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Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT)

Emotional Freedom Techniques is the creation ofGary Craig Gary Craig, an energy healer who would fit well in any New Age borough. Gary is always smiling and happy because he has found the cause and cure for almost everything, and he really wants to help you. He loves you and cares for you. How do I know? He says so on his website:

I hope this doesn't sound too grandiose but you just walked into the most successful health innovation in the last 100 years. Based on impressive new discoveries regarding the body's subtle energies, Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) has been astonishingly successful in thousands of clinical cases. It applies to just about every emotional and physical issue you can name and often works where nothing else will.

Subtle energies is the scientific term for chi (prana, ki, orgone), those mysterious energies that are in constant need of balancing, harmonizing, unblocking, channeling, funneling, and transferring in order to maintain perfect health. If you doubt Gary's word, you can read the testimonials from dozens of people who have been cured of everything under the sun by this fabulous therapy.

You'll feel welcome at Gary's site. He's loving and caring, as are all his staff. And you matter. He treats the person, not the disease. Let's cut to the chase. Basically, Gary's discovered what traditional healers have known for millennia: if you can relax people, they become suggestible and you can relieve their stress, ease their minds, and allow their bodies to heal themselves. Gary's discovery came when he found out he could cure people by using acupuncture without the needles. He stimulates so-called energy meridian points on the body by tapping them with his fingertips. This kind of therapy is attractive to many people because it uses no drugs. Therefore, it is unlikely that there will be any side effects. It apparently did not occur to Gary that maybe he had tapped into the placebo effect or the power of suggestion. He may even be using cold reading techniques without being aware of it. Why accept simple psychological explanations when a complex mystical one is available?

Of course, the gimmick wouldn't be complete if Gary didn't remind us that he knows about ancient wisdom (he is following a  time-honored Eastern tradition that has been around for over 5,000 years, he says, though acupuncture has not been around nearly that long. It has a recorded history of about 2,000 years.*). Plus, Gary knows about modern science. He says Albert Einstein "told us back in the 1920's that everything (including our bodies) is composed of energy." (This is the golden rule for New Age quacks: when in doubt, quote Einstein and mention quantum physics.) Thirdly, Gary tells us that "these ideas have been largely ignored by Western Healing Practices." (He should have added "with good reason.") What Gary forgets to tell us is that the so-called subtle energy of acupuncture has nothing in common with the energy in E=mc2. When you unblock that kind of energy you get nuclear weapons or power, not miraculous health cures. The reason these ideas have been largely ignored by conventional Western doctors is that they are nonsensical. Both the meridians and the subtle energy that supposedly flows along them are mythical entities. If Gary's methods are helping anyone, it is because he is touching them, relaxing them, reducing their stress.

Bob Park explains very simply and clearly how the placebo effect works in contexts like EFT:

Once we are convinced of the healing power of a doctor or a treatment, something very remarkable happens: a sham treatment induces real biological improvement. This is the placebo effect. Healers have relied on the placebo effect for thousands of years, but until recently, it was usually referred to as the "mysterious" placebo effect. Scientists, however, are beginning to understand the complex interaction of the brain and the endocrine system that gives rise to the placebo effect.

People seek out a doctor when they experience discomfort or when they believe that something about their body is not right. That is, they suffer pain and fear. The response of the brain to pain and fear, however, is not to mobilize the body's healing mechanisms but to prepare it to meet some external threat. It's an evolutionary adaptation that assigns the highest priority to preventing additional injury. Stress hormones released into the bloodstream increase respiration, blood pressure, and heart rate. These changes may actually impede recovery. The brain is preparing the body for action; recovery must wait.

The first objective of a good physician, therefore, is to relieve stress. That usually involves assuring patients that there is an effective treatment for their condition and that the prospects for recovery are excellent—if they will just follow the doctor's instructions. Since we recover from most of the things that afflict us, the brain learns to associate recovery with visits to the doctor. Most of us start to feel better before we even leave the doctor's office. (Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud. Oxford University Press, 2001, pp. 50-51.)

So, the metaphysical mumbo jumbo that accompanies Gary Craig's tapping with his fingers is unnecessary baggage. He could tell you to take two of these little blue pills twice a day for two weeks and probably have just as many satisfied customers as the EFT folks. One difference, however, is that we have a way to test whether those little blue pills are a placebo or not. But we cannot do a randomized, double-blind controlled experiment on subtle energy being unblocked along meridians by either the insertion of needles or the tapping of fingers. This is good because nobody can do a scientific test to prove that EFT is bunk.

In case you're wondering whether Gary Craig is another medical doctor gone astray, the answer is no. He tells us on his website that he is "a Stanford engineering graduate and an ordained minister and, although we don't pound the table for [Abraham's god] here, I do come at this procedure from a decidedly spiritual perspective."  I feel safer already. His mentor was Dr. Roger Callahan, the inventor of Thought Field Therapy (TFT). The idea behind TFT is that negative emotions cause energy blockage and if the energy is unblocked then the fears will disappear. Tapping acupressure points is thought to be the means of unblocking the energy. Allegedly, it takes only five to six minutes to elicit a cure. Dr. Callahan claims an 85% success rate. He even does cures over the phone using "Voice Technology" on infants and animals. He claims that by analyzing the voice he can determine what points on the body the patient should tap for treatment. You can take Callahan's course in Voice Technology for a mere $100,000.

As you have no doubt surmised by now, Mr. Craig is a great judge of character. Craig admits that he spent the $100,000 for the course and was Callahan's first student. Craig says he found the course "useful," but he's abandoned it. He'll sell you his own course on DVD for a mere $150. One of the bonuses you'll get from Craig is nearly two hours of Stanford scientist, Dr. William A. Tiller, describing numerous experiments regarding intention, including "actual photographs taken with the lens cap still on the camera." (This is an old trick, made popular by Chicago bellhop Ted Serios in the 1960s, though he didn't use a camera with the lens cap on as Uri Geller did.) Says Craig of Tiller's cap-on photos: "No fooling. This can only be done, of course, if something is at work besides normal physics. Our intention is far more pervasive and powerful than we think. It just needs to be cultivated."*

There's one born every minute and two standing in line to take their money.

See also EMDR and Rorschach inkblot test.

reader comments

further reading

books and articles

Dawes, Robyn M. House of Cards - Psychology and Psychotherapy Built on Myth, (New York: The Free Press, 1994).

Park, Robert L. (2000). Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud. Oxford U. Press.

Wood, James M., Teresa Nezworski, Scott O. Lilienfeld, Howard N. Garb. (2003). What's Wrong With the Rorschach?: Science Confronts the Controversial Inkblot Test. John Wiley.


Mental Help: Procedures to Avoid by Stephen Barrett, M.D.

The Rorschach Inkblot Test, Fortune Tellers, and Cold Reading by James M. Wood, M. Teresa Nezworski, Scott O. Lilienfeld, and Howard N. Garb. (Famous clinical psychologists used the Rorschach Inkblot Test to arrive at incredible insights. But were the astounding performances of these Rorschach Wizards merely a variation on astrology and palm reading?)

Last updated 03-Nov-2015

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