For my Masters in Psychotherapy I completed a qualitative research study into the role of energy psychology (EP) in the treatment of trauma. The study was fascinating. I interviewed senior psychotherapists who were trained in and had many years of experience working with traditional approaches to psychotherapy. These therapists also worked with EP. Based on their experience I concluded that EP:
- Is not an extension of traditional psychotherapy or psychology, it creates a paradigm shift in approaches to working with mental health
- Can be considered as evidence based practice in the treatment of PTSD (particularly for people who cannot face reliving their traumatic experiences in exposure based therapy)
- Can be used safely in the first phase of traditional three phase treatment of PTSD where other approaches such as exposure or EMDR may be contraindicated due to the risk of flooding and/or decompensation
- May share mechanisms that are common to many meditative practices and also to the process known as “focusing” (developed by Eugene Gendlin)
- Contributes to a lived experience of serenity and flourishing
You can download a copy of my thesis from the DBS library. I was the only student to get first class honours in my year of graduation.
The full abstract for the thesis is quoted here or you can download it as a PDF.
It helps me to love my work
An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of the Senior Therapist Experience of using Energy Psychology in the Treatment of Trauma
Energy Psychology is a novel and controversial family of mind/body approaches that purport to offer an effective treatment for a variety of psychological disorders including Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression. The approaches are based on combining concepts from Traditional Chinese Medicine with simple cognitive interventions. Initial empirical investigation has supported claims of efficacy. The aim of this study is to expand and enrich existing research about the use of Energy Psychology in the treatment of PTSD through analysing the accounts of three senior psychotherapists. Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was used to develop an understanding of the central research question: How does Energy Psychology impact and inform the life and work of experienced psychotherapists who use Energy Psychology in the treatment of trauma?
Four themes emerged from the analysis: energy psychology catalyses a transformational process; a paradigm shift; a state of presence; and spiritual realisation. The participants attributed significant changes in their personal philosophy, overall contentment in life, and understanding of psychotherapeutic change, to their experience of using energy psychology, leading to the central hypothesis of the study, that energy psychology has the potential to catalyse a process of transformation that results in a lived experience of serenity and flourishing.
This study theorises two new understandings for the efficacy of Energy Psychology: 1) Energy psychology may share mechanisms that are common with meditative practices, which have been shown to impact the capacity to self-regulate; 2) Energy Psychology may provide a manual technique that supports the process of ‘focusing’. Non-specific factors that are common to many forms of psychotherapy also contribute to efficacy. Implications for clinical practice suggest that Energy Psychology is a suitable treatment in evidence based practice for trauma, for clients who do not favour exposure or reliving experiences, and for clients who are at risk of decompensation due to flooding of traumatic material.