Can Energy Therapies Augment Conventional Couple Therapy?
Is energy psychology baloney, or a new frontier that merits a second look?
Posted June 15, 2012
Sophie told Robert that after fifteen years of marriage she was done with living next to his dark cloud. His negativity had worn her down, and she wanted to leave. Robert was devastated, so much so that he pleaded with his wife to join him in couple's therapy for one last try. They had tried couples therapy once and it had been a dud. Would she give it a second chance?
Sophie and Robert came to my office for an initial session. For their next session I invited Dale Petterson, an energy therapist who works in my office suite, to join me as co-therapist.
By the end of that session's full set of energy therapy interventions, Robert was grinning, sheepishly using smile muscles that must have been dormant for decates. Even our secretary, talking with Robert to set the next appoint, commented to him on how happy he seemed.
What were the bizarre treatments that had such a potent impact on my client?
Energy therapy refers to interventions that address the body’s negative and positive energy flows to enable healthier physical and emotional functioning. Having worked for the past year and a half with Dale Petterson on several cases a week, I have crossed from skepticism to intrigue with the impressive potential of these new psychotherapy assessment and healing techniques.
I now routinely incorporate Dale’s interventions into my own treatment offerings, especially with couples. Alas, I confess to being somewhat of an old dog when it comes to learning new tricks, so when I say “incorporate” I refer to working jointly on cases with Dale. We work as a team for one or several sessions. My job is to specify the target symptoms. His is to relieve them using his energy interventions. I then continue on my own using my usual therapy methods for the majority of the treatment.
Here's my general formula for when I call Dale in to add his expertise to my clients' therapy.
I treat couples with the treatment framework and methods that I describe in my book From Conflict to Resolution. I guide individuals and couples to resolution of the distressing dilemmas in their lives, help them to heal after upsets, help them gain insight into the family of origin sources of their difficulties, and teach communication and conflict resolution skills. It's all pretty conventional, integrating insight-oriented and behavioral components under the over-arching concept of resolving conflicts in healthier and more effective ways.
At the same time, I've come to depend on Dale's energy treatment interventions to:
1) Test for and eliminate psychological reversal.
2) Defuse the hurtful impacts of earlier life memories.
Why do I add these energy interventions to my own generally effective treatment methods?
1) Psychological reversal is not something I was trained to recognize or address, so I depend on Dale to treat this phenomenon.
2) Dale's techniques more quickly pinpoint the earlier-in-life sources of strong current emotional reactions. They also can address pre-verbal experiences that are beyond the reach of conventional methods. It sounds really kooky, but preverbal incidents including inherited emotions and emotions experienced in utero apparently really do impact us, judging from the cases I've seen working with Dale.
3) Research has shown that couples tend to be unable to utilize new communication and conflict resolution skills if they are in too high a state of emotional arousal. Dale's energy therapy interventions prepare my couples so that they are able to stay calm enough within their therapy sessions to address their difficult conflicts constructively. In addition, his techniques enable them to stay calm enough to utilize their new skills when they are at home on their own.
I have come to believe the psychotherapy community needs to broaden it's tent. We need to explore energy treatments seriously. Eventually our standard repertoir may need to include at least the following five techniques:
1. Muscle kinesiology
Muscle kinesiology techniques, also referred to as muscle testing, give a voice to the subconscious. I explain the technique in my earlier PT posting called "Your Mind Has Extraordinary Powers."
With muscle testing tecniques a therapist can ask the client's subconscious to guide the healing process. The subconscious seems to have an uncanny way of knowing what symptons to treat when, and which of the therapist's available treatment options would be most helpful.
The subconscious speaks only in yes/no binary answers, so if, when asked, the subconscious responds, "No, Don't use that option," Dale then offers a multiple-choice list of options. The subconscious clearly knows what from his repertoire would be the most helpful way to address a target problem at that specific point in treatment.
Muscle kinesiology also gives us a way to assess how effective a treatment has been. Dale asks on a scale from 0 to 10 how intense the problem is initially. He then tracks progress until we have added sufficient interventions to reduce the problem to 0.
2. Testing for and releasing psychological reversal
Psychological reversal is a state of functioning in which a person is oriented toward acting in ways that subvert happiness. The subconscious of people who are reversed says Yes to the statement "I want to be misrable." It responds No to the statement "I want to be happy."
The undertow of psychological reversal can undermine psychological (and also medical) treatment. It therefore makes sense to test for and, if present, eliminate the problem early on in a course of therapy. I therefore am increasingly asking Dale to test my new clients for reversal at the outself of treatment. If reversal is present, he lifts the reversal, for which he utilizes Bradley Nelson's emotion code methods, so that the clients, which include both partners in a couple, are ready to heal.
I have written more on this subject in a prior post called Bad Luck or Psychological Reversal.
3. Tapping to reduce excessive emotional reactivity
Roger Callahan launched the use of tapping on acupuncture points to enable negative blocked energies to flow and be released. His methods, which now have been simplified into techniques referred to as EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) rapidly remove ptsd, phobias, and intense emotional states. There now is an impressive body of research validating the effectiveness of tapping. At the same time, like all energy therapy, the methods are still seen as controversial.
Callahan also gets credit for having identified the phenomenon of psychological reversal.
4. Emotion Code for accessing the point of origin of excessive emotional reactions.
Conventional therapists look for the cues that trigger excessive emotional responses such as anger eruptions, anxiety, urges to engage in addictive behavior, depressive collapses, or ptsd. They then explore the earlier life events that first established the template for responding to these cues.
To accomplish these same goals, Dale generally uses Bradley Nelson's innovative Emotion Code treatment methods. NET has similar techniques.
For instance, one of my clients had for years felt that she was searching for a soulmate that she had lost. Her husband took personally this longing, certain that it indicated she didn't love him. An Emotion Code intervention enabled the wife to discover that her search was motivated by an experience in utero of having lost a twin sister in the third trimester. The wife's discover trigger three days of intense grieving followed by a sense of calm relief. The longing had disappeared, and the husband then was able to believe his wife's explanations that she had not been seeking an alternative to him.
5. Use of a Magboy magnet coupled with the principle "Energy follows intention" to release Counter-Productive Beliefs (cont. on p. 2)
Cognitive therapy methods have shown the importance of helping clients to identify beliefs that hold them back from healthier functioning. Energy therapy methods can speed up and augment clients' ability to let go of these problematic beliefs.
Negative beliefs about the self such as a sense of inadequacy or belief that one is unlovable can be addressed with the principle "energy follows intention." Dale couples a focus on the intention to release the negative belief with running special magnet called a Magboy three times down the client's spine (the governing meridian). The potency of the negative belief lifts, freeing the client to believe I am adequate. I am loveable. etc.
Sound weird? Here's a further even odder and yet highly potent implementation of the same technique and principle. Dale lifts depressive affect by shifting energies from the right to the left prefrontal lobe. I have written about these cases in an earlier post on A Quirky New Way To Treat Depression.
In sum, I am convinced that energy therapy methods merit serious attention from psychology researchers and psychotherapy training programs.
Meanwhile, I invite therapists and/or lay folks who have had utilized these techniques, especiallly in the context of couple therapy treatments, to write in the Comments about their experiences. Lots of people who have never tried or observed energy treatments insist they are nonsense. I'd love to hear from any of you who have had an actual experience, for better and/or for worse, with them.
Susan Heitler, Ph.D. a graduate of Harvard and NYU, specializes in couples therapy. Her multiple publications include the book From Conflict to Resolution and The Angry Couple video which emphasize the role of conflict resolution in treatment, and Power of Two, now the basis for the online marriage skills training program, PowerOfTwoMarriage.com.
Reference Links from my earlier postings on energy therapy:
Muscle Kinesiology and The Emotion Code: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/resolution-not-conflict/201202/your…
Psychological reversal: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/resolution-not-conflict/201202/bad-…
Depression treatment: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/resolution-not-conflict/201202/quic…