Does new treatment called 'tapping' really relieve stress?

December 7, 2012 5:00:22 PM PST
When the holidays get stressful, people try all kinds of ways to relax, including some you probably haven't heard of.

This procedure is like acupuncture without the needles, according to the people who use it. It's called tapping, and while some say this alternative stress treatment works, others say don't count on it.

Christine Cramer used to suffer from such severe anxiety she was unable to perform simple tasks like doing her taxes or driving over bridges.

"I became paralyzed with fear," she said.

Brittany Watkins suffered from emotional food cravings.

"Every time I was stressed or emotional or upset, I would always look for sweets to make me feel better," Watkins said.

But now both women say they're living free of their fears, thanks to an alternative psychotherapy treatment called EFT, or "Emotional Freedom Technique." The practice is also known as "tapping."

"It tells your body that stressful thought you're having isn't a real threat to your survival. And once you break the association in your mind between the stressful thought and the fight or flight response one time, it stays broken," said Dr. Dawson Church, research director of the Foundation for EPI.

But the question remains: Does it work?

Church and fellow tapping practitioners have published many small studies showing positive results.

"I believe within a few years, we'll see it in many hospitals, many mental health clinics," Church said.

One found that stress hormone levels dropped 24 percent after tapping. No drop was found in the control group.

"So their internal stress biochemistry changed as their emotional states changed as well," Church said.

But not everyone is convinced.

A Canadian study found that tapping acupuncture points did show a decrease in anxiety and fear. Tapping other parts of the body offered similar results.

"Has this tapping therapy been proven effectiv? We don't think so at this point," said Rhea Farberman with the American Psychological Association.

But Watkins says she's grateful for the treatment.

"Rather than popping a pill, we can tap a couple acupressure points and immediately neutralize any negative, negative symptom we have -- that's amazing," Watkins said.

The American Psychological Association says stress is treatable with proven psychotherapy techniques. But the APA says it does not consider tapping one of those stress-relieving techniques.


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