Experts are calling on the NHS to start using a new self-help technique, called tapping, after its effectiveness in treating a number of conditions was proved.
The technique is also known as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). It involves tapping acupressure points on the head and hands, and is showing promise as an effective form of therapy for anxiety, depression and anger.
Researchers at Staffordshire University are leading research into the effectiveness of EFT in the UK.
Professor Tony Stewart, who led a trial of the treatment in the Birmingham area, said: ‘EFT is a new and emerging therapy that can be 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 EFT is 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 the use of EFT should now be extended.’
The researchers studied 39 patients during the trial and say that most improved significantly as a result of the treatment.
Dr Ian Walton, GP and mental health lead for Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group, said: ‘The effective 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.’
The researchers say that one of the key benefits of EFT is that, once learnt, it can be easily self-administered meaning patients can use it on themselves for any issue, whenever it is required.
A further study using Staffordshire University students has provided evidence that EFT could also boost performance in pressurised conditions.
Some 100 students were approached randomly to either receive an inspirational lecture or an EFT session ahead of giving a marked presentation.
The 50 students who received the EFT remained calmer and achieved higher results.
On average, it has been determined that just over five sessions are required to treat clients. This compares well with other therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), where between six 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, said: ‘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 further good quality studies into EFT would confirm its effectiveness, safety and potential within the NHS.
‘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 research was published in the Journal of Psychological Therapies in Primary Care.