Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

A New Approach to Psychotherapy / Wellness

Originally posted on January 14, 2008

I went to a workshop two days ago given by a fellow who mixes positive affirmations, group dynamics, a technique of tapping acupuncture points and a variety of new age speculations. It was a mixed experience: I liked some things and didn’t like other things.

What I liked was that this fellow wove together some elements that I suspect are at least partially valid: Hypnotic-like suggestions, a bit of open-ended “wild psychoanalysis,” tapping” (little bangs by fingers on supposed acupuncture points), and having the group repeat the leader-therapist’s suggestions and positive affirmations. I discerned the function of the psychodramatic chorus, or its equivalent in Gestalt therapy, going around the room and the client / protagonist telling each person some affirmation or getting feedback. So there are group dynamic elements, and elements of what seem to me to be similar to Milton Erickson’s approach to hypnotherapy.

I have a strong suspicion that the technology of hypnosis is hardly utilized by people in our culture, and that we may yet learn better ways of having it become a common mode of self-talk and interpersonal relationship. I fantasize children being taught to self-heal this way, mentally and physically, from early childhood. I imagine it becoming as ordinary as brushing and flossing your teeth. (I’ll talk about flossing later.)

I also think it’s possible that combining positive self-affirmations, combined with the self-stimulation of tapping on various acupuncture points, or some other way of “grounding” the suggestions in the pre-verbal body sense, may be synergistic elements of self-hypnosis. Having others, such as in a group, repeat and affirm these affirmations may also help bypass the censoring functions of the ordinary mind. (Please note that I make no claim to any expertise at hypnosis—my exposure has only been sufficient to evoke some respect and continue curiosity.)

What I didn’t like was the use of a lot of new age jargon, especially involving words like “quantum.” I think this is related to the general discourse surrounding “The Secret” and “What the [bleep] Do we Know” movies. Their inner thrust of those movies and that jargon is mainly oriented to positive thinking and envisioning what you want. I suspect that some of this is healthy and valid, part of exercising that elusive activity I call “faith-ing.” Part of this jargon, though, seems to me to appeal to magical thinking and the desire for short-cuts, and it also validates a neo-romantic type of discourse that confuses ideology with reason. I don’t mind poetic thinking and mythmaking—indeed, I actively advocated such activities—but neither do I want that mode of thinking and imagining to be confused with rational types of thought, more careful and qualified types of logic, and other modalities we use when we ask, “but is this so?” (Or, “In what sense is this true?”)
Back to the “tapping” technique—derived from Gary Craig, in the mid 1990s, called “Emotional Freedom Technique” (Google this or, selecting one:
or : EFT was created by Gary Craig in the mid 1990s, and is meant to be a simplification and improvement of Roger Callahan’s Thought Field Therapy techniques—which were developed in the previous decade. ( )

I’m not convinced yet. How much of this requires the accurate tapping of the points and how much can be tapping near the points, or just tapping at any part that feels sensitive? How much is this due to the acupuncture points and how much the positive suggestions or placebo effect? I’m open to the possibility that it’s all one way, all the other, or some mixture. We shall see. (So far, my wife has been trying it and for her it seems to be working and perking her up.)

Moral: There’s lots of stuff happening.

General Corollary: There are an estimated 1,000 approaches to alternative healing out on the market now—maybe many more. Now, considering the history of medicine as a model, I’m willing to consider seriously that maybe 5% of these are valid—and that makes around fifty! If even half of those or less were so, they might significantly revolutionize medical care! This has happened before and it may happen again.
However, I don’t think it is the proper role of mainstream medicine to take each of the 1,000 or more approaches and test it; rather, it is the responsibility of the advocates of this or that theory and method to do the research. If they cannot make a case, well, why not? What are the requirements of research to get a claimed approach supported so that it moves from hunch to hypothesis to theory to postulate, to move up the levels of evidence-based ideas?
In other words: How does one keep an open mind without letting one’s brains spill out over the floor?

One Response to “A New Approach to Psychotherapy / Wellness”

  • Adam says:

    Hi Michelle, and thank you!
    Do I understand you to be agreeing with me on the whole? I think that’s what you’re saying. You may know more about hypnosis than I. Anyway, I see the methods being described as integrating (1)self-affirmations; and (2) “anchoring” the suggestions by self-touching (tapping). Tapping, in turn, has the advantages of being a more vigorous sensation than rubbing or stroking; it is less likely to be interpreted as autoerotic; done by self rather than others obviates fears of too much, too little, too sexual, too out-of- control, etc.
    And I suspect that there are spots that conduct “energy” into the body energy field. I’m not so sure they’re exactly the same for everyone, or that they match the ancient acupuncture points. But I suspect they feel more sensitive than nearby points.
    Their function is to impress the deep body- “beyond-self” self with the energy of self-
    care, and/or to shake up or de-stabilize habits of energy flow, posture, muscular tension.
    (There’s another massage therapy technique called “do-in” that similarly involves sharp not-really-painful strokes. Rather soothing, actually.) Finally, combined with affirmations… that’s the point!

    AB: I agree with the importance of what you mentioned: M: I really liked her interviewing style, which reminded me of the style I learned in hypnotherapy training. She got a lot of details quickly. I immediately saw how I could
    incorporate hypnotic language and trance logic while using EFT and I started to get
    excited again about using it with clients.
    AB: Yes, and also what if we learn to talk with each other in a gentle fashion informed by “hypnotic” language? Or teach or parent our kids? I think there’s some real potential here.

    M I also wonder how much of this is the placebo effect, or reframing/positive affirmation statements. AB: Yes to both, but the “placebo effect” is a misleading phrase, because it suggests a mysterious but rather inconsequential force. It trivializes actual power. As a term, thinking about semantics, “placebo” seems inconsequential, as in “Just” placebo. But I think if we could harness “placebo effect” it would do more for medical care than any development so far! And I suggest that
    it is nothing less than hypnosis. Now, the problem is that I think that the word
    “hypnosis” itself hardly suggests the power of this dynamic.
    By the way, as a drama therapist, did you know Moreno was interested in combining psychodrama and hypnosis—he called it “hypnodrama.”
    AB: I also agreed with your observation that part of EFT’s success is the body connection–
    that very combination. Then combining suggestions and tapping may be synergistic, more than doubling its effectiveness.
    So I appreciate your caution. I think that slightly tentative attitude is right. Thanks for your feedback.

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