Magazine article Family Therapy Networker

Telling It like It Is: Be Prepared to Back Up Your Therapeutic Claims

Magazine article Family Therapy Networker

Telling It like It Is: Be Prepared to Back Up Your Therapeutic Claims

Article excerpt

Stephen Daniel, a Prescott, Arizona, psychologist, is living out every therapist's nightmare. Nearly two years ago, he did what many clinicians do to garner some publicity for their practices--talked with a reporter from a local newspaper about his work. Soon after the article was published in the Arizona Daily Sun, he got a letter from a woman who expressed interest in his therapeutic approach and asked for more information. The woman sounded like a potential client; Daniel sent off his usual information packet.

But the woman was no prospective client. Instead, she was an investigator for the state licensing board, the Arizona Board of Psychologist Examiners. The next thing Daniel knew, he had been served with a subpoena from the board ordering him to submit research supporting the claims for therapeutic effectiveness touted in his promotional literature. Next, he was ordered to appear before the board to defend those claims. At the close of that meeting, he was found guilty of unprofessional conduct for, among other things, "making use of statements of a character tending to deceive or mislead" potential clients regarding the effectiveness of his therapy. His sentence: Three years probation, during which he is expressly forbidden to conduct his preferred approach as part of his psychotherapy practice. Moreover, for the first year of his probation, Daniel must submit to regular monitoring of his treatment plans, progress notes and modes of therapy by a board-appointed psychologist.

 Unsurprisingly, the therapeutic approach that got the board's attention was no mainstream modality. Daniel was a committed practitioner of Thought Field Therapy (TFT), an intervention that even its originator, Roger Callahan, admits "looks odd because it is odd." TFT involves having a client tap on his or her face, neck, hands and upper torso in a predetermined order to, purportedly, rebalance the body's energy system and thereby restore the client to emotional health. For two decades, proponents have claimed that TFT can effectively treat PTSD symptoms, phobias, depression, addictions, chronic pain and a laundry list of other disorders. Some TFT practitioners go further out on a limb and assert dizzyingly high effectiveness rates, which was precisely the claim that got Daniel into trouble.

According to the Arizona Daily Sun article that originally flagged the board's attention, Daniel "said he has had a 95 percent or better success rate using (TFT), and in most cases, the 'cure' takes place very quickly, often in just a few minutes." Later in the piece, Daniel observed that "Thought Field Therapy is by far the most effective form of treatment for most mental disorders that I have seen." When he could not produce supporting research for those assertions that satisfied the board, he was cited for "engaging in false, deceptive or misleading advertising."

Daniel's clash with mental health officialdom merits attention because he is among a growing cadre of therapists practicing nontraditional approaches, many of which are coming under closer scrutiny by oversight organizations. In particular, increasing numbers of clinicians have begun to utilize the so-called "power therapies" that purport to treat numerous, often severe, disorders with unprecedented speed and efficacy. To date, more than 30,000 clinicians have trained in TFT, while another 30,000 have received training in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), which uses visual, kinesthetic or auditory stimulation to help clients resolve trauma and other tough-to-treat problems. Meanwhile, unknown numbers of other practitioners are utilizing other "miracle" therapies such as Tapas Acupressure Technique (TAT), Traumatic Incident Reduction (TIR), Visual Kinesthetic Dissociation (VKD) and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). Many clinicians have turned to these unorthodox treatments in the wake of frustrated efforts to help PTSD sufferers, phobics and other "hard-case" clientele via more traditional therapeutic means. …

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