By Peta Stapleton, Phd – May 31, 2022
The full article and links can be found on the ACEP blog.
As of January 2022, over 307 research studies have been published on energy psychology (EP) methods in peer-reviewed journals. This includes 70 randomized controlled trials and 55 clinical outcome studies. All except one of these 125 studies document EP’s effectiveness.
Why is this important if you are a clinician in the field and how can it enhance your own practice?
The importance of research
Evidence-based practice is based on critically appraised research results combined with clinical expertise and the client’s lived experience. Research generally is of high value to society and typically provides important information about disease trends and risk factors, outcomes of health interventions, health costs and use.
Clinical trials can provide important information about the efficacy and adverse effects of interventions by controlling the variables that could impact the results of the study. This can then lead to the development of guidelines for best practice (e.g., Clinical Guidelines for EFT for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder exist due to the research in this area).
Research can also lead to the development of new therapies! An example is how Francine Shapiro developed eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) by walking in the park and moving her eyes, which appeared to decrease her own distress (read more about her story here.)
Integrating research in clinical practice
Research tells us what works, but that does not always translate into clinical practice. Typically, two problems exist:
- New treatments take a long time to make their way into clinical practice.
- Practitioners are resistant to withdrawing established treatments from practice – even after research disproves their utility – and use the new ones.
There is also the translational gap. It can take a long time before any new therapies become standard care. The American Institute of Medicine says this takes about 17 years. Furthermore, only 20% of new therapies ever make it into mainstream practice.
This is the first reason I encourage clinicians to stay connected with the research – to learn what is no longer recommended and what is! An example from the cognitive field is that clinicians used to recommend that clients wear rubber bands on their wrist and snap it against the skin to stop a negative thought. For many decades this was standard practice. However, research and client feedback has indicated this can become a self-harm behavior. It is no longer recommended AT ALL.
Unfortunately, many clinicians still use the approach. Why? They either have not read the research, have not attended new trainings with updated information, or they simply have not updated their own clinical training skills. When this occurs, the client is the one who is disadvantaged.
Trauma research: A case in point
Research into trauma-informed approaches has also changed in recent decades. Standard cognitive talk therapies used to be the standard of care for PTSD. However, trauma-focused psychological interventions are the gold standard today. The World Health Organization and other bodies recommend these approaches, like trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) and EMDR. They also suggest not using medication as a routine first-line treatment. Instead, they recommend trauma-focused psychological therapy.
Yet you will find therapists using standard cognitive therapies or even other exposure processes for PTSD as routine intervention.
I cannot stress enough the importance of staying up to date with clinical training through conference or workshop attendance. This is usually the easiest way to hear the latest and cutting-edge research being done (and better than reading a journal article!).
This then brings us to the question of how can we disseminate the research in the field?
Getting the research out
Academics such as I usually publish in peer-reviewed journals. However, there is a vast number of journals and a relatively small number of clinically important energy psychology studies. Therefore, just finding the relevant studies can be overwhelming. Moreover, the studies you want may be hiding behind a paywall. Because of this, we have been targeting open access journals (where the academic has to pay to publish) so that clinicians in the field can read the articles free of charge.
Here are some ways you can find the research more easily, and therefore share among your own networks. The most important part is to share it. You may want to share with clients, colleagues, or a wider social network (e.g., I showcase outcomes of EFT research trials on my Instagram account, and then others share them far and wide).
Finding the research
The Cochrane Collaboration has pledged to summarise all randomised controlled trials of healthcare interventions, and is available, updated quarterly. If you search studies on EFT, you will find them. Cochrane is a British international charitable organisation. It organises medical research findings to facilitate evidence-based choices about health interventions involving health professionals, patients and policy makers. It is trusted evidence, so sharing energy psychology research from there will be associated with a rigorous approach.
Many of the EP organisations maintain research pages and these can be the easiest way to read about a study (often with a lay summary included) and share through your own communities too. A list is included below – join their mailing lists or follow them on social media.
- ACEP has a robust research section on this web site that lists energy psychology studies, including TFT and EFT. It is updated once a year. You can access it here.
- Research on EFT
- EFT research with lay summaries
It probably goes without saying, but also be diligent in what you read and where. Many websites are not reputable (e.g., skeptics regularly change Wikipedia’s page on EFT so it does not reflect the actual published research). I recommend that you encourage your skeptical colleagues to cast their search net wider than Wikipedia!
Lastly – Can you do your own research?
Research does not need to be relegated to academics alone, as integrating clinical research within private practice can be intellectually stimulating and rewarding on many levels.
As research funding and grants become increasingly scarce, there may be an increasing need for private practitioners to participate in clinical research, both in cohort studies and in the further testing and development of new therapies.
The patient pool available to clinicians is different (e.g., you may see someone at an earlier stage of illness; or with a subclinical diagnosis). Including these patients in research will add valuable information that may ultimately improve delivery of care to patients. Critics often claim that academic research does not reflect the common issues that ordinary clinicians face. They also charge that academic studies have overly strict inclusion/exclusion criteria.
Participating in / conducting clinical trials can build up your practice in two ways:
- It may bring new patients to your practice because of research you advertise, and increase community awareness of your practice.
- The clinical research conducted in the private setting can potentially strengthen the clinical skills of any clinician.
Data from private practices could help us argue for increased funding from medical insurance companies as well, ultimately leading to better patient care. You can approach academics at universities to auspice research through their ethics processes, or you can just design informed consent processes yourself and collect data anyway. There are a range of outcome measures available free of charge you can use (like the ones here ). Remember to publish it too! This could be as simply as in your blog, or a specific journal. You do not need to be an academic to publish in a journal and many exists for patient care (e.g., The Journal of Patient Experience).
A last note, there are documents available to guide practitioners in the field to conduct research –like this one. If you want to learn more about practitioner research, check out Practice-oriented research: What it takes to do collaborative research in private practice
Join in energy psychology research!
Currently ACEP has partnered with Bond University and is conducting field research into many energy psychology modalities. This could be a way to engage and see what research is like. Both practitioner and their clients are included in this research – you can read more here.
In sum, there are three important points to take away:
- It is important to stay up to date with research outcomes as they are designed to impact clinical practice. If you need to update or change your practice approach, schedule that new training!
- When you read or hear of new research outcomes (especially in EP), share this news with people outside your EP circles. Translational gaps will close this way. And everyone will win.
- Finally, join the research movement and contribute to the published outcomes! Stay open and curious in your journey and I hope to see you at a conference soon.
Dr. Peta Stapleton is a registered clinical and health psychologist and associate at Bond University (Queensland, Australia). She embraces evidence-based practice and is passionate about new and innovative techniques to support behavior change. Peta is a world leading researcher in Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT or Tapping. She has won many awards, including 2019 ’s Psychologist of the Year by the Australian Allied Health Awards. She has authored the award winning The Science Behind Tapping: A Proven Stress Management Technique for the Mind and Body (Hay House).