By Steve Wells
Breaking News: There is an update to this situation. Scroll to the end to see the current status.
Since learning tapping I’ve had to deal constantly with those who call it pseudoscience. In the early days that was understandable because the evidence base wasn’t there. However, now that the field has gathered quite a cohort of research I find it a lot harder to tolerate those who won’t look at the actual evidence and who continue to put forward to the public what is essentially Fake News.
Here’s one way I’m taking a stand, and you can too.
I was recently alerted to an article purporting to summarise the “research evidence on EFT”.
However, instead of a balanced article on the research I found a biased piece filled with the author’s rantings and unsupported assumptions, unprofessionally attacking and denigrating EFT, Gary Craig, and the hundreds of professional researchers who have studied EFT and who are trying to bring its benefits to the mainstream.
After letting a lot of these things go in the past I was moved yesterday to write a rebuttal response.
You can read the article and my response below, however first here’s why I think it’s time for us all to take a stand against fake news like this:
Many times over the years I have been blocked from doing presentations to groups of counsellors and therapists because someone read and believed Wikipedia or an article like this one and were therefore not open to looking at the actual research evidence.
Countless people who could have been helped have not been able to be due to the outright lying and manipulation of those who are not presenting the truth.
The offending article is on the page below and below it is the response I submitted.
Note that the above is not a live link as I have no wish to boost the page rankings of such a biased page and site!
I submitted my response via the comments section of the article.
As of this writing it has not yet been published. I’m yet to discover whether the authors are willing to consider submissions which are contrary to their beliefs, or to look at the truth.
I’ll keep you posted if they respond and will update this blog post.
Here is the response I submitted, and below that my subsequent attempts to make contact:
“The author starts out by criticising EFT creator Gary Craig as “having no formal training in any medical field” yet considers his own training as a physical therapist sufficient to qualify him to cast judgement on EFT as “an approach to counselling”. Is this author really qualified to review this research and make the kinds of assertions he is making by virtue of his own training???
The author then purports to present a “review of research” on EFT, yet cites just 19 references and 16 research studies in all from the over 100 research studies that have been conducted on EFT and published in peer review journals (Source: ACEP www.energypsych.org).
Message from Steve:
A “peer review journal” is one where the author must submit their study or article for scrutiny by others who are experts in the field before it can be published. Only those who meet the requirements for quality of research and editorial standards are published.
At the very least this should be called a “selective review” because this is what it is: A selective review designed to reinforce the author’s own demonstrably skewed views of the approach based on an extremely cursory and skewed glance of the evidence available.
He uses the word “bias” extensively throughout, and very unprofessionally accuses study authors of being biased. I would like to see the author defend these accusations of bias to a professional forum or a professional body where I suspect he would be found guilty of an ethical code violation.
His extensive use of the term bias ultimately reflects negatively not just on those study authors whose research he cites, but also on the large number of professional people who have researched these techniques and published their research in peer review journals worldwide (over 200 investigators in 12 countries – source ACEP www.energypsych.org).
Yet the author himself appears to show a selection bias in, for example, citing very few references in areas where there is extensive research available, and where he appears to “cherry pick” from the available research to prove his own assertions.
For example, he selectively cites mainly research published in “alternative journals” to support his thesis that researchers have simply chosen those journals to publish who are sympathetic to alternative treatments, and yet he manages to omit the many studies and reviews of EFT that have been published in prestigious peer review journals.
For example, he somehow managed to miss the following meta-analysis that has been conducted on EFT:
Gilomen, S. A. & Lee, C. W. (2015). The efficacy of acupoint stimulation in the treatment of psychological distress: A meta-analysis. Journal Behavior Therapy & Experimental Psychiatry, 48 (2015) 140 – 148.
Note from Steve:
A meta-analysis is a statistical procedure for combining the data from multiple studies. It measures whether the treatment has an effect and the size of that effect across studies.
Had he read this study he would have found that the authors applied extremely stringent criteria and concluded that “EFT, even after removing outliers … appears to produce an effect.”
He incorrectly reports on the research he did review in almost every case:
For example, the author says regarding the 3 meta-analyses he does report on “the researchers found any study that had positive results (regardless of quality or design)” and “the parameters for what studies to include were extremely loose”. This is demonstrably false in reference to Clond 2016 and Sebastian and Nelms (2016) where the studies included were assessed for quality using the criteria developed by the American Psychological Association’s Division 12 Task Force on Empirically Validated Treatments. (Clond 2016, Sebastian and Nelms, 2016).
He also states: “they did not compare EFT to treatments that already exist or placebo controls,” which is also false. Each study reports comparative study results, For example, Sebastian and Nelms (2016): “No treatment effect difference was found in studies comparing EFT to other evidence-based therapies such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR; 1 study) and cognitive behavior therapy (CBT; 1 study).” The fact this information can be found in the abstract of each study suggests the author didn’t even fully read those!
The author cites Feinstein (2012) but appears not to have even read this review, which was published in an APA journal.
Throughout, the author makes numerous conclusions based on extremely limited evidence:
For example he cites just 4 studies covering the area of “stress, anxiety and depression” despite acknowledging that the vast majority of studies in EFT have been done on these conditions. There are at least 28 studies on EFT reporting results on anxiety yet the author cites just 2 studies. 2 studies! Representative? Hardly. How could this possibly qualify as a “review of the research”?
The author cites just one pilot study on EFT treatment of depression. Just one study out of 15 that report on EFT results with depression. With just 1 of 15 studies reported on, and a pilot study at that, how can his “review” be taken seriously?
Numerous studies report results with using EFT for pain relief and a range of physical conditions yet the author completely ignores this entire body of research and refers only to a single study on headaches. One study! Again, how can this author make conclusions and consider this a “review” of “what the research says”.
He says “Almost all of the studies that we looked at reported positive results in favor of EFT.” This statement is false. In fact, ALL the studies referred to by the author found positive results in favor of EFT. Had the author looked further he would have found that this trend also extends to over 100 studies worldwide that have found positive results for EFT with but one solitary exception.
Many of the conclusions the author makes throughout his article cannot be supported, which makes him guilty of the same charge he levels at many EFT researchers. For example, he claims “The benefits patients report after undergoing EFT treatments can be explained by other factors instead of the effectiveness of tapping on acupuncture points, like going through a therapeutic ritual, practitioner and patient beliefs, and contextual factors.” Had the author looked at research that has been conducted he would see that many of these factors have been excluded as causal by a number of researchers. In any case the author should state his assertions as hypotheses rather than facts. Otherwise, he should provide evidence to back up his assertions.
The author’s statements regarding EFT creator Gary Craig appear to be designed to make it look like EFT is a cult. However, fad therapies typically do not out-live their creators, and if the author had taken the time to look, he would see that EFT and the field of Energy psychology within which it sits have grown and expanded to include several serious accrediting bodies, with many thousands of masters and PhD level practitioners. This includes the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology, which in 2012 became the first sponsor approved by the American Psychological Association to offer continuing education for psychologists studying energy psychology and EFT.
Also, had the author actually read some of the many excellent published peer-reviewed papers available he would also see that new research has provided evidence for mechanisms of action beyond his own wild speculations and even the original assumptions of EFT’s creator.
The author states early in this article: “What does the research actually say?” He states early on that EFT Universe lists 100 peer reviewed articles. If he knows this, why does he not manage to cite the vast majority of these studies including some very significant ones like the Gilomen and Lee meta analysis? This is because his article is clearly not about what the research actually says, it is about what the author says based on his ignorance or omission of the vast majority of research that has in fact been conducted.”
What has happened since?
As I mentioned my response has still not been published as of the time of writing. If it does get published I will update this.
I wrote this to the site administrators via their contact form:
“I realise that sometimes “moderation” can take some time and I hope the reason it has not appeared is simply that you are not able to get to all items in a timely manner, not that you are unwilling to consider alternative views or to consider the actual evidence, which was largely excluded from this demonstrably biased article. According to your site description “Healthy But Smart is a social enterprise dedicated to helping humans make evidence based decisions when it comes to their health.” If this is so I hope you will allow people to see the actual evidence without providing them with yet more fake news. I look forward to hopefully receiving a response from this contact submission.”
A few days later after receiving no response I checked the article again. Nothing there. However, there was a statement that if you are an academic with experience we will publish your submission. So I made the following submission:
“I made two prior submissions regarding your page on Emotional Freedom Techniques. I notice now that your site says “Are you an academic with experience in this topic? Contact us here and we’ll publish your contribution.” I am an Australian psychologist with a masters degree in counselling psychology and I have extensive experience in this topic including having published a randomised control trial of EFT that was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology. However, I can do better as I have regular contact with professionals who run the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology (ACEP), the group who have been granted Continuing Education Credits to teach Energy Psychology methods such as EFT by the American Psychological Association. This group also includes David Feinstein, who published a review of EFT that was published in an APA journal. Are you interested in having one of these professionals put together a compilation of results-based material to go with your current review? I look forward to hearing from you.”
Where to from here?
I think it is time to expose and counter the untruths and Fake News on sites like this.
Where we can, it is important to make rebuttal arguments so that people can see the truth, or at least get a more balanced view of the arguments on both sides.
I encourage you to make your own submission to the article or via their contact form.
Where we can’t publish on sites because they do not allow alternative views (such as Wikipedia for example where it is not currently possible to edit the entries on EFT and tapping) then we need to publish the truth ourselves, via our blogs, via articles in online journals, and via Social Media groups and discussions.
I encourage you to stay abreast of the currently research, which is summarised and regularly updated at ACEP’s website so that you can provide a truth-based foil to those who would ignorantly or maliciously say that EFT / tapping is not supported by research.
Sure, the closed-minded cynics still won’t listen to you or look at it, but the true sceptics (the real definition of a sceptic is someone who needs proof) and the general public will make up their own minds once they see the actual evidence. Evidence which, as Bob Schwartz Executive Director at ACEP recently wrote to me, is all pointing in one direction.
Updates from Steve:
I received the following response from the Marketing Manager of the website involved:
Hi Mr. Wells,
Just wanted to touch base to say thanks for your submission. You’ve caught us at a tricky time where we’ve been buried in work on a new site design. This has also affected your comments because we had to bring all the comments from the old site over to the new, and that’s not complete yet.
In the next week as thing get back to normal, I’m going to have your original submission, and I’m going to pass it onto the author for review.
Thanks again and I’ll be back in touch.
I replied to say thanks and I look forward to hearing from you!
Further Update 23 May 2018:
The author of the article, Nicolas Ferrera, responded via the comment section of this post. I then wrote him a second submission to supplement the first one. It is quite long so I am including it in a separate blog post, which immediately follows this one.