Alternative tapping technique good for mental health

"A growing number of studies suggest that EFT may be an effective and safe treatment, and with the predicted sharp increase in the demand for mental health services – and a corresponding decrease in NHS resources - we feel that more EFT studies should now be carried out in other NHS Trusts."

Professor Tony Stewart

A technique which involves tapping acupressure points on the head and hands is showing promise as a potentially useful form of therapy in cases of anxiety, depression and anger, a new clinical NHS study has found.

Staffordshire University is pioneering the research into the effectiveness of  Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) or tapping in the UK. Professor Tony Stewart, who led an evaluation at Sandwell PCT, said: "EFT is a new and emerging therapy that has been used to treat a wide variety of conditions. Patients gently tap with their fingertips on acupressure points, mainly on the head and hands, and relate this to the voicing of specific statements."

"A growing number of studies suggest that EFT may be an effective and safe treatment, and with the predicted sharp increase in the demand for mental health services – and a corresponding decrease in NHS resources - we feel that more EFT studies should now be carried out in other NHS Trusts."

In 39 cases presented during the study, published in the Journal of Psychological Therapies in Primary Care, participants on average improved significantly after their sessions.  Its success has led to some existing therapists at Sandwell being trained to deliver EFT as part of their therapy toolkit.

Dr Ian Walton, GP and mental health lead for Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group, said: "The successful use of EFT demonstrated in this study has not only influenced counsellors and therapists in Sandwell to be trained to use this method of treatment, but also local mental health charities are seeing the value in being trained to use EFT in the work that they do."

Mark Willets, 39, was first referred to Professor Stewart with depression in 2012 after it started to impact on his family life. He said: "I would describe the impact of these sessions like emotional first aid; it would allow me to refocus when I found myself hitting a bad patch and it brought me back into rational thinking.

"I would say it created a cognitive shift and allowed me to gain a better perspective on the things I had achieved and really helped me to see more clearly and become calm and rational," added Mark.

One of the benefits of EFT is, once learned, it is easily self-administered, and clients can continue to use EFT on themselves, as and when required. The study reported that on average just over five sessions were required to treat clients. This compares well with other therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, where between 6 and 20 sessions may be required, depending on the condition and severity.

Dr Liz Boath, Associate Professor in the School of Social Work, Allied and Public Health at Staffordshire University, added: "Both clinical and statistical significance have been demonstrated through our studies, the findings of which have been presented at three NHS conferences. Our view is that all new therapies and treatments start with little or no evidence, and good quality studies into EFT within the NHS are required to explore its effectiveness, safety and potential."

"It may be a bridge too far for now, but we also feel that EFT could be delivered within communities to provide fast access to mental health services."

• The team from Staffordshire University are evaluating emerging alternative techniques and their potential use in the NHS.

Contact

Maria Scrivens
Media Relations Manager
Marketing and Public Relations
L600, Flaxman Building
College Road
Stoke-on-Trent
ST4 2DE
t: +44 (0)1782 294375
m: 07766 520339
e: m.c.scrivens@staffs.ac.uk