Imagine being able to instantly zap all your stress and anxiety away with just a simple touch of your fingers. Sounds too good to be true, right?
Promoters of a new form of psychotherapy called "tapping" say it works, though. They claim it relieves stress, phobias, food cravings --- even post traumatic stress.
The popularity of this alternative therapy is skyrocketing, too. But many licensed mental health counselors are skeptical.
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 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 recalled.
Now both women say they're living free of their fears thanks "tapping," which goes by the scientific name Emotional Freedom Technique, or EFT. 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," said Dawson Church, the research director at the Foundation for Epi Genetic Medicine. "And once you break the association in your mind between the stressful thought and the fight or flight response one time, it stays broken."
EFT was introduced in the 1990s. But recently its popularity has surged. This year, more than 500,000 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," said Church.
But the question remains: Does it work?
Church and fellow tapping practitioners have published many small-scale studies showing positive results. In fact, one is being published this month in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease which finds that stress hormone levels dropped 24% 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 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 the tapping therapy been proven effective? We don't think so at this point," said Rhea Farberman, a spokesperson for the APA.
But Brittany and Christine say they've found their answers. And they're 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 symptom we have," said Watkins. "That's amazing!"
The APA says stress and anxiety can be serious issues for some people but are highly treatable via proven psychotherapy techniques. They do not consider EFT one of those techniques.
If you don't have health insurance, try these resources below for mental health therapy offered for free or at a reduced cost: