‘Energy therapy’ project in school denounced as ‘psychobabble’

EmoTrance and other psychotherapeutic schemes must be evaluated scientifically, scholars say. Melanie Newman reports

November 11, 2009

A school initiative that trains children in “energy therapy” has been criticised as unscientific by two senior academics.

The “EmoTrance” project is taking place at the Haydon School in Pinner, Middlesex. Nineteen pupils are being trained in “emotional transformation”, which is described in a press release from EmoTrance.com as a “practical system for energy healing and energy working”.

Kathryn Ecclestone, professor of education and social inclusion at the University of Birmingham, said: “I would question the underlying scientific evidence for this. The fact that taxpayers’ money is being spent on programmes such as EmoTrance with no debate has to be a cause for concern.”

She called for a proper scientific evaluation of psychological interventions in schools.

David Colquhoun, professor of pharmacology at University College London and a campaigner against the teaching of pseudoscience in schools and universities, described EmoTrance as “psychobabble”.

“The ‘human energy fields’ referred to on the EmoTrance website are totally unknown to science,” he said. “How can kids be taught real science if their minds are corrupted by this sort of preposterous make-believe?”

The EmoTrance.com press release says the therapy helps students to “identify where emotions are held in their body”. It quotes one pupil as saying: “I felt hatred towards a person, yet when I went through EmoTrance after some layers of energy were removed I felt as if I could accept this person.”

The release adds that the pupils are practising the therapy on each other, having been “trained to Student Practitioner of EmoTrance level, which is fully recognised and licensed by the Sidereus Foundation”.

The Sidereus Foundation offers courses in “energy psychology”, “quantum mind healing” and reiki, which it teaches via “unique advanced distant quantum initiations”.

All the courses are based on the “revolutionary insights into how energy works” gained by Silvia Hartmann, whose website, http://silviahartmann.com/EmoTrance-Energy.php, has a section explaining the theory behind EmoTrance. It says: “In 2002, I had accumulated so many patterns and techniques, all based on a central understanding how the universe works, that it became necessary to create a framework for teaching this… After some considerable thought, I chose the basic technique of feeling energy directly through the body, and then FEELING what happens when you move this energy as the perfect introduction.”

Professor Ecclestone, who is directing a seminar series on emotional wellbeing that is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, said EmoTrance was the latest in a series of untested psychotherapeutic interventions being implemented in schools across the country.

“A huge amount of taxpayers’ money is being spent on training teachers, older children and external consultants to run an array of programmes,” she said. “Some schools are focusing on activities such as circle time or philosophy for children classes. Others devote time to psychodrama therapy workshops or train older children in basic counselling so that they can be peer mentors.”

She added: “It may well be that some of these activities have better scientific evidence than others. But their underlying claims about the poor state of children’s emotional wellbeing and the sweeping claims being made for the effectiveness of interventions by supporters who have a vested interest in promoting them need to be evaluated independently and debated publicly.”

Haydon School and EmoTrance declined to comment.

melanie.newman@tsleducation.com

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