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Thought Field Therapy

Callahan techniques® Thought Field Therapy

What is it?

Thought Field Therapy (TFT), originated and evolved by Californian clinical psychologist Dr. Roger J. Callahan, is a unique form of meridian therapy.  Now in its twenty-first year of development, TFT is best described as a natural, non-invasive, drug and chemical free system for the elimination of negative or troubled emotion.

The concept and theory of the "thought field", the framework in which the causative agents of psychological disturbance exist, was proposed by Dr. Callahan to explain the observations he was making when applying the first successful treatment procedure, a rapid and easily replicable cure for most phobias.  He had been treating a patient, Mary, using conventional psychotherapeutic methods for eighteen months.  Her fear of water was so overwhelming that she was forced to remain in a inner room of her house whenever it rained and could just about face bathing in a few centimetres of water.  Cognitive and behavioural approaches had succeeded in getting Mary to cope with her phobia to a limited extent in that she could at least approach open water, but the intense fear remained.  Mary described this as being focused on her stomach.

At that time Dr. Callahan was studying Applied Kinesiology (AK) techniques.  He decided to apply pressure to a treatment point on the stomach meridian, just beneath the orbit of the eye, by finger tapping on that point.  Expecting nothing from such a treatment Dr. Callahan comments,

"I was totally unprepared for what happened.  As I tapped under her eye, Mary said, "It's gone, my fear of water, it's gone!  I don't have those awful feelings in my stomach any more."  I suggested that we go down to the swimming pool adjacent to my office to see if this was really true.  I expected her to resist as usual, but in fact had to hurry to keep up with her.  For the first time in her life, she bent down, put her head close to the water and began splashing it on her face."

Dr. Callahan acknowledges the originator of Applied Kinesiology, Dr. George Goodheart, for the discovery of muscle testing and therapy localisation, both being fundamental to the development of TFT from this very significant beginning.  Using these AK principles, Dr. Callahan developed a causal diagnostic procedure which revealed concrete evidence of the nature of the thought field.  From this, and the empirical evidence obtained from many hundreds of successful TFT treatments, the concept of "perturbations" within the thought field was established. The crucial significance of the state of psychological reversal (PR), an earlier discovery, was also determined.  Unique to this paradigm, the treatment of PR - a literal reversal of meridian polarity - doubled the success rate of treatments.  Single treatment points for the resolution of many phobias and love-pain, a common and powerful trauma, were the first to be defined.  These were soon followed by diagnosis of generally effective treatment sequences (algorithms) for the resolution of most psychological problems. These algorithms now form the foundation of TFT practice, with causal diagnosis at the next level.

It is interesting to note the considerable significance of causal diagnosis to psychotherapy in general and especially in the development of TFT algorithms.  Prior to the development of TFT no such course of determinative action existed in the practice of psychotherapy, all diagnosis simply being the application of nomenclature to common patterns of signs and symptoms.  Even more remarkable is the fact that causal diagnosis allows the identification of specific treatment sequences for their resolution.  Fourteen meridian points are addressed in the practice of TFT.  This means that there are over 87 billion (14!) possible treatment sequences for any individual problem.  Applied at random at a rate of one sequence per minute, with each point treated only once in a sequence and with no rest in between, it would take up to 165,864 years simply to begin the treatment for that single problem.  However, Dr. Callahan's diagnostic procedures allow the skilled practitioner to define the exact treatment sequence required within a few minutes.

TFT theory states that if an individual suffers distress when thinking about a problem their thought field has perturbations within it.  The thought field itself is regarded as tuneable manifestation of the body's energy system which contains the non-energetic active information for the generation of equally specific emotion.  A perturbation in this context is defined as the entity carrying the active information which governs the expression of negative emotion when the thought field is attuned.  Removal of the perturbations (i.e. the information that governs the emotional experience) from the thought field leads to loss of the negative emotion - the individual can still explore and discuss their memory of the problem but now without the accompanying distress.

It should be noted that as discrete and non-energetic carriers of information the perturbations cannot be regarded as "imbalances", "disturbances" nor "blockages" in the meridian system.  This is a popular but highly unscientific viewpoint held by those with limited understanding of the paradigm and the true nature of energy, and which is sadly an identifying feature of the many therapies derived from Callahan's original work.

Consider the experience of fear.  Fear is a highly ordered and precisely orchestrated experience which occurs in exactly the same manner in all members of the same species (constriction of peripheral blood vessels, dilatation of visceral blood vessels, adrenalin release, etc.), commonly known as the fight-or-flight reaction.  As those events are highly ordered and balanced in both time and space, it is foolish to contend that they arise from a disordered, unbalanced or blocked system.  However, the situation in which that fear response is generated may be abnormal - as is the case with a phobia (a fear of something harmless) - but the individual is still having a normal response to something which they see as a threat to their well-being, no matter how it seems to a non-phobic observer.  Indeed, the perturbations associated with fear have a vital and functional purpose directly related to the survival response of the individual but which may be deactivated as a consequence of maturation.  It is often a failure of this maturation process that gives rise to inappropriate emotional experience.  For example, all children develop a fear of heights as soon as they begin to crawl but with maturation this fear is rapidly subsumed so that it is lost by adulthood.  If this subsumption does not occur then the fear of heights remains.

Thought Field Therapy Treatment

A typical TFT algorithm treatment is conducted as follows:

  • The client is asked to think about their problem, thereby evoking any accompanying distress or discomfort. 
  • They are then asked to score that emotion on a 10 or 11 point Subjective Units of Distress (SUD) scale.  1 or 0 on these scales respectively is defined as the total absence of distress, with 10 as the maximum.  Children are asked to point to a position on a SUD chart or indicate the dimensions of their distress with their hands, in the same way as a fisherman would indicate the size of a fish.
  • The client is then asked to use two or three fingers to tap firmly, five to ten times, on specific meridian points as defined in the appropriate TFT algorithm or diagnosed sequence.  For example, these might be under the eye, just below the collarbone, the back of the hand, etc.
  • At this point the client is asked to evoke and score their distress once more.  In an uncomplicated treatment a client who reported a SUD of 10 to begin with will now report a 7.
  • A sequence known as the 9-gamut is then applied.  The client taps a meridian point on the back of the hand continuously whilst a series of nine actions, including various eye movements, are carried out.
  • Once again the client is asked to evoke and score their distress.  Typically, the SUD will now be reported as a 4.
  • The specific algorithm or diagnosed sequence is then repeated.

In a successful treatment the client will now report a SUD of 1 or 0 - or, quite often, say that they can no longer think about their problem.  This is, of course, impossible (as the act of trying means that they are thinking about it) and so is taken to be a SUD of 1.

Occasionally, no change in the SUD is reported at one or more stages of treatment.  This is indicative of the presence of Psychological Reversal.  Once the PR correction appropriate to the stage of treatment has been administered, the predicted change in the SUD then takes place.

As the reader will appreciate, to suggest that such a series of procedures will eliminate, say, a lifelong phobia is verging on the outrageous.  It is for this very reason that TFT fails to enjoy a significant, if any, placebo effect.  The vast majority of clients do not believe that the treatment will work.  When it does, the effect on the client is so profound that they are at pains to deny that it was TFT that led to the resolution of their problem and offer alternative reasons for their recovery.  In addition, the treatment procedures work with infants, young children and, it has been observed, with dogs, cats and horses .  It is highly unlikely that a placebo effect would be significant in such cases.  Whatever the viewpoint, the effects of TFT are predictable, saltatory, replicable by anyone and take place within minutes.

Ian Graham, BSc(Hons), CBiol, MIBiol, TFTdx, MBHA, MNHR

© 2000  Ian Graham, Roger J. Callahan
The contribution of Dr. R.J. Callahan PhD is gratefully acknowledged



Callahan, R.J. (2000)  Stop the Nightmares of Trauma.  Professional Press.
Callahan and Trubo (2000)  Tap the Healer Within.  Contemporary.


Callahan, R.J. (1996) Thought Field Therapy: The case of Mary.

TRAUMATOLOGYe Volume 3 Issue 1 - http://www.fsu.edu/~trauma/T039.html

Figley, C. and Carbonell, J. (1997) A systematic clinical demonstration of promising PTSD treatment approaches.

TRAUMATOLOGYe Volume 5 Issue 1 - http://www.fsu.edu/~trauma/promising.html

Pignotti, M. (2000) Helping Survivors Of Destructive Cults: Applications of Thought Field Therapy -

TRAUMATOLOGYe Volume 6 Issue 3 - http://www.fsu.edu/~trauma/v6i3/v6i3a5.html


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