Energy Psychotherapy, An Introduction

James Barrett 27/5/2017

“Contemporary quantum research and big data, as well as ancient faith practices, alert us to subtle dimensions where energy prevails over matter.  The primo vascular system maps onto the hitherto invisible meridian systems of traditional Chinese medicine.  Science is giving us ‘proofs’ of other dimensions beyond the four we habitually recognise.   All this being so, is it time to expand the horizons of therapy beyond the cognitive, the relational, the conscious and unconscious, beyond embodiment and systemic paradigms to include the subtle and energic dimensions of existence which may be holding disturbance, and be in need of healing attention too.” Caretaking our planet: a new direction. Ruth Jones UKCP The Psychotherapist Issue 65 Spring 2017

Writing about the psychology of climate change denial, Ruth Jones points us towards theories of energy that dissolve an anthropocentrism in conceptions of psyche and explore our place in the family of things, participants in nature. (See also James W, A Pluralistic Universe 1909)

For the purposes of psychotherapy theories of energy provide a context for the dynamic relations of matter, body, psyche and spirit without prioritising one over another. In practice energy psychology methods give psychotherapists new means of enabling healing of presenting problems that relate closely to their existing theory.

The psychoanalyst Neville Symington wrote that the aim of psychotherapy was the repair of the client’s capacity to generate their own truths (Symington 1986). This fits well with the practice of energy psychology which discovers the self healing capacity, intelligence and consciousness present in the person’s energy system. This capacity is accessed with beautiful directness through simple-to-use techniques of tapping on acupressure points and placing hands on chakras, in conjunction with holding specific traumas in mind. It is sometimes understandable why change and healing occurs for a client in psychoanalytic and Jungian psychotherapy, other times it is accepted that change occurs through grace.  It is notable that each of the schools of energy psychology recognise the therapy as a spiritual process as well as having grounding in science.

Colleagues from Psychosynthesis, Gestalt Therapy, Systemic Family Therapy, Psychoanalysis, Attachment based Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, Analytical Psychology, Transactional Analysis and Counselling Psychology and Person Centred Counselling, have discovered over the past decade how well energy psychology methods integrates with their ‘home’ theory.

Schools of energy psychology emerged in the USA in the 1990’s evolving pragmatically often as treatments for trauma and PTSD.  “Energy psychology’ has been used interchangeably with ‘energy based psychotherapy’ or simply ‘energy therapy’ and it is also an umbrella term for numerous specific [therapies]…”(Feinstein, Eden and Craig, 2006, p.291) The field is represented internationally by the ‘Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology’ (ACEP), founded to ‘organize and unify Energy Psychology methods, provide professional support and education, and establish ethical guidance in practice.” (Feinstein et al. ibid).

Typically in the UK psychotherapists who have integrated energy psychology into their practice have trained with a number of energy psychology modalities.

Concepts of ‘energy’ transcend the body/mind and body/soul splits to which psychotherapy is prone as part of western culture. Psychoanalysis has suffered from an assumption of the primacy of language over experience which in the first place is not verbal.  The Jungian and the humanist traditions have leaned more towards recognising the inter-relations of body, mind and spirit. Body psychotherapies, sometimes experienced as odd ones out, often include body in a matrix with spirituality and psyche.   “The experience of many, many body psychotherapist trainees and clients…..[is] the more deeply one goes into the experience of embodiment, the more strongly one becomes aware of the spiritual and subtle aspects of reality.  This is not primarily a theoretical process, but an experiential one.  Body psychotherapy, it seems, cleanses the ‘doors of perception’ which Blake and Aldous Huxley describe.” (Totton, N. 2003

While there has been idealisation of the body in some body psychotherapy schools and at phases of the tradition’s history, (Totton ibid p.143) many body therapists have included theory and practice of talk therapies into their work and maintained cleansed doors of perception.

However, in this context, it is important to remember research that suggests when different kinds of psychotherapy are compared with one another, they are found to be more or less equally effective. (Scott Miller: Bruce Wampold, The Great Psychotherapy Debate) Where there are real differences is in the results achieved by different therapists. Some psychotherapists are more effective than others – and some much more effective.  In this light, it may be that the best that those of us who are working using these methods can claim, is they have made us better at what we do. In his article on research Phil Mollon does note the need for more studies comparing an energy psychology with other recognised modalities and the “questions of how and why such methods achieve these results remain open.” 

The diversity and individuality of psychotherapists and counsellors in the UK who have learnt from the different energy therapies is notable. They are a part of a rich learning community.  Most have come into it through the direct or indirect connection with the work of Phil Mollon, a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst, currently President of the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology (ACEP). He has been largely responsible for initiating and developing energy psychotherapy in the UK, through his teaching, his practice (both private and in North Herts NHS) and his writing.   In the UK he has initiated a new development in the psychological field without trying to own it, a rare phenomenon. 

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