Saturday, March 31, 2018
Did the Pendulation Chicken Come Before the Emotional Shuttling Egg?
Who lives may learn, we are told, and I am constantly learning new things about alternative psychotherapies. I used to think they were rather separate entities, one splitting off as a “heresy” from another, but the more I consider them, the more I see how much they have in common. I mentioned this a few days ago with respect to one of Bruce Perry’s themes, that a rhythm that resembles a maternal heartbeat can “reset” lower brain functions to normal after they have been distorted by trauma. Like many pseudoscientific ideas, this one has a foot in real science, because human rhythms of breathing or movement can be “entrained’ to other rhythms that they come to match. We use entrainment to soothe babies by rocking, singing, and patting, because we can override the baby’s (upset) tempo and bring it down to our calmer one. But Perry overgeneralizes from the fact of entrainment and decides that rhythms must shape the brain in a powerful, even permanent way—just as practitioners of thought field therapy (TFT) believe that physical tapping at certain rhythms on certain areas of the body can alter psychological functioning. These claims are without any acceptable evidence basis and that’s why we call them pseudoscientific.
Yesterday I had various reasons to be looking into Internal Family Systems therapy (IFS; see https://selfleadership.org/evidence-based-practice.html, a pseudoscientific treatment that claims to treat not just family relationships, but the dissociated “parts” inside a person’s mind. Apparently IFS makes use of “somatic experiencing” and a technique called “pendulation”, in which there is “movement between regulation and dysregulation. The client is helped to move to a state where he or she is dysregulated (i.e. is aroused or frozen, demonstrated by physical symptoms such as pain or numbness) and then iteratively helped to return to a state of regulation” ((https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Somatic_experiencing
At https://selfleadership.org/evidence-based-practice.html, proponents of IFS state that their techniques are evidence-based. Their reasoning is that IFS is listed on the National Registry of Evidence-based Practices and Programs (NREPP), a registry supported by SAMHSA, and if it’s on the registry of evidence-based practices, surely it must be evidence-based. But… awkwardly enough, not everything on NREPP is evidence-based in the sense of being supported by two well-designed, well-implemented randomized controlled trial studies. There are various levels of evidence on NREPP, as there are on other similar sites. In fact, examination of the NREPP material on IFS (https://nrepp.samhsa.gov/ProgramProfile.aspx?id=1) shows that IFS is only rated as “promising” (the third level of evidence), on the basis of one study published in Journal of Rheumatology, not in a psychiatry or psychology journal. Either the authors of the IFS site don’t understand what levels of evidence mean, or they are counting on the strong possibility that their readers won’t know—so, caveat lector!