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“IS THERAPY FACING A REVOLUTION”

 Dr. Peta Stapleton

Understanding the concept

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A Detailed Overview

THE next time you feel completely stressed out of your mind, you want everything to go away, you want to curl up in a ball; if you could radically reduce that feeling in minutes and at the same time change your DNA expression, improve your immune function and lower the stress cortisol in your body, would that keep your interest for the next 15 minutes. Now it turns out there is a way and it emerged in the 1970's, but it upset the mainstream therapies because quite frankly it was a little bit weird. Now terms emotional freedom techniques or EFT we often call it tapping because it describes the stimulation of acupuncture points on the body. But before we get any further, let's talk about those mainstream therapies. You may know there's been three great waves if you like, and we really did start in the beginning with Freud and you might recall we used to lie on the couch and have our therapy lying down but after that came what we call the behavioral lists and you may have heard of Pavlov who used to ring the bell when his dogs salivated when he presented them with his food and of course after that we had Skinner, who used to do experiments on rats and then what we've seen in the third Great Wave of psychotherapy is the cognitive approach. So cognitive behavioral therapy is where really what we've learnt is that your thoughts impact your feelings and of course that changes your behavior and your physiology and now we have blends such as mindfulness, but there could be a fourth wave that is emerging and these represent the body based somatic therapies. You may have heard of EMDR, the eye movement desensitization reprocessing therapy; and now what I'm proposing is that EFT or this tapping technique may well be part of that fourth wave. So back in the day 1970s in the 80s trying to explain to somebody how EFT worked used phrases such as the body's energy system and meridians because that philosophy was grounded in Eastern approaches acupuncture, but let me tell you at an academic level and certainly out there in the medical field that was not well accepted. People glazed over quite frequently with those types of phrases, but we've now had the last 10 to 15 years clinical trials that are demonstrating that tapping on or stimulating acupressure points on the body can change DNA expression, can radically reduce your stress hormone cortisol and can even change your brains pathways. So I want to tell you a little bit more about that today, but let's come back to where I started when I was fresh out of university clinical and a health psychologist, very conservative, I certainly wasn't looking for anything weird but I had a colleague who reached out to me when I was working in the area of eating disorders, a fairly clinical areawe've now had the last 10 to 15 years clinical trials that are demonstrating that tapping on or stimulating acupressure points on the body can change DNA expression can radically reduce your stress hormone cortisol can even change your brains pathways so I want to tell you a little bit more about that today But let's come back to where I started when I was fresh out of university, a clinical and a health psychologist, very conservative, I certainly wasn't looking for anything weird. But I had a colleague who reached out to me when I was working in the area of eating disorders, a fairly clinical area and a difficult area to work in. But the mainstream therapies were failing me so I really probably was looking at some other level. Now my colleague was a patient man. It was back in the day of dial-up internet do you remember how slow that was; I wasn't that patient; he reached out and said look I have come across something, it is a little bit strange but I think there might be something in this. Now I promptly ignored everything that was coming out of his mouth at that point; he'd used the words weird and strange. Several months later, fast forward, he's assisting me at an eating disorder support group; so we would regularly have 30 and 40 women turn up with eating disorders for these free weekly groups; so he was assisting me .I'm in the middle of teaching a lesson and one of the young girls in the group had a panic attack. He gestured he would take her off just to the side and try to help her come down while I kept teaching. Now they were back within about five minutes and she was so calm and composed I was absolutely certain he'd given her some medication, must have had some valium in his back pocket.At the end of the night everyone goes home and I'm fairly keen to find out what happened. "Did you have some medication"?, he said "No, I did that weird tapping thing I've been trying to tell you about. I said "Okay, I suspended my disbelief"at that point long enough to learn a little bit more and now of course as an academic I've spent the last 10 years researching the impact of tapping on acupressure points for food cravings and emotional eating. So tapping actually works and what we do to begin with is we normally do it when we have something we want to change. So if that could be a distressed feeling it could certainly be a food craving, but it could be chronic pain; it could be any one of those elements that we're wanting to do something about, so we normally give that a rating out of 10, so zero would represent I'm completely calm, but 10 would represent the absolute most level of distress, craving, pain, whatever it might be, so we subjectively give that a rating. We then tap on a number of pressure points and make what we might say is a counterintuitive statement concerning the problem that we are addressing. Harvard University has actually done a 10-year research trial on acupuncture points on the body and what they have shown through their brain scans and their research and clinical trials is that stimulation of these pressure points send a signal back to the stress center in your brain called the amygdala and it tells it to calm down. So after tapping on something like a food craving, that part of the brain no longer sends out that response, so the urge regarding the problem diminishes and eventually disappears. We now have 10 years with the clinical trials across a range of different areas that show not only things like DNA change, stress ,and hormones, but of course those emotional feelings that people have. I want to draw your focus to three reasons I think tapping and particularly the body based therapies may well represent this fourth wave that's coming through in the therapeutic space. And look, it could be somewhat of a disruption but we are definitely creating change in this area. So the first reason is that tapping is definitely somatic, it is body based; the second one is, it works remarkably fast and the third one is it has this unique ability to update the brain's learnings; so let's have a look at them in turn.

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