Sunday, August 8, 2010

#49: Roger J. Callahan & Gary Craig

The last decade or so certain psychologists and pseudo-psychologists have been claiming to be could cure any craving or phobia in minutes, sometimes even over the phone, by just a wee bit of tapping and some positive thinking to "rebalance [the body’s] natural energy system." Anything, really, from addiction to biscuits, alcohol, cigarettes to murdering homeopaths. The buzzword is "Thought Field Therapy” (TFT), a mish-mash of psychology, acupuncture, neuro-linguistic programming, hypnotherapy and what amounts to reiki and life force mysticism. It has absolutely no scientific foundation, and test results don’t exactly go in its favor. But woo apparently appeals.

Not only is there no evidence for its efficacy – it also relies on such quack myths as ”meridians”. In fact, the American Psyhological Association asserted that TFT "lacks a scientific basis" and removed support for it in 1999, stating that TFT "does not meet [our] definition of appropriate continuing-education curriculum for psychologists".

The technique was invented and is promoted by – you guessed it – Roger Callahan (pictured right), who terms his treatment "Thought Field Therapy" because he theorizes that when a person thinks about an experience or thought associated with an emotional problem, they are tuning in to a "thought field. and the evidence adduced in support of TFT by Callahan and other proponents comes from uncontrolled case reports that were not peer reviewed. In 2001, in an unprecedented move, the Editor of the Journal of Clinical Psychology agreed to publish, without peer review, five articles on TFT of Callahan’s choosing. Psychologist John Kline wrote that Callahan’s article “represents a disjointed series of unsubstantiated assertions, ill-defined neologisms, and far-fetched case reports that blur boundaries between farce and expository prose.” It has its roots in ancient Chinese medicine.

You can read about them here. And here. And here’s his website:

Dr. Callahan also brags about being endorsed by Kevin Trudeau (who will appear later, rest assured). Perhaps because both were in major trouble with the FTC in 1998).

For their importation of TFT into Africa to treat PTSD and Malaria, see here.

And here is an NPR interview where Callahan claimed TFT successfully treated malaria.

A balanced analysis can be found here.

(hat tip to Monica Pignotti for the last set of links)

Diagnosis: crackpot and charlatan (probably unconsciously). His influence is appallingly wide, and his crackpottery has been adopted by several serious practitioners and even received governmental endorsement.

Roger Callahan's disciple, Gary Craig (pictured left), invented a variant of TFT known as Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), applied kinesology and pure woo. His website is here.

Critically evaluated here.

EFT is apparently a procedure that ”borrows from the much-heralded discoveries of Albert Einstein”. How, you may think? Well, because ”everything, including your body, is composed of energy”. The residue is borrowed ”from the ancient wisdom of Chinese acupuncture.”

Diagnosis: Pure, delusional crackpot of the worst kind. Impact uncertain, but EFT is a spin-off of some frighteningly popular quackery.


  1. There is a good primer on thought field therapy here.

  2. i did eft and i dont have anxiety anymore so it helped me. If i went through the science route where it says i have c chemical imbalance id have probably spent all my life on drugs such as prozac so im glad i ddint

    1. So, you have one anecdote, and don't even try to justify it (how on earth would you know that eft worked rather than something else? After all there is as much evidence for eft as there is for looking at the color blue to cure anxiety). Then you combine it with a strawman characterization of ... "science route"?

      At least you imply that eft is not based on science, which it isn't. Since "not based on science" means "not based on trustworthy evidence", the implication kinda defeats your claim.

      May I suggest taking a critical thinking class?

    2. I was skeptical at first but I tried EFT/meridian tapping and have found great success with using it for myself as well as for family and friends. The issues ranged from nausea, to claustrophobia, to headaches, as well as OCD, depression, and even weight loss. There are hundreds of thousands of people saying that EFT has worked for them. Why should they lie? On the other hand, I can think of a few reasons traditional psychologists may be inclined to discredit the outstanding success of a technique that is free.

      "When I observe a number of suffering patients who did not respond to our usual treatment modalities, suddenly get better after TFT algorithms are given, I don't need a double-blind controlled study to tell me the value of TFT."

      -James McKoy, MD Chief, Pain Clinic, Chief Rheumatology Services Assistant Chief, Neuroscience Department, Kaiser Permanente, Hawaii region

      The proof is in the pudding. Maybe you are the one who needs a critical thinking class?

      However in case you are not convinced, the APA has actually changed their tune in recent years (and I suggest the author of this blog update his information):

      The APA standards advocate that studies contain sufficient subjects to achieve a level of statistical significance of p < .05 or greater, which means that there is only one possibility in 20 that the results are due to chance. The status of EFT as an "evidence-based" practice is summarized in this statement published in the APA journal Review of General Psychology:

      "A literature search identified 51 peer-reviewed papers that report or investigate clinical outcomes following the tapping of acupuncture points to address psychological issues. The 18 randomized controlled trials in this sample were critically evaluated for design quality, leading to the conclusion that they consistently demonstrated strong effect sizes and other positive statistical results that far exceed chance after relatively few treatment sessions. Criteria for evidence-based treatments proposed by Division 12 of the American Psychological Association were also applied and found to be met for a number of conditions, including PTSD." (Feinstein, 2012)

    3. No one is accusing anyone of *lying*. Being wrong isn't lying. People didn't swear by bloodletting for a thousand years, even though it is harmful rather than helpful, because they were lying. And people today don't swear by homeopathy because they are lying. There are lots of reason people (especially those who have never learned about the mechanisms or critical thinking in general) believe, often ardently, silly things and are utterly convinced by health measures that simply don't work. There is a decent primer on why bogus therapies seem to work here. Confirmation bias and regression to the mean are powerful mechanisms.

      Things are made even harder in the case of EFT because a lot of practitioners combine these bullshit techniques with techniques that actually *do* work. So, EFT sessions with competent therapists might actually have positive effects - it's just that the EFT didn't contribute to those effects.

      And with regard to the APA thing: Don't think I am unaware of that claim; you're just parroting Dawson Church and his disciples. Your claim has been dealt with elsewhere. And no: The APA does not support EFT.

  3. These guys are well and truly tapped!

  4. "...the American Psyhological Association..." LOL

    how many tortured abused incarcerated killed...ZERO cured

    psychiatry & psychology are the BIGGEST fraud & QUACKERY scam ever and look at you quoting them to prove one loon is bigger than the whole group of loooooons

  5. poor miserable, negative and close-minded...if u havent tried it fully u shouldnt say anything. this has helped millions and all you bring is negativity