have done so far has failed to convince skeptics, some true believers would love nothing more than to tap their critics away.

Is TFT a method that can be used to shut out critical thinking? Given that the evidence is scant that it even can treat emotional problems, not very likely. However, the intent behind people who seem to want to do this is not so funny. I actually had an experience back in 2001 where in a meeting with other VT people, I was voicing some objections to how the voice technology was being portrayed and Joanne offered to “treat” me for it. I declined, saying “You can’t tap away an ethical dilemma” and I didn’t and wouldn’t but I have to wonder if some people are labeling their doubts as negativity and trying to tap them away. Even if TFT is not an effective treatment for this, the power of suggestion can be very strong with believers and the implications are concerning to me.

One thing is for sure. TFT failed to cure me of my critical thinking. My involvement with TFT only gave me a stronger motivation to develop my critical thinking further.

TFT believers take note: The only way you are going to change a skeptic’s mind is to produce well-designed randomized controlled studies that follow all the latest reporting guidelines and publish them in reputable peer review journals — the ones that have the high impact factors, not the proprietary ones and publish studies that are not funded by associations that have a vested interest in the treatment. To begin with studies should be on the people TFT treats most — people here in the United States or in the UK, rather than going into a different culture and then attempting to generalize to the people who are the paying TFT clients in the US or the UK. They should have waited to do the “humanitarian” work until they see if they are able to get evidence that TFT works in the culture in which it was developed.

Note that when I use the word “skeptic” I mean an actual skeptic, not the kind that are portrayed in Activia commercials or the kind that new age types like to portray. Sometimes the people who are referred to as skeptics are actually just people having knee jerk negative emotional responses to things and those are people who are actually very easily swayed in the other direction.


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Those other bloggers who lack the courage to put their names to what they write, are at it again, once again misrepresenting my Journal of Clinical Psychology article that I formally retracted. They misrepresented the article by posting two of the tables we presented with pre and post changes, incorrectly stating that this means that we are claiming TFT “cures” those conditions. No, we were not. The blogger obviously needs to take a basic research course. Presenting pre and post changes is not the same thing as claiming a cure or even claiming “efficacy”. Update: After I called them out on doing this, they edited it and took out the part about curing. Apparently they know by now that WordPress will not let them get away with this kind of false statement. Ironically, they call the blog Complete Disclosure when what it actually is, is a highly selective presentation of facts out of context that give a highly misleading impression. What they are revealing about me is hardly a “disclosure” since this article has been public knowledge that I have openly been discussing for the past six years since I left TFT.

My response to their blog has also been mischaracterized. I am not “ashamed” of the article. I see it for what it is: an honest mistake on my part that I have since corrected. This brings to mind a discussion I had with psychologist and well known advocate for scientific mental health practice, James Herbert back in 2005. At that time I was feeling pretty down on myself for having practiced TFT and James helped me to realize that there was no reason for me to feel that way because I had made an honest error, the error that he pointed out has nothing whatsoever to do with lack of intelligence or lack of ethics. In other words, he helped me to realize that I had nothing to be ashamed of or to feel guilty about. In fact, TFT is not even in the same ballpark in terms of harm, that many of the therapies I now criticize are and yet it is those proponents who attempt to shame me. The real scientific mental health professionals have been very forgiving and have never shamed me.

In fact, I have consistently been very open and up front about the article and have many, many postings on the internet about it, giving the FULL STORY. What I object to is the fact that the article is being presented out of context and it was accompanied by lies that Dr. Steinberg and I claimed to cure those conditions in the article, which we did not. That was the basis for my complaint to WordPress. Now that the lies have been removed, I have no objection to their posting the two tables from the article, but they add absolutely nothing new to what I have already revealed about this article and its circumstances.

Also observe how my words constantly get twisted. I called them out on their shaming mentality (see paragraph below), the same kind of abusive mentality that gets conveyed in the therapies I have so strongly criticized. That does not, however, mean that I am “ashamed” of the article because their attempts to shame me fail, each and every time. You see, I am not the vulnerable child that gets hurt by this attitude. This is the same mentality that holds children down and screams in their faces for hours on end about their own projections about the child and this is the kind of brutal therapy I will continue to criticize and will not back down on, no matter how many times followers of these types of therapists attempt to trot out my past, a past I have never been anything less than open and up front about. The fact that cannot be changed is that I have the endorsement of respected scientific mental health professionals for having written this retraction. It is only the pseudoscientists and their followers who attempt unsuccessfully to shame me for it.

Nowhere in the paper did we claim to “cure” any of those physical conditions. To say we were is libel and defamation of both me and of Dr. Mark Steinberg. Yes, I did make claims about TFT and helping with psychological conditions I should not have made and I have fully owned up to that, but I never, ever have claimed that TFT cures diseases and there is no way anything in this paper says that. Presenting pre treatment and post treatment changes is not the same as claiming a cure. The changes I reported were what they were and were truthfully reported but that doesn’t mean I am claiming a cure. Anyone who has even taken so much as an introductory research course should know that. Even when I was involved with TFT I was outspokenly against any claims to cure diseases and I made that known.

They also state that I “renounced” the article. I did not just “renounce” it. I published a full formal retraction of the article that can be read by clicking here.

Additionally, this is a rather ridiculous way to try to smear me, since this paper is very old news and I have never been anything less than up front, open and honest about it.  I still get expressions of admiration from scientifically minded professionals for having written the retraction, who have repeatedly told me that they found it courageous of me to write such a retraction. How many other mental health professionals are willing to admit they were wrong? Perhaps this is what really stings and really hits a raw nerve with the people who have launched this all out smear campaign against me. My openness and honesty about my own mistakes is a constant reminder of the mistakes certain mental health professionals they follow have failed to own up to. One of my main criticisms of their interventions with children is that the cruelty and shame that is involved. We can observe this same attempt to shame me. The thing is, I’m not a helpless child and have the support of the scientific mental health community who, on the contrary, has commended me for being open and honest about my past mistakes.

Apparently, what they are attempting to imply is that because I made mistakes regarding my long past endorsement of TFT which I fully owned up to and repudiated, that I cannot have any further credibility, ever again.  Well, a number of prominent mental health professionals in the scientific community strongly disagree and have given me highly favorable endorsements and trust me enough to co-author papers with me. Of course, part of the smear campaign against me are anonymous posters telling ridiculous and absurd lies about how I got those endorsements. They would not dare put that on a WordPress blog, though because that would be a clear TOS violation so they only post that kind of smut anonymously on unmoderated internet newsgroups.

It seems that the only people who are trying to smear me for my past mistakes are people who are, themselves, practicing or otherwise supporting questionable interventions that have no more peer reviewed randomized controlled trials to support their efficacy than TFT does. It’s a bit like a drunk staggering over to his computer and claiming that someone who has been clean and sober for 6+ years is an alcoholic.

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In memory of Martin Gardner (1914-2010), he wrote a prescient essay  in 1950, entitled “The Hermit Scientist”. What comes to mind for me is a memory I have of a conversation with Roger Callahan in the early 2000s, where he told me he felt nobody, not even the people who studied with him, truly understood his work. He informed me that he thought that I came closest of anyone who had studied with him (at the time of his remark, of course, not anymore), but after something I had said he did not agree with, he informed me that not even I, completely understood his work.

I will present a quote from Michael Shermer’s synopsis in his Scientific American column, of the essay without further comment, since the reason it is relevant to this blog, speaks for itself.

How can we tell if someone is a scientific crank? Gardner offers this advice: (1) “First and most important of these traits is that cranks work in almost total isolation from their colleagues.” Cranks typically do not understand how the scientific process operates — that they need to try out their ideas on colleagues, attend conferences and publish their hypotheses in peer-reviewed journals before announcing to the world their startling discovery. Of course, when you explain this to them they say that their ideas are too radical for the conservative scientific establishment to accept. (2) “A second characteristic of the pseudo-scientist, which greatly strengthens his isolation,is a tendency toward paranoia,” which manifests
itself in several ways:

  1. He considers himself a genius.
  2. He regards his colleagues, without exception, as ignorant blockheads …
  3. He believes himself unjustly persecuted and discriminated against. The recognized societies refuse to let him lecture. The journals reject his papers and either ignore his books or assign them to “enemies” for review. It is all part of a dastardly plot. It never occurs to the crank that this opposition may be due to error in his work …
  4. He has strong compulsions to focus his attacks on the greatest scientists and the best-established theories. When Newton was the outstanding name in physics, eccentric works in that science were violently anti-Newton. Today, with Einstein the father symbol
    of authority, a crank theory of physics is likely to attack Einstein …
  5. He often has a tendency to write in a complex jargon, in many
    cases making use of terms and phrases he himself has coined.

We should keep these criteria in mind when we explore controversial ideas on the borderlands of science. “If the present trend continues,” Gardner concludes, “we can expect a wide variety of these men, with theories yet unimaginable, to put in their appearance in the years immediately ahead. They will write impressive books, give inspiring lectures, organize exciting cults. They may achieve a following of one — or one million. In any case, it will be well for ourselves and for society if we are on our guard against them.” So we still are, Martin. That is what skeptics do, and in tribute for all you have done, we shall continue to honor your founding command.

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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.

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The Callahan TFT website currently has a section entitled Thought Field Therapy (R) Professional Review. There are a few points, however, that need to be made about this so-called professional review. First, not all the authors of the articles on the page are mental health professionals. Note that this is not intended to be an argument from authority. It is content that matters, not the person’s credentials. Nevertheless, it is important that credentials be accurately represented because professional authority does influence people. What I am challenging here, is the representations the Callahans are making implied in that title, which would lead a reasonable person to conclude that the people listed in that section are all professionals reviewing TFT, which do not appear to be accurate and people have a right to know this. While some of them are mental health professionals (people with masters or PhD degrees in psychology, social work or a related profession), not all are. Steven Barger, who wrote the lengthiest “review” has no mental health professional credentials. At the time he wrote that, he had only a BA from Ball State University and made his living as a bicycle security guard (I’m not sure what his current job or degree is as I have not kept in touch with him, but those were his credentials when he wrote the article). There’s nothing wrong with that, but the Callahans should not be portraying a security guard as a professional.

More importantly, the “professional review” is highly selective and contains only favorable reviews. Some of the reviewers have paid $100,000 for VT training and thus, have a considerable investment in TFT. The favorable reviews consist mainly of anecdotes from their clinical experience, rather than an actual review of the evidence. There have been a number of professional reviews on TFT that are being omitted from the Callahan’s list, so to make up for that deficit, I will list them here:

Gaudiano, B. A. & Herbert, J. D. (2000). Can we really tap our problems away?: A critical analysis of Thought Field Therapy. Skeptical Inquirer, 24, 29-36.  Full Text available http://www.csicop.org/si/show/can_we_really_tap_our_problems_away_a_critical_analysis_of_thought_field_th/

Hooke, W. A. (1998). A review of Thought Field Therapy. Traumatology, 3(2), Article 3. Available: Click Here.

Kline, J.P. (2001).  Heart Rate Variability does not tap putative efficacy of Thought Field Therapy. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 57 (10), 1187-1192.

Lohr, J.M. (2001).Sakai et al. is not an adequate demonstration of TFT effectiveness. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 57, 1229-1235.

McNally, R.J. (2001).  Tertullian’s motto and Callahan’s method.  Journal of Clinical Psychology, 57, 1171-1174.

Pignotti, M. (2005). Thought Field Therapy Voice Technology vs. random meridian point sequences: a single-blind controlled experiment. The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, 4(1), 72-81. [Note: this is, to date, the only randomized clinical trial on any form of TFT published in a peer reviewed journal, yet it was left off ATFT’s list. This study showed that Roger Callahan’s TFT Voice Technology did no better than random treatment sequences using no proprietary technology. Although the Callahans have lowered the price for VT training from $100,000 to $5,000, this is something people might want consider before spending $5,000 on the “Optimal Health” course that teaches VT. Your choice, of course. The same allegedly miraculous results were obtained using completely random sequences from TFT treatment points drawn out of a hat. This strongly suggests placebo effect is at work here.]

Pignotti, M. & Thyer, B. A. (2009). Some Comments on “Energy Psychology: A Review of the Evidence”: Premature Conclusions Based on Incomplete Evidence? Psychotherapy Theory, Research, Training, Practice,46, 257-261.

Pignotti, M. (2005). Regarding the October 2001 JCLP Special Issue on Thought Field Therapy: Retraction of conclusions in the article “Heart Rate Variability as an outcome measure for Thought Field Therapy in clinical practice.” Journal of Clinical Psychology, 61(3), 361-365.

Pignotti, M. (2005). Callahan fails to meet the burden of proof for Thought Field Therapy claims: Rejoinder to Callahan. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 61(3), 251-255.

Pignotti, M. (2005, Fall/Winter). Thought Field Therapy in the media: a critical analysis of one exemplar.  The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, 3(2) p. 60-66.

Pignotti, M. (2007). Thought Field Therapy: A former insider’s experience. Research on Social Work Practice, 17, 392-407. Abstract: http://rsw.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/17/3/392

Pignotti, M. (2007). Questionable interventions taught at top-ranked school of social work. The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, 5, 78-82.

Rosen, G.M. & Davison, G.C. (2001).  “Echo attributions” and other risks when publishing on novel therapies without peer review. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 57, 1245-1250.

Rosner, R. (2001).  Between search and research: How to find your way around? Review of the article, “Thought Field Therapy: Soothing the bad moments of Kosovo”. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 57, 1241-1244.

Click here to read the abstracts of the Journal of Clinical Psychology articles listed above. I will gladly e-mail reprints of articles I have authored to anyone who sends me their name and e-mail address.

Why are these articles not listed on the Callahan’s website as reviews of TFT and instead only favorable reviews listed by TFT proponents? As for a substantive rebuttal to Barger’s arguments, although they do not directly respond to Barger, many of the above articles effectively refute the points he raised. Why are the Callahans not informing people of these reviews? Sources have told me that people have asked them who I am and why I am so critical of TFT, but have they referred anyone to my articles? I have heard that my name is not allowed to be mentioned on their list serv. Instead, I am simply referred to as “the skeptic” while omitting the fact that at at one time, Callahan had told me he felt I understood TFT theory better than anyone he had ever trained, outside the Callahan family. Perhaps this article will come up on a Google search on “Thought Field Therapy” so people can become properly informed of these critical reviews.

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