Did I want to try “Thought Field Therapy” for my fear of driving on highways, one of my therapists recently asked. I had read not long ago that a somewhat related therapy, one I’d years ago rejected out of hand as unscientific and not worth trying, has since gained acceptance in the clinical psychological community.
In fact the research support for EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) or sometimes called tapping, the therapy I’d poo-pooed years ago, has already gone mainstream, as indicated by an article in Scientific American. While the mechanism for the success of this therapy is not well understood, enough studies back it up that the article states, “the Department of Defense and of Veterans Affairs have deemed it an effective therapy to treat PTSD.”
Had I not remembered how quick I was to dismiss what turned out to be a related legitimate therapy, I might have also refused to try Thought Field Therapy (TFT). Thought field? Was she going to swing a crystal like a pendulum over my head, as one “energy practitioner” had done years ago with no appreciable result? Not at all, as it turns out.
Thought Field Therapy requires tapping specific points along energy meridians while re-living the anxious situation in the mind. Energy meridians in clinical psychology? Yes. And these are the same meridians that guide acupuncture, another “alternative therapy” that has gone sort of mainstream as more and more scientific evidence has supported its efficacy. These pressure points in TFT relieve anxiety while imagining the traumatic situation. I can feel my nervous system go into a lower and lower state of arousal, although at this stage in my therapy, I still feel highly anxious when I imagine myself driving onto the highway. The idea is to teach my body and mind calm down in the anxiety provoking situation (highway driving) and not to continue to overreact to the situation—so that I can confidently get back on the highway.
A case study in the Journal Traumatology provides quantitatively measurable support for the therapy. The researchers recorded one subject’s brainwaves in reaction to a traumatic thought using a specialized, quantitative EEG, the QEEG, before and after Thought Field Therapy. Before the therapy, her QEEG showed abnormal brainwaves in response to a traumatic thought, indicating deeply troubling emotions. While the rest of the brain activity was not significantly changed after TFT, the patterns of brainwaves while thinking of the traumatic stimulus were significantly different; the new patterns showed a normal reaction to the stressor—as if it were neutral. Further, both the brainwave results and the patient’s report of lack of distress continued at an 18 month follow up. That is, she not only felt cured, but her brainwave activity showed she had recovered a normal response to the thoughts.
I have been afraid to drive on highways for so long, I find it hard to imagine getting onto the entrance ramp and not experiencing my heart racing, a sense of unreality, and a terrifying feeling that I’m about to pass out at the wheel…and get into a fatal accident. But I am practicing the technique of bringing to mind the terrifying image of me on the highway and at the same time, tapping on specific areas, beginning underneath my eyes and moving through a prescribed sequence. I always feel calmer afterward. I don’t feel ready to get into my car and drive to the next town on the highway. But after years of medicines and therapy, I have hope. And homework.
If you are interested in more information about Thought Field Therapy from the mouth of its inventor, Roger Callahan, visit the website. (It provides both free information and advertisements for the books and related materials for purchase.)
Diepold, J. J., & Goldstein, D. M. (2009). Thought field therapy and QEEG changes in the treatment of trauma: A case study. Traumatology, 15(1), 85-93.
Rodriguez, Tori. (Jan 1, 2013) Can eye movements treat trauma? Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-eye-movements-treat-trauma/