Energy psychology

March 22, 2017


Energy psychology

Natural Standard Monograph, Copyright © 2013 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.

Related Terms

  • Applied kinesiology, Callahan Techniques™, Callahan Techniques® Thought field therapy, CTTFT, emotional freedom technique, energy diagnostic and treatment methods, energy tapping, mental field therapy, MFT, Roger Callahan, tap therapy, tapping therapy, thought field, thought field therapy, TFT.


  • Energy psychology, also known as thought field therapy (TFT), uses "thought fields" and qi (pronounced "chee") to diagnose and treat psychological problems. Qi is a concept from Chinese philosophy that means "life energy." It is believed that imbalances in qi may lead to medical problems. The technique of energy psychology requires a patient to think about a medical condition or a painful experience, while specific acupuncture meridian energy points on his or her upper body and hands are sequentially tapped by the fingertips of a TFT practitioner. The tapping action is believed to unblock or balance the flow of qi.

  • Energy psychology is most commonly used on patients with chronic conditions that do not respond to conventional healing methods; these chronic conditions may include cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), psychological trauma, phobias, anxiety, panic, obsessive-compulsive disorder, addictive urges, depression, chronic pain, allergies, fatigue, anger, acute stress, bereavement, cravings, nausea, neurodermatitis (a skin condition that causes dry, itchy skin), stress, trichotillomania (compulsive hair-pulling), tremors, and emotional distress.

  • Roger Callahan, an American psychologist, developed the concept of energy psychology in the 1980s. He has made several unsubstantiated claims, such as the ability of energy psychology to successfully treat malaria and heart conditions in less than 15 minutes and to treat phobias in less than five minutes. Supportive scientific evidence is sparse, and many experts argue that studies supporting the use of energy psychology have been biased and improperly performed. Specifically, Callahan's use of lowered "heart rate variability" as an indicator of the effectiveness of TFT has been strongly criticized.

  • The American Psychological Association (APA) has stated that energy psychology "lacks a scientific basis." In a survey published in an APA journal, psychologists generally consider the therapy to be a pseudoscience, indicating that it is based on false scientific claims. Psychologists have risen ethical concerns over the aggressive Internet marketing of energy psychology/thought field therapy, because it is not supported by strong scientific evidence.

  • Patients are advised to be skeptical of claims that energy psychology is able to cure medical conditions. Larger, well-designed clinical studies are necessary to investigate the utility of these treatments. There is preliminary evidence from human study that the most promising use of energy psychology is for patients with PTSD, although it is possible that this result is simply evidence of a placebo effect. Regardless, TFT appears to be safe and it may be used in combination with more traditional methods of therapy under the care of a licensed healthcare provider.


  • Energy psychology may be self-administered or performed by a healthcare provider; it is recommended, however, that the therapy is offered by someone specifically trained in energy psychology procedures. Many books are available on the theory and practice of this technique.

  • Diagnosis is performed by a trained practitioner who asks questions of his or her patient that are intended to trigger painful memories. These memories create a muscle response, which helps to determine exactly where the patient's internal problems lie. Some practitioners also use mental field therapy (MFT), which theoretically leads to a rapid resolution of emotional distress.

  • Once a diagnosis has been made, practitioners then attempt to alter the patient's energy flow; energy flow changes may help to disconnect the patient's conditioned illness response from his or her traumatic history. Similar to acupuncture and acupressure, this technique works by tapping the patient's acupoints (points used in acupuncture) along the body's meridians (channels of energy through which qi flows), or at energy chakras (points in the body from which qi radiates). Practitioners tap these energy meridian treatment points while their patients focus on the symptoms or problems being targeted. The tapping action is believed to unblock or balance the flow of qi.

  • Roger Callahan asserts that his most advanced level of energy psychology, Voice Technology (VT), may be performed over the phone. The fee listed on Callahan's Web site for a practitioner to learn the secrets of this technology is $100,000. However, supportive evidence from properly-performed scientific studies of this method's effectiveness is lacking.


  • Energy psychology is based on applied kinesiology, which was developed in the early 1960s by George J. Goodheart, Jr. Applied kinesiology is a chiropractic diagnostic method that uses manual muscle-strength testing for medical diagnosis, in order to give feedback on the body's functional status.

  • The theory behind energy psychology is that emotional conflicts and trauma from early childhood remain in the unconscious mind throughout adulthood. These emotional issues may go back as far as intra-uterine and birth traumas; they may also include traumatic events that occurred during infancy, childhood, and adolescence. Emotional experiences are thought to cause imbalanced qi; imbalanced qi may lead to vasoconstriction, chronic biochemical and electromagnetic changes, alterations of the immune system, and illness.

  • Roger Callahan believes that thoughts or experiences associated with an emotional problem are contained within a "thought field." Proponents of energy psychology claim that these emotional problems may lead to physical illnesses if untreated. A thought field becomes activated whenever a person thinks about his or her problem. Associated negative emotions correspond to meridian points on the body (Callahan calls this an isomorphism). In order to eliminate the patient's emotional upset, a precise sequence of meridian points must be tapped. Callahan theorizes that the process of tapping unblocks or balances the flow of qi.

  • High heart rate variability may be used as an indicator of stress or illness. Callahan has published data from studies suggesting that energy psychology is able to lower heart rate variability. However, many scientists argue that Callahan did not properly perform his studies. The American Psychological Association (APA) has stated that energy psychology "lacks a scientific basis." In a survey published in an APA journal, psychologists generally consider energy psychology to be pseudoscience, indicating that it is based on false scientific claims.


  • Energy psychology therapy appears to be safe and may be used in combination with more traditional methods of therapy under the care of a qualified healthcare provider. Energy psychology has limited scientific evidence supporting it, however, and should not be used in place of more scientifically proven therapies.

Author Information

  • This information has been edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).


Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

  1. Callahan RJ. Raising and lowering of heart rate variability: some clinical findings of Thought Field Therapy. J Clin Psychol. 2001 Oct;57(10):1175-1186. View Abstract

  2. Callahan RJ. The impact of Thought Field Therapy on heart rate variability. J Clin Psychol. 2001 Oct;57(10):1153-1170. View Abstract

  3. Callahan RJ. Unprecedented improvements in short-term heart rate variability due to Thought Field Therapy: response to the Pignotti retraction. J Clin Psychol. 2005 Mar;61(3):367-372. View Abstract

  4. Cooper J. Thought field therapy. Interview by Denise Rankin-Box. Complement Ther Nurs Midwifery. 2001 Aug;7(3):162-5. View Abstract

  5. Folkes CE. Thought field therapy and trauma recovery. Int J Emerg Ment Health. 2002 Spring;4(2):99-103. View Abstract

  6. Herbert JD, Gaudiano, BA. The search for the holy grail: heart rate variability and thought field therapy. J Clin Psychol. 2001 Oct;57(10):1207-14. View Abstract

  7. Johnson C, Shala, M, Sejdijaj, X, et al. Thought Field Therapy-soothing the bad moments of Kosovo. J Clin Psychol. 2001 Oct;57(10):1237-40. View Abstract

  8. Kline, JP. Heart rate variability does not tap putative efficacy of Thought Field Therapy. J Clin Psychol. 2001 Oct;57(10):1187-92. View Abstract

  9. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. www.naturalstandard.com

  10. Pignotti, M. Callahan fails to meet the burden of proof for Thought Field Therapy claims. J Clin Psychol. 2005 Mar;61(3):251-5. View Abstract

  11. Pignotti, M. Regarding the October 2001 Journal of Clinical Psychology 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". J Clin Psychol. 2005 Mar;61(3):361-5. View Abstract

  12. Pignotti, M., Steinberg, M. Heart rate variability as an outcome measure for Thought Field Therapy in clinical practice. J Clin Psychol. 2001 Oct;57(10):1193-206. View Abstract

  13. Rosner, R. Between search and research: how to find your way around? Review of the article "Thought Field Therapy- soothing the bad moments of Kosovo". J Clin Psychol. 2001 Oct;57(10):1241-4. View Abstract

  14. Sakai C, Paperny D, Mathews M, et al. Thought Field Therapy clinical applications: utilization in an HMO in behavioral medicine and behavioral health services. J Clin Psychol. 2001 Oct;57(10):1215-27. View Abstract

Copyright © 2013 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)

The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.


March 22, 2017