Alternative Treatment Methods for Anxiety Disorders

Here are a few alternative treatment methods that are currently being applied to anxiety disorders. Please do not mistake this for a recommendation or endorsement.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming

Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) was developed by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in the early 70′s. They observed a series of competent professionals in the field of psychotherapy and codified their successful therapeutic approaches.

NLP became a house-hold name when Tony Robbins began using and promoting it. Some NLP practitioners claim to cure a phobia in less than 7 minutes! Aside from anecdotal cases there is no evidence for such claims.

Moreover, psychoanalysts believe in the “iceberg theory” of fears and anxiety. They see a phobia and anxiety as the tip of an unconscious iceberg. In order to help you overcome fears and anxiety they have you go back to the time it all started. The goal is to change the past in order to have you feel better in the present time.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) was developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro. The technique involves you focusing on the inner image, thought, and body sensations related to a phobia while simultaneously moving your eyes in different directions. Sometimes auditory tones or tapping are included to enhance the effects.

You must follow a mechanical procedure to recall a negative memory. The aim is to have you conjure up negative experiences while they distract you by eye movements and sound and tapping. It’s a type of hypnotic technique. Eye movements are just a series of motor distractions with a suggestion that would increase the placebo effect.

Moreover, any kind of technique to unblock a negative reaction must take into account the perception-reaction system. Otherwise, any future difficulty may trigger the relapse. If you do not substitutes the dysfunctional equilibrium with a new functional one, you run the risk of relapse.

Thus EMDR may alleviate initially the symptoms of fear and anxiety but does not help you overcome your problem definitely.

According to the EMDR Institute, as published in their web site: “EMDR therapy is an eight-phase treatment. Eye movements (or other bilateral stimulation) are used during one part of the session. After the clinician has determined which memory to target first, he asks the client to hold different aspects of that event or thought in mind and to use his eyes to track the therapist’s hand as it moves back and forth across the client’s field of vision. As this happens, for reasons believed by a Harvard researcher to be connected with the biological mechanisms involved in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, internal associations arise and the clients begin to process the memory and disturbing feelings. In successful EMDR therapy, the meaning of painful events is transformed on an emotional level.”

To answer whether EMDR is effective in the treatment of phobias, panic disorder, here is the information from their institute: “There is much anecdotal information that EMDR is effective in the treatment of specific phobias. Unfortunately, the research that has investigated EMDR treatment of phobias, panic disorder, and agoraphobia has failed to find strong empirical support for such applications.”
As with any form of psychotherapy, there may be a temporary increase in anxiety which using EMDR. According to the EMDR institute this may include:

  1. distressing and unresolved memories may emerge
  2. some clients may experience reactions during a treatment session that neither they nor the administering clinician may have anticipated, including a high level of emotion or physical sensations
    subsequent to the treatment session, the processing of incidents/material may continue, and other dreams, memories feelings, etc., may emerge.

Thought Field Therapy (TFT)

Thought field therapy (TFT) was developed in 1981 by clinical psychologist Roger J. Callahan. It all began when he was treating a woman for her water phobia. He asked her to think about water, then tapped with two fingers an acupressure point under her eyes and much to his surprise, her fear of water completely disappeared.

Callahan claims that the cure was due to the tapping, which he thinks unblocked the energy field in a specific meridian. According to his theory a negative incident generates a negative emotion which in turn causes energy blockage. Allegedly with only 6 minutes of tapping a TFT practitioner can cure phobias with 87% success rate.

Callahan claims to find the exact point where to tap for each kind of health problem. Here’s how he claims it works: A practitioner taps on various points on the body with his fingertips following a rhythmic and orderly sequence called ‘algorithms’. The taps and body parts could vary depending on the health issue being treated. During the tapping, the patient must hum a tune or repeat the alphabet as well as thinking about an anxiety producing situation.

There have been some studies conducted and reported by Callahan himself. However, the entire success rate is based on anecdotal cases and testimonials. There is absolutely no scientific evidence for his extraordinary claims. The American Psychological Association has also announced that thought field courses are not approved for continuing education credits. According to James Herbert, a psychology professor at Drexel University, thought field therapy has no scientific proof for its claims.

His latest Callahan’s discovery is called “Voice Technology” (VT) that let practitioners “accurately identify a TFT sequence for any ailment”. And all this is done over the phone!. Therapists who take this three-day-course of individualized training with Callahan must also purchase a “voice technology” machine at a cost of appx. $100,000.

According to Callahan’s Web site, “A TFT Voice Technology practitioner has the potential for the whole world as their clients”.