Dr. Fred Gallo (1999), one of the leading figures in Energy Psychology (EP), defines the term:
" .... as the branch of psychology that studies the effects of energy systems on emotions and behavior. These systems include, but are not limited to, the acupuncture meridians and morphic resonance (Morphic resonance' is a phenomenon postulated by Rupert Sheldrake (1981) and relates to a property of 'morphogenetic fields' ~ invisible energy forces that act as guiding frameworks for the physical form, the instinctual behaviours and the psychological or mental states of organisms.). Energy Psychotherapy consists of approaches to psychotherapy that specifically address bioenergy systems ( relates to the notion that all living organisms possess a vital energy force that contributes to the regulation of the physical form. The Chinese refer to this force as Qi (ch'i) ~ 'material force' or 'matter –energy), in the diagnosis and treatment of psychological problems." (Preface, p.xi)
The discipline is attempting to take psychology into broader areas of consideration; areas that overlap, interlink and encompass ideas and concepts from other scientific disciplines that will hopefully produce a more definitive paradigm for psychology itself. It incorporates understandings on human functioning contributed by several mainstream psychological research paths. Particular consideration is given to the cognitive perspective ~ which examines the interrelationship of emotions and language and the assimilation and processing of sensory information in our thinking and reasoning; as well as physiological psychology, especially neurology ~ which investigates the structures and functions of the nervous system; and biochemistry ~ which looks, for example, to the influences of neurotransmitters (vehicles of communication between cells in the nervous system), hormones and neuropeptides ~ described as the "molecules of emotion" by Pert (1997).
EP looks to introduce the significance of energy fields and forces to the overall construct of a human being's functioning. It recognises and utilises the information on bioenergy systems that has been accumulated over many centuries in Eastern medicinal practices. Its basic premise is that illness, whether defined as physical, mental or emotional in origin, is caused by "energy blocks" or a "disruption in the body's energy system."
Pursuant with this fundamental premise in EP, efforts are made to balance any disruptions and release the 'blocks' impeding the flow of energy through the body when treating illnesses. There is an assumption made that held energy within the bioenergy system of the self is composed of one or more 'negative' emotions that are associated to one or more 'traumatic' experiences. Treatment of the bioenergy system is regarded as sufficient in many cases to alleviate the symptoms of illness. Whereas conventional medicine attributes the cause of illness to disruption of the physiological and biochemical structure (the physical 'layer' of the Self), and psychiatric medicine attributes cause to the mental (psyche 'layer') and biochemical imbalance, EP assigns cause to the disruption of the bioenergy system (the electromagnetic energy field 'layer' of the Self.)
In its approach to illness, EP moves the cause away from the baseline of atomic and molecular interaction, to the more subtle fields of energy interaction and transaction ~ away from the strictly physical realm to the more subtle forces at the interface between physical and non-physical. Importantly, recognition is given to the thoughts and beliefs from the psychological realm that may contribute to the 'blocking/disruption' of energy and the necessity to address cognitive behaviour in order to achieve sustained relief, but the emphasis of treatment is on the electromagnetic energy fields of the body.
There are a number of treatment methods that fall under the umbrella term of Energy Psychology. These include the pioneering approaches of the Callahan TechniquesTM such as TFT (Though Field Therapy); TAT (Tapas Acupressure TechniqueTM); BSFF (Be Set Free Fast); Seemorg Matrix WorkTM; and EFT (Emotional Freedom TechniquesTM). Most EP methods primarily utilise meridian-based techniques from Energy Medicine when assisting in the treatment of mental, emotional or physiological challenges. These techniques essentially stimulate or invigorate the meridians and important points on the skin surface associated with them.
Whereas acupuncture resorts to the use of needles for invigoration, EP methods are non-invasive and generally rely upon the tapping of key meridian points, usually with the fingers, and/or the movement of energy flows through utilising the therapist's own energy fields emitting from the hands and fingers. This fundamental aspect to the various EP approaches was developed from initial successes with people in fairly obvious emotional distress ~ fear through phobias, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anticipatory anxiety, and suchlike conditions. Eventually, the maxim "try it on anything", from EFT instruction, took hold and the list of ailments that have been favourably affected by EP methods such as EFT now incorporates many physical, emotional and mental forms of distress.
Energy Psychology then, sees the restoration of energy flow as a prerequisite for the relief of emotional distress and the use of suggestion through affirmations as the optimum method of thought or belief modification. This double-pointed attack on the distressed individual invariably leads to the alleviation of certain physical symptoms being experienced. The approach is a genuine attempt to regard the nature of our being in a more holistic fashion. It regards itself as 'complementary' rather than 'alternative' as it recognises the contribution of biochemical balancing through drug intervention. It is though a practice that harbours concern for the blinkered approach of drug treatment for all forms of illness and champions the possibility that its methods may well negate, or at least reduce, the use of drugs for a wide variety of common ailments. EP, like the alternative treatments of say acupuncture or Reiki, addresses the bioenergy system of the distressed Self but it also attempts to address any errant belief systems at the crux of the matter ~ the 'psychological reversals', as EP theory refers to them.
References: Gallo, F.P. (1999) Energy Psychology: Explorations at the Interface of Energy, Cognition, Behavior and Health. Boca Raton, FL.: CRC Press LLC.
Pert, C. (1997) Molecules of Emotion: Why you feel the way you feel. New York: Scribner.
Sheldrake, R. (1981) A New Science of Life. Los Angeles: J.B. Tarcher.
Resources: Energy Psychology in Psychotherapy: A Comprehensive Source Book. F.P. Gallo (Ed.) (2002) New York, W.W. Norton and Co., Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology, Callahan TechniquesTM, Emotional Freedom TechniquesTM, Tapas Acupressure TechniqueTM, International Society for the Study of Subtle Energy and Energy Medicine.