Walmsley trial: Alternative medicine tapping technique in the spotlight

Frank Russell Walmsley trained as an Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) tapper and used it to get access to girls he abused.

Frank Russell Walmsley trained as an Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) tapper and used it to get access to girls he abused.

A practitioner of an alternative medicine put into the spotlight by convicted sex offender Frank Russell Walmsley says Child, Youth and Family (CYF) paid her to treat abused children.

CYF said it was unable to confirm on Wednesday if it had ever paid for the services of emotional freedom technique (EFT) practitioners.

Society for Science Based Healthcare co-founder Mark Honeychurch said he hoped it had not spent money on what was a fringe version of alternative medicine.

Any work contracted by government agencies to EFT practitioners not only lined their pockets but also legitimised what was an implausible method of healing, Honeychurch said.

Walmsley, 57, was on Tuesday found guilty in the High Court at Timaru on 52 charges of sexual and physical abuse against teenagers in his care in Oamaru.

The offending occurred against three girls and a boy between 1995 and 2000, when Walmsley was a CYF caregiver at the Tern St family home.

Between 2005 and 2012, Walmsley offended again, against four different girls this time, using EFT as a front to get access to them.

EFT, started in the 1990s by American man Gary Craig, involves speaking positive affirmations while tapping fingers on pressure points known as meridians around the head, chest and even armpits.

It has been likened to acupuncture, only without the needles, and practitioners extol its virtues in pain and trauma relief as well as fear conquering.

Some encourage sexual abuse survivors to use the technique to help reduce their suffering.

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It has been widely dismissed and described as 'quackery' by skeptics.

There are about 30 registered EFT practitioners in New Zealand who have agreed to abide by a code of ethics set out by the Association for the Advancement of Meridian Energy Techniques.

But according to one of three "internationally accredited" EFT trainers in the country, Liz Hart, there is no requirement for someone calling themselves an EFT practitioner to be registered and rogues exist.

Evidence presented at his trial suggested Walmsley had a certificate from an EFT course in Christchurch but did not appear to be registered.


Auckland-based Hart said she had been paid by CYF to treat children who had been affected by past traumas such as abuse.

The "gentle and safe" technique had been effective for the children and was becoming more accepted as a form of treatment, she said.

"You do have to be careful. People call themselves EFT practitioners after they watch a YouTube video or read a book and that's not an effective way to treat people."

Most EFT sessions lasted an hour and went through different points on the energy meridians as laid out by the Chinese, she said.

"Anyone who's had a fright might put their hand on their head or their chest because that's where we go to deal with emotions," Hart said.

"It's unlocking that through tapping and people use their own hands to do it, it's not like I'm poking them.

"I would like people to see it for the great value it brings to people's lives."

South Canterbury District Health Board chief executive Nigel Trainor said he recommended anyone looking at EFT contact their general practitioner first.

Honeychurch said it was hard to comprehend how anyone could believe EFT could heal them more than a placebo but without scientific backing wild claims could be made.

There were serious concerns about the fact anyone could call themselves a practitioner but even compulsory registration was a worry as it might legitimise it, he said.

Responding to the Walmsley verdict by email, EFT founder Gary Craig said all lists of dos and don'ts in a book or on a website were meaningless to someone who was bent on breaking the law.

 - Stuff

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