Thought Field Therapy (TFT) is a relatively new therapy, of somewhat dubious value, invented and promoted by Dr. Roger J. Callahan, clinical psychologist and author of The Five Minute Phobia Cure and (with Richard Turbo) Tapping the Healer Within: Using Thought Field Therapy to Instantly Conquer Your Fears, Anxieties, and Emotional Distress. To see the source of the skepticism towards TFT within the psychological community, one need not look beyond the use of the words “ﬁve minute” and “instantly” in those book titles. Psychological disorders, especially such difﬁcult and intractable conditions as major depression and posttraumatic stress disorder, are difﬁcult to treat and often take a long time to improve; and cure rates in the 50 percent or lower range are not unusual, even for relatively effective treatments. The suggestion that a 97 percent cure rate for “almost all psychological and some physical problems” is possible, often in a single session (www.thoughtﬁeldtherapy.co.uk), seems a bit difﬁcult to take seriously.
More challenging still to the reader well-read in the psychotherapy literature is the claim that through Dr. Callahan’s Voice Technology, “all the required information for diagnosis is contained in the voice, [thus] it is possible for treatment to be completed in the course of a telephone call from anywhere in the world.”
These are truly remarkable claims, and TFT is a truly remarkable therapy. It is based loosely on the ideas underlying traditional Chinese acupuncture— that is, that good and bad energies ﬂow through a set of invisible meridians in the body, and health problems are due to insufﬁcient or blocked ﬂow of energy through these. In traditional acupuncture, these blockages and imbalances are corrected through the insertion of very thin needles into the body. In TFT, emotional and psychological disturbances are also seen as due to the impeded ﬂow of energy, and the therapy consists largely of sequences of ﬁnger tapping on acupuncture (acupressure) points, along with other activities such as repeating statements, counting, rolling the eyes, or humming a tune, all while thinking of the distressing situation.
Callahan’s promotional books and Web sites assert, among other oddities, that large quantities of extremely well documented and widely accepted neurological knowledge are simply wrong. The amygdala, a structure deep within the brain, for example, is not involved in production of emotional states after all (despite what every introductory psychology or neurology text teaches)— that job is carried out entirely by the human energy ﬁeld (see Therapeutic Touch). The ﬂow of energy around and through the body is a vital part of Callahan’s approach, and so evidence that such a ﬂow exists would seem an important component of any argument in favor of Callahan.
In contrast to the claims of TFT, however, no research has conﬁrmed the existence of human energy ﬁelds related either to illness or to response to treatment. To the contrary, recent reviews plainly show that there is insufﬁcient evidence to justify seeking treatments based on the existence of such energies (Basser, 1998; Richardson, 1986; Prance, 1988; Skrabanek, 1984). Furthermore, the lack of evidence for traditional acupuncture meridians renders it a bit difﬁcult to take seriously the suggestion that, contrary to modern scientiﬁc psychology research, they are the source of all psychological disorders.
- Basser, S. “Acupuncture: The Facts.” The Skeptic, 13(2) (1998): 27;
- Callahan, R. J., and Callahan, J. Thought Field Therapy (TFT) and Trauma: Treatment and Theory. Indian Wells, CA: The Callahan Techniques, 1996;
- Callahan, R. J., and Turbo, R. Tapping the Healer Within: Using Thought Field Therapy to Instantly Conquer Your Fears, Anxieties, and Emotional Distress. New York: McGraw-Hill/Contemporary Books, 2000;
- Prance, S. E. (1988). “Research on Traditional Acupuncture— Science or Myth? A Review.” Journal of The Royal Society of Medicine, 81(10) (1988): 588–590;
- Skrabanek, P. “Acupuncture and the Age of Unreason.” Lancet, 1(8387) (1984): 1169–1171.