I keep coming across this term Energy Psychology (EP) in my reading and I want to introduce it to you today. This is an emerging field that lies at the intersection of psychology and energy practices. The Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology describes EP as focusing “on the relationship between bioenergy systems, neuro and electro physiological processes, and mental functions involving thoughts, emotions, sensations, and behavior.” So essentially, it combines the traditional realm of psychology and its focus on thoughts, emotions, beliefs, and behavior with the newer realm of energy therapy and its focus on the body’s energy systems. Practitioners of EP therapies work to identify the past causes for current dysfunctions and then use energy practices along with traditional therapies to resolve the past and create healing in the present. EP practices are used by psychologists, psychotherapists, coaches, counselors, holistic practitioners, medical doctors, and more.
EP is based on the premise that I talk about quite a bit on this blog, that traumas, emotions, and experiences can be trapped in the human energy system and body causing the breakdown of normal functioning. In traditional talk therapy, a psychologist and a patient spend time talking about the patient’s past in the hopes of finding a recurring theme or pattern of trauma that will explain current symptoms. Once a pattern is located, the psychologist diagnoses the issue and starts a course of treatment that may consist of talk, exposure, or behavioral therapy. In EP, the therapist also works to identify past events causing the current condition. The difference, however, is that the therapy begins almost immediately since the EP techniques are used as both diagnostic and therapeutic tools. Since EP techniques are used both to identify and treat the past issues concurrently, the patient often sees faster results as they begin to resolve the past traumas almost immediately. Because EP techniques get at the root of the problem, the actual trapped energy, this also allows the patient to process the past events more easily. There are even times when the past trauma/event doesn’t even have to be fully recognized or understood in order to resolve it.
So in the marriage of Psychology and Energy Therapy, you get this work in which professionals who are trained to look to the past to find the root causes of current dysfunction (physical, mental, and emotional) also have safe and effective therapies to resolve that dysfunction at the energetic level. Various energy therapies are at different stages of being approved as “evidence based practice” through rigorous trials. The therapies that haven’t been fully tested yet in trials or published in peer-reviewed journals still have thousands of case studies proving their effectiveness in clinical practice. There is a lot of work being done to get all these therapies to the point where they are fully tested and reviewed, but it is a long process that requires a lot of money. If you look up Energy Psychology online, you’ll find a few detractors hemming and hawing about how “we don’t know exactly how it works” or it “hasn’t been fully proven.” You can see what they have to say and decide for yourself what to do with their criticisms
The energy therapies used in EP draw from a wide variety of Eastern and Western medical knowledge and integrate what we know of physical and energetic systems. EP practitioners often know just as much about the meridian system (from Ancient Chinese Medicine) as they do about the electromagnetic activity of the body (something modern science is still learning about). Just to give you an idea of the types of therapies used by EP practitioners, here is a short list:
Thought Field Therapy (TFT): one of the earlier forms of “tapping techniques” that was developed by Dr. Roger Callahan. The patient recalls a painful memory and taps on a prescribed set of points on the body (determined by the therapist) to release the energy associated with the trauma.
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT): One of my favorite techniques since it is so easy to use and so versatile. It was developed by Gary Craig as a spinoff of TFT. Instead of the therapist prescribing certain points, EFT uses standard tapping points for all issues. It can be used to clear old emotions, experiences, beliefs, and more.
Tapas Acupressure Technique (TAT): An acupuncturist named Tapas Fleming developed this to help people release negative associations with whatever issue they are working on and install positive thoughts and emotions. Clients touch various spots on the head and face while working through their past issues.
PSYCH-K: A mix of ancient techniques and modern neuroscience focused on changing limiting beliefs. By changing the beliefs of your unconscious mind, you can change old habits and release old ways of being.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): This one is very popular these days and is being used to treat severe cases of PTSD and other conditions. The therapist starts with a known past memory and then, through a series of eye movements, allows the mind to bring up its own associations that need to be cleared. This is one therapy in which the eye movements appear to release the energy while also allowing new aspects of the energy blocks to arise. This therapy does not require as much vocalization of the past traumas, which many find attractive.
WHEE (The Wholistic Hybrid of EMDR and EFT): This one is exactly as it sounds. Put EMDR and EFT in a room together and out pops WHEE! It basically allows the practitioner to jump between the two techniques to find the fastest possible route to heal the past trauma.
So there is a list of some of the most popular and best-researched EP techniques out there. They all have strengths and weaknesses. Some can only be provided by a licensed therapist while others can be learned and practiced with certification courses. Overall, it is a fascinating field that is growing in leaps and bounds all the time. As mentioned before, these therapies are being used by a wide variety of coaches, therapists, and medical professionals. They are highly effective and appear to be a perfect union of traditional psychology and energy work (both modern and ancient). Although he never actually uses the term Energy Psychology, Bessel van der Kolk, M.D. talks about his journey toward finding more effective treatment options for his patients and how that led to the use of energy practices. You can find his story in the long but thorough book The Body Keeps the Score.
The general trend in psychology and trauma research is pointing toward the understanding that the “mind” is not separate from the rest of the body. Trauma is held in the limbic system and other areas of the brain, but it is also held in the body and its energy systems. By treating all three together the patients can find complete healing and relief. This isn’t magic. There is still a process and there is work involved to heal the emotional, physical, mental, and energetic selves. But for people with severe symptoms, the hope for healing is real.
I want to inject a side note here to say that there are all different ways to define “trauma.” I really like Amy B. Sher’s definition that trauma is any past experience or emotion that was not fully processed. So whether you experienced a major Trauma such as abuse or war, or a smaller trauma such as embarrassment or bullying, the energy that gets stuck in your body and its resulting dysfunction really isn’t that different. Many people don’t go get help from therapists or coaches because “their lives aren’t really that bad.” I completely understand the intention behind this, but a lifetime of tiny traumas can still add up to some significant physical and emotional dysfunction. So don’t discount your own need for healing just because you think your problems are “small.” One of the great things about EP is that it is just as effective for Traumas such as PTSD or abuse as it is for traumas such as fear of public speaking or inability to lose weight.
If you are someone who has big Trauma in your life, I would highly recommend finding a professional who has worked with your type of trauma and who also knows some of the above techniques. EMDR is particularly easy to find these days among professional psychologists and psychotherapists. You want to be able to work through your Trauma in a safe and effective way with someone highly experienced. You also want to know that all your work will pay off. Although they may not call themselves an energy psychologist, many professionals are using energy techniques because they know they work for their clients.
If you are someone dealing with small trauma, or just symptoms that you can’t get to the root of, finding a coach, counselor, energy worker, therapist, or psychologist who works with these types of therapies will be a huge help to you as well. Some of these techniques can eliminate months (or years) of talk therapy intent on finding “the problem.” For many of us walking around with the normal trauma of everyday life in our bodies, there are likely a number of small things that add up to dysfunction in the physical, emotional, and mental bodies. No trauma is too small when it comes to the energy body. A tiny trauma stuck in just the wrong place can create a cascade of negative problems on every level. Practices such as those described above can clear those tiny traumas, even if you can’t identify every single one.
I have been excited to learn that professionals are using energy practices along with traditional psychology because the two fields complement each other so well. I use EFT in my work because of how easy and effective it is for processing past emotions and experiences as well as changing limiting beliefs. I also use some other techniques that would be considered EP. Most of the rest of my work deals with pure energy. Using Reiki and IET® addresses the energy body directly and releases blocks that come from past experiences, inherited from family, or taken in from other people. I believe that anyone working through illness, trauma, or other dysfunction would benefit from energy work along with traditional practices. In the field of EP, professionals are bridging the two fields themselves, essentially offering their clients the best of both worlds within their practice.
If you thought energy work was all wacky and weird, know that some of it is being embraced by the scientific community as highly effective ways to support people in their healing! You don’t have to listen to chanting or get doused in incense to experience the benefits of energy work. Start asking around and I bet you’ll find people who have experienced some of the techniques listed above. Start calling around to coaches, therapists, and medical professionals and you may just find energy workers out there hiding in plain sight.