Thought field therapy (TFT) is a fairly controversial form of mental health treatment. It is based on the idea that human beings are surrounded by “thought fields,” areas of energy that help shape each person’s state of mind. Thought field therapists believe that psychological disorders can result if these energy fields are disturbed, and that these disorders can be treated using physical stimuli. Many psychologists dismiss this form of treatment, arguing that TFT’s supposed benefits are not bolstered by adequate data.
Proponents claim thought field therapy can be used to treat a host of mental illnesses including depression, phobias, addiction, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress. They also believe this form of therapy can help patients much more quickly than conventional treatments. Some TFT practitioners say some ailments can be cured in as little as a few minutes and others after only a few short sessions. TFT has notably been used to treat combat veterans and survivors of Hurricane Katrina.
Thought field therapy is based on “meridian points,” areas around the body where fields of energy are thought to be strongest. This notion is borrowed from Chinese acupuncture, which holds that energy flows from specific points on the body. The patient recalls upsetting incidents or thoughts as the therapist literally taps on one of these meridian points. Meridian points are said to be located all along the body, from head to foot. TFT practitioners believe specific psychological disorders stem from different points throughout the body because of blockages or "perturbations" in the flow of energy.
Critics counter that there is little scientific evidence to back some of the claims made by thought field therapists. Some have suggested the placebo effect is at work, arguing that the patient feels better simply because he or she believes the treatment works. Others have suggested that TFT derives whatever effectiveness it might have by using techniques employed in cognitive behavioral therapy, which involves rewiring the patient’s synaptic pathways by encouraging changes in his or her thought patterns. Many critics have noted the lack of follow-up studies that demonstrate any positive, long-term effects in patients. The American Psychological Association has stated that TFT has no basis in science.
Thought field therapy was the invention of U.S. psychologist Dr. Roger Callahan, who studied at the University of Michigan and received his Ph.D. from Syracuse University. Dr. Callahan has run several clinics across the United States specializing in TFT. He also wrote several books that were translated into numerous languages.