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Tapping Seems Weird, but It Might Help Your Teen With Anxiety

Tapping, also known as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), may seem strange. How can tapping on your head, your eyebrows, or your armpit help with anxiety or pain or anything?

I hear you. I was skeptical too when I first learned about Tapping at a mental health conference. But my skepticism evaporated pretty quickly. It turns out Tapping has some science behind it, and it seems to be pretty effective for some people.

Here is a short explanation of tapping from the Tapping Solution: “The basic technique requires you to focus on the negative emotion at hand: a fear or anxiety, a bad memory, an unresolved problem, or anything that’s bothering you. While maintaining your mental focus on this issue, use your fingertips to tap 5-7 times on each of the 9 specific meridian points of the body.”

I know, it still sounds weird. BUT stick with me because this is an easy to learn and easy to implement tool that may help reduce your teen’s anxiety.

Here’s what I like about Tapping:

It’s easy to learn

It’s easy to implement

You can learn and practice under a therapist’s care, but can also do it on your own.

It can’t hurt you in any way

The amount of research on the effectiveness of EFT Tapping has been growing. I will not dig deep into the research in this post. But if you are interested, HERE is one example of the research into the effectiveness of tapping.

Why does EFT Tapping work to reduce anxiety, reduce pain, and other specific symptoms. Here are some possible reasons:

When you stop to notice what is happening in your body and acknowledge it, that alone can calm you down, “I’m anxious about the math test and my stomach hurts.” (Name It to Tame It)

Acceptance, of your feelings, and of your anxiety itself, can promote well-being and reduce anxiety. I often talk to parents about the importance of validating their teen's feelings- letting them know that it is OK to feel what they feel, without judgment. "You're sad about your break up with Jimmy." "You're disappointed that you didn't get invited to the party." Tapping includes an element of self-validation, “Even though I am freaking out because I have a job interview tomorrow, and I feel tense and a little nauseous, I deeply and completely accept myself.”

Acupuncture is a treatment which uses needles to stimulate acupressure points on the body. There’s research on the effectiveness of acupuncture for helping with certain conditions. Tapping uses a small portion of the same acupressure points, replacing the

use of needles with tapping fingers. Whatever makes acupuncture effective may also contribute to the benefits of tapping.

Here is why I think Tapping is a very teen-friendly therapeutic strategy:

Tapping has a physical movement component (tapping), which a lot of teens like because you are actually ‘doing’ something.

It is quick, which a lot of teens like because they are in a hurry to fill-in-the-blank.

It can be done anywhere, any time without any equipment. I spoke to a school counselor who teaches Tapping to middle school students. If they are at their desk, she encourages them to do this variation: tap on the karate chop point on their hand, and say the words in their head rather than out loud.

It does not require any huge buy-in from your teen. They do not have to ‘believe’ in EFT Tapping in order for it to be effective.

There is absolutely 100% nothing bad or negative that can happen from practicing EFT. The worst result is that you do not notice a result.

Here is a quick overview of the Tapping steps:

1. Identify the Issue: Name the problem or emotion you want to target. Be specific, and it is best to focus on only one issue at a time. “I’m anxious about this English presentation and I feel like I might throw up.”

2. Rate the intensity of the issue: On a scale of 1–10, how significant is the problem for you (#1 means it it barely an issue at all and 10 means it is a huge issue causing big problems for you.) You do not have to do the rating, but I recommend it because it can help you notice subtle changes. If you rate your issue an 8 the first time you tap, and then the third time you rate it a 5, your self rating is telling you there is some improvement.

3. Prepare your statement: The basic structure is “Even though I feel __________ (fill in the blank with the problem or emotion you’re dealing with), I deeply and completely accept myself.” While you repeat your affirmation you start by tapping on your hand, specifically on the fleshy part on the outer edge of your palm under your pinky finger (EFT calls this spot the karate chop)

4. Do the Tapping Sequence: During a tapping sequence you will tap your finger over nine key acupressure points. Use two or more fingers (usually the middle and index finger), and apply gentle but firm taps. Keep speaking out loud while you’re tapping, repeating your statement phrase or just part of it- “feeling anxious and sick about the presentation.” After starting with the karate chop side of the hand, the points you tap are: Top of the head (if you were a puppet, exactly in the middle where your string would be!), Inside edge of eyebrow, side of the eye, under the eye, under the nose, between mouth and chin (the indent spot), collarbone point, and on side of body under the arm. I have also seen the sequence done with the top of the head at the end instead. I don’t think that matters much. HERE is my super simple diagram of the tapping points with some pointers about the process. You can also find many tapping point diagrams with an online search.

5. Check-in: When you finish a round of tapping, notice how you are feeling and re-rate the problem on the 1–10 scale.

6. Repeat the Process: If you still need to or want to, do another round or more of tapping. Again, it can’t hurt you in any way, so do what is comfortable for you.

HERE is a short video explanation of the process It is easier to explain in a video, and this one from Nick Ortner of the Tapping Solution is short and sweet. It really is as easy as it looks.

HERE is a podcast episode from the Thoughtful Counselor podcast about helping school aged children with anxiety. I am including it here because Dr. Amy Gaessner talks about her experience discovering the effectiveness of EFT Tapping. The whole episode is good, but she starts talking about EFT at about 22 minutes into the podcast. She started out as a skeptic, thinking, “cool placebo effect.” Her explanation about how she grew to believe in Tapping as an effective therapy may raise your confidence about the effectiveness of Tapping.

And of course, even if you read all of this and still think, “Cool placebo effect,” remember that the placebo effect is real. From a Harvard Health Publishing article: “Recent research on the placebo effect only confirms how powerful it can be — and that the benefits of a placebo treatment aren’t just ‘all in your head.'

Parenting the Big Kids offers a free 30 minute EFT Tapping guided practice for teens or parents of teens. Contact to schedule.

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