Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Composting the bull excrement

I can't remember if I've mentioned it before, but I get a veritable torrent of missives from publicists touting every sort of fraud, quackery, hokum, bunkum and crap you can imagine. I generally just hit the delete key, but I have decided to establish a policy of occasionally putting one of these con artists through the compost grinder.

The latest is from one David Gruder, who describes himself as

"a clinical psychologist, . . .the Mental Health Coordinator of the non-profit Energy Medicine Institute. As the Founding President of the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology in 1999, he has been a pioneer in applying insight and techniques from time-honored healing traditions for enhancing mental health.

Gruder complains that the APA has been denying psychologists continuing education credits for learning his method of "energy psychology," which is evidently "time honored" by 11 years of him touting it.

Energy Psychology involves procedures such as tapping on acupuncture points at the same time that a traumatic memory or stressful trigger is brought to mind. The technique appears to send signals in the brain that counteract the stress response. It has been shown to be effective with a range of disorders, from simple phobias to irrational anger to severe PTSD.

"Shown to be effective," has it? Gruder says "Increasing numbers of articles and reports documenting the effectiveness of carefully administered Energy Psychology techniques have been appearing," but he only refers to one: a conference abstract. It's impossible to glean from conference abstracts any details of how a study was conducted or how credible it might be. He says this was a randomized controlled trial but he presents the results this way: "The data show that PTSD symptoms were dramatically reduced in 49 military veterans. Forty-two of them, an almost unheard of 86 percent, no longer scored within the PTSD range after six sessions. There was only one drop-out. The gains persisted at 6-month follow-up. Compare this with the 9 of 10 drop-out rate in VA programs."

A randomized controlled trial requires, guess what, a control group. This says nothing about any control group. Hmm. He is actually comparing his results to some unspecified, unmatched comparison group. We don't know what the initial state of these 49 individuals was and whether it is in any way unusual for 42 of them not to "score within the PTSD range," on some unspecified measure, after six sessions -- which covered an unspecified period of time, and during which we have no idea what else was going on with them. In other words, this is total bunk.

I did a PubMed search on "energy psychology" and I got exactly 3 hits. Three. Here they are:

Randomized trial of tapas acupressure technique((r)) for weight loss maintenance: rationale and study design.

Elder C, Gallison C, Lindberg NM, Debar L, Funk K, Ritenbaugh C, Stevens VJ.

J Altern Complement Med. 2010 Jun;16(6):683-90.PMID: 20569037 [PubMed - in process]

Pilot study of emotional freedom techniques, wholistic hybrid derived from eye movement desensitization and reprocessing and emotional freedom technique, and cognitive behavioral therapy for treatment of test anxiety in university students.

Benor DJ, Ledger K, Toussaint L, Hett G, Zaccaro D.

Explore (NY). 2009 Nov-Dec;5(6):338-40.PMID: 19913760 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]Related citations

Energy psychology and thought field therapy in the treatment of tinnitus.

Pasahow RJ.

Int Tinnitus J. 2009;15(2):130-3.PMID: 20420336 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]Related citations

The first one doesn't even report results. It describes a trial which is proposed but has not been conducted. Oh yeah, it's published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. The second one is a three-arm trial with, get this, 5 subjects in each arm. None of the methods involved tapping on acupuncture points, as far as I can tell. The end point was reduction in test-taking anxiety among students, not PTSD or any other mental disorder. The third one is a report of two (2), yes 1 + 1 case studies. The condition being treated is stress from ringing in the ears.

So "Doctor" Gruder, I call you a liar. Pants on fire.


Peter said...

This is a revealing posting you made but not about energy psychology. You accuse Dr. Gruder of distorting the facts. The news release, which I also happened to receive, links to nine academic papers on the uses of Energy Psychology with PTSD, including six well-designed studies, two of which are Randomized Controlled Trials and four of which are systematic outcome studies. Seven of the papers were published in peer reviewed journals, including Psychotherapy, one of the APA's flagship journals, and the other two were presented at highly-respected professional conferences. You cherry-picked which articles to criticize. The source listed on the press release is Your readers can check it out if you have the integrity to post this, in which case I salute you.

Peter Lambrou, PhD,

California Licensed Psychologist #PSY14435

Cervantes said...

More Bullshit from an obvious shill. The 3 articles I discussed are 100% of the literature indexed in PubMed that discusses anything called "energy psychology." The web site contains, as far as I can tell, zero (0) links to or references to any peer reviewed articles -- it only has PDFs of their own writing. The news release had no links to academic papers.

Energy psychology is complete crap which is based on vague representations of Chinese shamanism and New Age mysticism. It is completely implausible in principle and there is no real evidence to support it whatsoever. If there's a peer reviewed clinical trial in Psychotherapy, give me the reference.

I have all the integrity in the world. Anyone can follow the link to The Energy Medicine Institute and you will see for yourself that there is no peer reviewed literature referenced there whatsoever.

Thanks for the salute.

Daniel said...


For us who are rabble, is PubMed the search source for all peer reviewed medical journals?

Cervantes said...

Daniel --

Yes, it's the best. You can't get access to full text of articles in journals you don't subscribe to, but you can get the abstracts. And more and more journals are open access or partially open access.

You can also try Google Scholar, you'll get a broader selection including non-peer reviewed material.

Larry said...

Drs. Gruder and Lambrou are part of the 850-member Association of Comprehensive Psychology, comprised of practitioners and researchers, hardly a shill. They are also both highly respected psychologists in their communities, nationally and internationally. Intentionally or not, you misdirected your readers to the wrong URL and then used that as evidence for your claim that there is no peer-reviewed literature. The URL that lists the peer-reviewed published evidence is at The URL containing links to the press release and the supporting information is

Larry Stoler, MSSA,PhD, Immediate Past President, ACEP
Illinois Licensed Psychologist #071004460.

David said...

I don't know you, Cervantes, but I imagine from your comments that your intentions are good in that you're trying to protect your readers from quackery.

Unfortunately, in this case you led your readers to links that supposedly support your preconceptions about my quackery.

Why did you not instead provide them with the link to the actual facts ( )? Did you fear that if you did your readers would have discovered the foolishness of your attempted character assassination of me? Or did you simply not do your homework because you wanted to be right regardless of what's actually true?

Cervantes, what you have written is an example of denialism not illumination. This does not serve those you intend to protect.

You made your "pants on fire" pronouncement about me based on woefully insufficient research on your part. By doing so you have demonstrated your failure to realize that when you thought you were looking at me you were actually looking in the mirror.

This confusion on your part has caused you to sabotage your own apparently good intentions. That's really a shame...