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Will *this* help my child with anxiety?

You’ve probably seen ads on social media for “tapping” and wondered about it, especially if your child tends to be anxious, depressed or struggles with negative emotions. What is tapping really? Does it work? Is this studied and researched? How would your child benefit?

The Center for Advanced Pediatrics is here to explain what tapping is and what the research shows.

What is “tapping”?
Tapping is shorthand for Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and it was developed by Gary Craig, a Stanford engineer, in the mid-1990’s. It involves tapping in a regular sequence parts of the head, face and upper body using the fingertips to “balance energy and reduce physical and emotional pain.” These locations to be tapped are related to acupressure points.

What is EFT said to relieve?
EFT advocates say that the technique can relieve stress, anxiety, depression, and PTSD, and improve self-esteem and the sense of compassion. There are also EFT practitioners that say it can cure physical conditions like poor vision.

How does EFT work?
Participants focus on a single issue or concern and then rate their level of distress on a scale from 1 to 10. They then create a “Setup Statement” such as “Although I am anxious about my math class, I deeply and completely accept myself.” They then begin tapping the sequence while repeating reassuring words to stay focused during the tapping.

Does EFT work?
Maybe Yes. Some studies show that participants do find relief. A 2016 review of 14 different studies concluded that tappers experienced a significant decrease in anxiety. In one study, it was found that 90% of subjects who tapped found relief of symptoms as compared to just 63% of those who participated in cognitive behavioral therapy.

Maybe No. Very few of studies were completed by unbiased researchers. Study participants are often engaged in other behavioral and cognitive therapies at the same time. There may be no control or comparison group. Finally, in one study, less than 45% of initial participants completed their follow-up assessment.

Tapping is not approved by the American Psychological Association.

Maybe Maybe. Scientists and medical professionals posit that EFT works because focusing the mind on a single theme or task is calming in and of itself. Repeating a reassuring phrase also combats negative feelings, and is often used as a tool in talk therapy. It could be a placebo effect; tappers so want EFT to work that it does.

What does this mean for children?
The jury is still out on the effectiveness of EFT, though the anecdotal stories seem positive. However, whenever a child struggles with bullying, anxiety, depression, anger or other negative emotions, it’s time to see a medical professional. The psychological health of your child is vital for healthy social and academic development. Your child deserves a full medical and behavioral screening followed by reliable, proven care.

Dr. Dobos is fellowship trained and board certified in Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. He can help with talk therapy, give your child tools and techniques to focus on positive emotions and if necessary, prescribe medications that will help your child live a happier life.

Do you feel your child could benefit from behavioral health tools? Click here to make an appointment or call 203-229-2000. We are here to