The woman named Australian psychologist of the year hopes the honour will accelerate the acceptance of ‘tapping’ as a treatment for everything from smoking to depression.
Associate Professor Peta Stapleton of Bond University was recognised at the 2019 Australian Allied Health Awards in Melbourne at the weekend.
Dr Stapleton is a world authority on tapping, or Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), in which a patient taps their body with two fingers while reciting a statement.
It has been found to reduce food cravings and treat phobias, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety and chronic pain.
“Winning this is a big recognition of EFT and all the work I've done in tapping,” Dr Stapleton said.
“Psychology is a conservative profession in Australia but this award acknowledges other things that work outside of the square and are supported by evidence.
“For a national allied health organisation to recognise this contribution to psychology, that's what I'm most pleased about.”
Dr Stapleton conducted world-first randomised clinical trials into tapping as a treatment for food cravings in overweight and obese adults, including a fMRI brain scan study.
She said while tapping was available to many Australians with private health insurance, it was not yet covered by Medicare.
“But EFT has been recognised by Veterans Affairs in the US, the Canadian Psychotherapy Association, and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in the UK,” Dr Stapleton said.
“Unfortunately, Medicare typically won’t act until the American Psychological Association moves first.”
Tapping appears to affect the amygdala (the stress centre in the brain) and the hippocampus (memory centre).
Dr Stapleton said tapping would play a part in treating the looming ‘tsunami’ of chronic pain complaints worldwide.
“From a health issue point of view, chronic pain is the sunrise topic. It affects one in four adults and psychologists will play a significant role in future treatment.”
Dr Stapleton has 25 years of experience as a clinical and health psychologist and holds a Bachelor of Arts, a Postgraduate Diploma of Professional Psychology and a PhD.
In 2018 she won the Innovation and Technology Award at the Gold Coast Women in Business Awards.
Her most recent book is The Science Behind Tapping.
Queensland Mental Health Week runs from October 5-13.