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Full Biography of Dawson Church, PhD

Dawson Church, PhD, is a health writer and researcher who has edited or authored a number of books in the fields of health, psychology, and spirituality. His principal works are The Genie in Your Genes, which reviews the research linking consciousness, emotion, and gene expression (USA BookNews “Best Health Book”), Mind to Matter, which examines the science of peak mental states (American Book Fest “Best Health Book”), and Bliss Brain, which demonstrates that “flow” states rapidly remodel the brain for happiness.

He has published many scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals, collaborating with scholars at various universities on outcome studies of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety. He is the editor of the peer-reviewed journal Energy Psychology: Theory, Research, and Treatment and general manager of Energy Psychology Press. Dr. Church is the founder and CEO of EFT Universe, one of the most-visited alternative medicine sites on the web. He is the science columnist for Unity magazine and his blog posts on the Huffington Post have been viewed by hundreds of thousands of readers.

In his undergraduate and graduate work at Baylor University, he became the first student ever to graduate from the academically rigorous University Scholar’s program in 1979. He earned his doctorate in Integrative Healthcare at Holos University under the mentorship of neurosurgeon Norman Shealy, MD, PhD, founder of the American Holistic Medical Association.

After an early career in book publishing as editor, then president, of Aslan Publishing, Church went on to receive a postgraduate doctorate (PhD) in Natural Medicine, as well as clinical certification in Energy Psychology (CEHP certification 2016). Church and Shealy co-authored the book Soul Medicine, which surveys the role of energy in healing from the earliest times to the modern day.

In 2007, Church founded the National Institute for Integrative Healthcare (NIIH), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit institution dedicated to education and research on evidence-based healing modalities. The two primary methods he uses are EcoMeditation and Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT acupressure tapping). He has worked with over a thousand pain clients, with average symptom reductions of 68% (Church & Brooks, 2010), and co-developed the Skinny Genes program which results in long-term weight loss (Church, Stapleton, et al., 2018).

In 2008, the National Institute for Integrative Healthcare initiated the Veterans Stress Solution, a clearinghouse to connect veterans suffering from PTSD with energy therapy practitioners. Over 21,000 veterans and family members have received counseling through the project, and Church has twice been invited to testify before US Congressional committees on efficacy of his work.

Dr. Church is a former president of the Family Connections, one of 53 nonprofits named as Points of Light by President Bill Clinton, and is also a member of the Transformational Leadership Council. Books on which he has worked have won over two dozen awards, including Best Health Book (Independent Press Awards) and Best Science Book (USA Booknews Awards). He has been quoted in USA Today, CNN, BBC, the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Parenting, and many other national media.

Research Studies

Dr. Dawson Church performed two pilot studies of EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD; Church, 2010a; Church, Geronilla, & Dinter, 2009). They demonstrated highly significant results despite a small sample size, indicating a robust treatment effect. This led to a randomized controlled trial, published in the oldest peer-reviewed psychiatry journal in North America, showing highly significant results (Church, Hawk, et al., 2013). It demonstrated that 86% of veterans with clinical PTSD were subclinical after six sessions of EFT and remained so on follow-up.

A concurrent study by an independent research team in Britain’s National Health Service (NHS; Karatzias et al., 2011) showed similar findings, indicating that EFT meets the criteria of the American Psychological Association (APA) Division 12 Task Force as an empirically validated treatment for PTSD (Chambless & Hollon, 1996; Feinstein, 2012). An independent replication of Church’s PTSD study found similar results (Geronilla et al., 2016).

Church collaborated with Garret Yount, PhD, a molecular biologist at California Pacific Medical Center, and professor Audrey Brooks, PhD, a research psychologist at the University of Arizona at Tucson, on a novel study of stress hormones (Church, Yount, & Brooks, 2012). This triple-blind randomized controlled trial, published in the peer-reviewed psychiatry Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, compared salivary cortisol levels in 83 subjects who received an hour of either talk therapy, EFT, or rest. Anxiety and depression declined more than twice as much in the EFT group as the talk therapy group, while cortisol dropped significantly. This led to a study of gene expression which found that EFT is associated with upregulation of immunity and anti-inflammatory genes (Church, Yount, et al., 2016).

Church has also published studies of PTSD in teens (Church, Piña, et al., 2010), depression in college students (Church, De Asis, & Brooks, 2012), and the delivery of EFT in groups (Church & Brooks, 2014). Some of his other studies have found significant improvements in mental health, pain, weight loss, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and addictive cravings (Church, 2014; Church & Brooks, 2013; Church & Palmer-Hoffman, 2012; Church, Stapleton, et al., 2018; Stapleton, Church, et al., 2013). A study of PTSD symptoms in 218 veterans and spouses who received group EFT found most were sub-clinical after treatment (Church & Brooks, 2014). A study of 216 healthcare workers published in the journal Integrative Medicine demonstrated a highly significant 45% drop in psychological symptoms after EFT group treatment (Church & Brooks, 2010). These results are consistent with reports by other independent research teams (Palmer-Hoffman & Brooks, 2011; Rowe, 2005).

Church conducted and published the first study of EFT for sports performance, finding that a single brief session of EFT significantly improved the free throw performance of basketball players (Church, 2009). An independent replication using soccer free kicks as the performance measure found similar results (Llewellyn-Edwards & Llewellyn-Edwards, 2012). Another study in which Church was co-investigator found an increase in confidence and a decrease in anxiety in female volleyball players (Church & Downs, 2012). This led to Church writing the authoritative guide to EFT, The EFT Manual (3rd edition), as well as a series of books applying EFT to common problems such as PTSD, weight loss, and sports performance.

Church has also contributed to reviews of Energy Psychology research published in APA and A4M (American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine) journals, emphasizing the medical benefits of effective psychotherapy (Church, 2010b; Church, 2013; Feinstein & Church, 2010). In a paper reviewing the research base of Energy Psychology for PTSD, Church concludes that treatment is distinguished by seven characteristics (Church & Feinstein, 2013). These are: 

  1. the limited number of treatment sessions usually required to remediate PTSD; 
  2. the depth, breadth, and longevity of treatment effects; 
  3. the low risk of adverse events; 
  4. the limited commitment to training required for basic application of the method; 
  5. its efficacy when delivered in group format; 
  6. its simultaneous effect on a wide range of psychological and physiological symptoms; and 
  7. its suitability for nontraditional delivery methods such as online and telephone sessions.

Studying dieters, Church found that they continued to lose weight in the year after learning EFT (Church, Stapleton,  et al., 2018). This runs counter to the results measured in studies of conventional methods, which find that virtually all dieters regain their lost weight. When used as group therapy, symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD declined simultaneously, making EFT treatment both effective and efficient (Church & House, 2018).

Church has recently directed his research interest to meditation. He developed a simple meditation technique called EcoMeditation based on physiological cues rather than spiritual or religious practices. Pilot studies show that it regulates biomarkers of general physical health as well as anxiety and depression (Bach et al., 2016; Groesbeck et al., 2018). He has a regular daily practice incorporating both EFT and EcoMeditation and, in his books, advocates these and other stress-reduction methods.

Other Interests

Church has three children — Lionel, Angela, and Alexander. He has written in his books about his rich experience of parenting. 

He travels extensively with his wife, Christine, lecturing on epigenetics, EFT, and family relationships. 

He sits on the dissertation committees of graduate students at a number of universities and regularly consults with other investigators on research design. 

His hobbies include kayaking, weight lifting, and classic vehicle rally driving.

Reviews by Luminaries in the Field

References

Bach, D., Groesbeck, G., Stapleton, P., Church, D., & Sims, R. (2016). Clinical EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) improves multiple physiological markers of health. Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine, 24. doi:10.1177/2515690X18823691

Chambless, D. L., & Hollon, S. D. (1996). Defining empirically supported therapies. Journal of Clinical and Consulting Psychology, 66(1), 7-18.

Church, D. (2009). The effect of EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) on athletic performance: A randomized controlled blind trial. Open Sports Sciences, 2, 94-99. doi:10.2174/1875399X00902010094

Church, D. (2010a). The treatment of combat trauma in veterans using EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques): A pilot protocol. Traumatology, 16(1), 55-65. doi:10.1177/1534765609347549

Church, D. (2010b). Your DNA is not your destiny: Behavioral epigenetics and the role of emotions in health. In R. Klatz & R. Goldman (Eds.), Anti-aging therapeutics (Vol. 13, pp. 35-42). Chicago, IL: A4M (American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine).

Church, D. (2013). Clinical EFT as an evidence-based practice for the treatment of psychological and physiological conditions. Psychology, 4(8), 645-654. doi:10.4236/psych.2013.48092

Church, D. (2014). Reductions in pain, depression, and anxiety symptoms after PTSD remediation in veterans. Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, 10(3), 162-169.

Church, D., & Brooks, A. J. (2010). The effect of a brief EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) self-intervention on anxiety, depression, pain and cravings in healthcare workers. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal, 9(5), 40-44.

Church, D., & Brooks, A. J. (2013). The effect of EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) on psychological symptoms in addiction treatment: A pilot study. International Journal of Scientific Research and Reports, 2(1), 315-323. doi:10.9734/JSRR/2013/3500

Church, D., & Brooks, A. J. (2014). CAM and energy psychology techniques remediate PTSD symptoms in veterans and spouses. Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, 10(1), 24-33. doi:10.1016/j.explore.2013.10.006

Church, D., De Asis, M. A., & Brooks, A. J. (2012). Brief group intervention using Emotional Freedom Techniques for depression in college students: A randomized controlled trial. Depression Research and Treatment2012, 1-7. doi:10.1155/2012/25717.

Church, D., & Downs, D. (2012). Sports confidence and critical incident intensity after a brief application of Emotional Freedom Techniques: A pilot study. Sport Journal, 15(1).

Church, D., & Feinstein, D. (2013). Energy psychology in the treatment of PTSD: Psychobiology and clinical principles. In T. Van Leeuwen & M. Brouwer (Eds.), Psychology of trauma (pp. 211-224). Hauppage, NY: Nova Science.

Church, D., Geronilla, L., & Dinter, I. (2009). Psychological symptom change in veterans after six sessions of EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques): An observational study. International Journal of Healing and Caring, 9(1), 1-14.

Church, D., Hawk, C., Brooks, A., Toukolehto, O., Wren, M., Dinter, I., & Stein, P. (2013). Psychological trauma in veterans using EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques): A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 201, 153-160. doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e31827f6351.

Church, D., & House, D. (2018). Borrowing benefits: Group treatment with Clinical Emotional Freedom Techniques is associated with simultaneous reductions in posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression symptoms. Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine, 23. doi:10.1177/2156587218756510

Church, D., & Palmer-Hoffman, J. (2012). TBI symptoms improve after PTSD remediation with Emotional Freedom Techniques. Traumatology, 20(3), 172-181.

Church, D., Piña, O., Reategui, C., & Brooks, A. (2012). Single session reduction of the intensity of traumatic memories in abused adolescents after EFT: A randomized controlled pilot study. Traumatology, 18(3), 73-79. doi:10.1177/1534765611426788

Church, D., Stapleton, P., Sheppard, L., & Carter, B. (2018). Naturally Thin You: Weight loss and psychological symptoms after a six-week online Clinical EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) course. Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, 14(2), 131-136. doi:10.1016/j.explore.2017.10.009

Church, D., Yount, G., & Brooks, A. J. (2012). The effect of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) on stress biochemistry: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. 200(10), 891-896. doi:10.1097/NMD.0b013e31826b9fc1

Church, D., Yount, G., Rachlin, K., Fox, L., & Nelms, J. (2016). Epigenetic effects of PTSD remediation in veterans using Clinical Emotional Freedom Techniques: A randomized controlled pilot study. American Journal of Health Promotion, 1-11. doi:10.1177/0890117116661154

Feinstein, D. (2012). Acupoint stimulation in treating psychological disorders: Evidence of efficacy. Review of General Psychology, 16(4), 364-380. doi:10.1037/a0028602

Feinstein, D., & Church, D. (2010) Modulating gene expression through psychotherapy: The contribution of non-invasive somatic interventions. Review of General Psychology, 14, 283-295.

Geronilla, L., Minewiser, L., Mollon, P., McWilliams, M., & Clond, M. (2016). EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) remediates PTSD and psychological symptoms in veterans: A randomized controlled replication trial. Energy Psychology: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 8(2), 29–41.

Groesbeck, G., Bach, D., Stapleton, P., Blickheuser, K., Church, D., & Sims, R. (2018). The interrelated physiological and psychological effects of EcoMeditation. Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 23. doi:10.1177/2515690X18759626

Karatzias, T., Power, K., Brown, K., McGoldrick, T., Begum, M., Young, J., … Adams, S. (2011). A controlled comparison of the effectiveness and efficiency of two psychological therapies for posttraumatic stress disorder: Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing vs. emotional freedom techniques. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 199(6), 372-378.

Llewellyn-Edwards, T., & Llewellyn-Edwards, M. (2012). The effect of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) on soccer performance. Fidelity: Journal for the National Council of Psychotherapy, 47, 14-21.

Palmer-Hoffman, J., & Brooks, A. J. (2011). Psychological symptom change after group application of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). Energy Psychology: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 3(1), 33-38. doi:10.9769.EPJ.2011.3.1.JPH

Rowe, J. E. (2005). The effects of EFT on long-term psychological symptoms. Counseling and Clinical Psychology, 2(3), 104-111.

Stapleton, P., Church, D., Sheldon, T., Porter, B., & Carlopio, C. (2013). Depression symptoms improve after successful weight loss with EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques): A randomized controlled trial. ISRN Psychiatry, 2013, 573532. doi:10.1155/2013/573532