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Frequently Asked Questions

Are there suggested guidelines for professionals regarding an Informed Consent Statement?

Important Note: This article was written prior to 2010 and is now outdated. Please use my newest advancement, Optimal EFT. It is more efficient, more powerful and clearly explained in my free e-book, The Unseen Therapist™.  Best wishes, Gary

Are there suggested guidelines for professionals regarding an Informed Consent Statement?

Yes! When you introduce a family member or a friend to EFT, you can usually use a very simple explanation, just enough to get them interested in trying it, and the results then speak for themselves. Psychotherapists who introduce energy methods into their practice, however, are asking their clients to work within a different model than traditional psychotherapy. This piece is designed for you if you are in that position. One way to protect yourself from licensing boards who tend to frown upon "experimental" therapies, as well as to insure that your client understands and is prepared for the unfamiliar methods that will be used, is to introduce "informed consent" procedures when you are orienting a new client. Suggestions for orienting a new client to energy methods within a clinical setting, and for creating an informed consent statement, are provided in Energy Psychology Interactive (the award-winning professional training program (CD-ROM & book) pulled together by 27 of the leading clinicians and pioneers of energy psychology). This discussion has recently been revised, and the project leader, David Feinstein, Ph.D., has graciously offered to allow the new piece on informed consent to be posted on the EFT site as well.


David Feinstein, Ph.D.

Your choice of language in describing strange-looking procedures whose effectiveness has not been thoroughly validated scientifically and whose mechanisms elude conventional scientific understanding invites careful consideration. Explanations of the procedures should communicate that you believe they will be effective in treating the client's condition, your sources of evidence for making that assertion, and an explanation of how the approach works.

Of course it is also necessary, when introducing an energy psychology approach, to orient your comments according to the client's background, previous experience with alternative therapies, disposition toward your recommendations, and clinical condition (see discussion of the indications and contraindications for an energy psychology approach in the research article referenced above). Some practitioners pointedly avoid introducing concepts early on that are not well-understood or accepted, such as "energy" or "meridians." They might be more likely to simply say something along the lines of, "Here is a simple procedure that is proving to be surprisingly effective" and then demonstrate it on an issue where the client will be able to quickly feel a difference. Energy methods lend themselves well to such a "show me" approach. Further explanation can be offered later. Other practitioners, however, prefer to bring the client right into the energy paradigm. The following sample transcripts[i] provide generic examples of how one might begin.

Introducing an Energy-Based Approach

"You are probably aware that chemical imbalances are involved in psychological problems such as anxiety and depression. Evidence is mounting that the body's energies are also involved in emotional disturbances, and that interventions into the body's energy system can shift the brain chemistry in a way that helps overcome many psychological problems. The interventions you will be learning have been effective in a wide range of situations, including helping people during major disasters and the aftermath of trauma. They make use of a simple process you already know: comforting yourself using your own hands and your own words.

"Your hands carry an electromagnetic charge, and your body's energies include the electrical charge in every cell and organ, the electrical pathways in the nervous system, the electromagnetic fields surrounding every organ as well as the entire body, and also more subtle energies, such as the chi spoken of by acupuncturists and the prana spoken of by yoga practitioners. With psychological problems, an experience you regularly encounter causes your brain to send out electrical signals that lead to an emotion (perhaps anxiety, depression, or anger), a perception, or a behavior that is not appropriate for the current situation. The triggering experience may be one you encounter with some frequency, such as situations where you are being confronted or tested, but it also may be internal, a recurring memory, image, or thought. One way to approach the problem is to work directly with the energies that maintain the pattern in your brain's response to the triggering experience. That is the approach used in energy psychology.

"After gathering information about how the energies in your body are involved in your problem, any energy disturbances that are identified can be corrected through a variety of procedures I will be showing you. For instance, if every time you think about a particular situation, certain parts of your brain become overstimulated, leading to emotions that get in your way, we can have you think about the situation while you touch or tap or massage trigger points that alter the dysfunctional response in your brain. This retrains your body and brain so that the thought or situation no longer causes the overreaction. The trigger points, incidentally, are often the same points that are used in acupuncture, though needles are not necessary to achieve the desired effect. This process alone can overcome many emotional and psychological problems, but we will be using it within the context of other treatments as appropriate."

Introducing Muscle Testing ("Energy Checking")

"Information about how your body's energies are involved in your problem can be gathered using a simple procedure where I apply some pressure to your outstretched arm. In this way, we can gauge the relative firmness of your muscle while you are thinking about your problem vs. when you are thinking about something else. Your muscles and your nerves work together, so that when you have an upsetting emotion, it causes a change in your muscles as well. The muscles tend to become firmer with positive thoughts or emotions and somewhat weaker with negative thoughts or emotions. It isn't that the muscles are really weak at such times, just that the electricity moving through the nerves gets interrupted so that the muscle momentarily cannot operate at its best.

"The method involves checking the firmness in a shoulder muscle while you hold your arm out straight. I'll ask you to think about the problem that you want help with to see how this affects the muscle. I'll also have you touch certain places on your body that are like circuit breakers and check the muscle in response to certain statements. I may ask you to do some other things, like moving your eyes in different directions, humming, and counting. We will be working together to learn how your body's energies are responding to various aspects of your problems and to their treatment. Would this all be okay with you?"

Informed Consent

Obtaining "informed consent" is one of the most fundamental procedures for protecting a client's rights. Informed consent means that prior to establishing a therapeutic relationship, the potential client has been provided with enough information to make a reasonable determination about whether to accept the recommended treatment. This information includes the procedures and goals of the psychotherapy; the qualifications of and approach used by the therapist; warnings about possible side effects; information about fees, length and frequency of sessions, and likely duration of treatment; alternative therapeutic approaches; and potential sources of help besides psychotherapy. Essential for informed consent are that the client be able to understand this information and be able to freely choose whether to proceed with the treatment. Having the client sign a statement early in (or prior to) the treatment is one of the ways that informed consent can be obtained.

Some practitioners of energy psychology take the position that since details about specific procedures are not usually included in the written informed consent statements used by most clinicians, they are not necessary or appropriate within energy psychology. Because the treatment techniques are often complex and unfamiliar, they do not always lend themselves well to a brief written statement. These practitioners obtain informed consent verbally, often while providing hands-on demonstrations of the methods. Other practitioners do incorporate descriptions of their approach to energy psychology into their written statements.

The following paragraphs may be revised and included in a more comprehensive informed consent statement designed to be signed by the client. The sample provided here[ii] may or may not be applicable within your state and local jurisdiction. The final wording you use should be reviewed by an attorney.

Excerpts from a Comprehensive Informed Consent Statement

I have been advised and understand that a component of the treatment I will receive may utilize a technique called "energy checking" and involve work with "energy points."

Energy checking (also called "muscle testing") is an assessment tool for determining how energy patterns affecting my body and mind may be related to the problems I wish to address in pursuing treatment with my psychotherapist. The technique involves my psychotherapist applying physical pressure that will determine if a specific muscle stays firm or loses strength when I bring to mind a particular thought, emotion, or problem state and resist the pressure. The outcome, as indicated by the relative firmness maintained by the muscle, provides information to both my therapist and me about emotional dimensions of my problems that may not be available to me through introspection. Based partially on this information, my therapist will advise me on which energy points may best be used in helping me achieve my treatment goals.

Energy points, adapted from the practice of acupressure, are located on the surface of the skin throughout the body and can be stimulated for the purpose of correcting disturbed energy patterns that might underlie emotional and psychological problems. Stimulation may include touching, rubbing, or tapping the point. In most instances, I will be instructed on how to stimulate the appropriate points myself. In some instances, my therapist may ask my consent to directly work with specific treatment points.

I understand that the use of energy checking and energy treatment points within the field of psychotherapy is a relatively new development and that at this time there is only limited published research in established scientific journals investigating these methods. While clinical reports of successful outcomes using these methods do exist in the published literature of the field known as energy psychology, and the methods are being developed and refined under the auspices of organizations such as the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology, I understand that clinical reports do not constitute conclusive scientific evidence. I further understand that even if the clinical effectiveness of these methods is scientifically established, results will vary from person to person.

I understand that while an energy psychology approach is a safe treatment method, with a substantial body of clinical experience showing no serious side-effects when properly administered, that with any form of psychotherapy it is possible that unresolved memories and related emotions and sensations may be brought into my awareness. It is possible that this emotional material may continue to surface after the therapy session and require further treatment. I also understand that previously traumatic memories may lose their emotional charge, and this could adversely affect my ability to provide legal testimony that carries the same impact as prior to treatment.

I have thoroughly considered all of the above and have obtained whatever additional input and/or professional advice I deemed necessary or appropriate about commencing treatment that utilizes energy checking and energy treatment points. By my signature below, given freely and without pressure from any person, I consent to the use of these methods in my treatment.

[i] Formulated in collaboration with Fred. P. Gallo, Ph.D.

[ii] Informed consent statements by Dorothea Hover-Kramer, Ph.D. and by Ronda Mau and Linda Kardos were drawn from, with permission, in creating this sample.


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