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'Tapping' therapy: Does it work?

Some say it zaps their stress away

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There are claims that tapping relieves stress, phobias, food cravings, even post traumatic stress.  The popularity of this alternative therapy is skyrocketing, but you may want to find out more before you try tapping.

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 says.

Brittany Watkins suffered from emotional food cravings that were ruining her life.

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

Now both Watkins and Cramer say they're living free of their fears, thanks to an alternative psychotherapy treatment called EFT, "Emotional Freedom Technique" - also known as "tapping."

The practice involves stimulating certain acupressure points on the body while you focus on what's stressing you out.  It can be done with the aid of a therapist or alone during a moment of anxiety.

"It tells your body that 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," says Dawson Church PhD., Research Director of the Foundation for Epi Genetic Medicine.

EFT was introduced in the 1990s, but recently its popularity has surged. this year over a half million people signed up for the world tapping summit.

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

But the question remains: does it work?  Church and fellow tapping practitioners have published many small scale studies showing positive results.  One study is being published in the October Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. That study found 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," says Church.

But not all researchers are convinced.  A study out of Canada found that while tapping acupressure points did show a significant decrease in anxiety and fear,
tapping other parts of the body - or even a doll - offered similar results.

The American Psychological Association says many more large-scale, peer reviewed studies must be performed.

"Has this tapping therapy been proven effective? We don't think so at this point," says Rhea Farberman, Executive Director for Public and Member Communications with the American Psychological Association.

But both Watkins and Cramer say they've found their answers and are grateful that tapping has given them a new lease on life.

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

The American Psychological Association says stress and anxiety can be serious issues for some people, but are also highly treatable via proven psychotherapy techniques.  It suggests sufferers seek out a mental health professional with proper training and well-established techniques.  It does not consider EFT one of them.