Two Columbia life coaches introduce an alternative mental health solution.
For Kelly Howe, the issue was professional burnout. After 10 years of nursing, she found herself plagued by anxiety and searching for a solution. Preferring a non-pharmaceutical answer, Kelly dove into self-help books. One book in particular grabbed her attention, “The Tapping Solution,” a 2013 piece by Nick Ortner.
Kelly describes the practice of tapping as she first learned it from Ortner’s book. While holding a stressful thought or experience in mind, a patient uses two or three fingers to rhythmically tap on specific points around the body. These spots are the same points stuck full of needles by acupuncturists — the top of the head, in between the eyebrows, under the nose, and on the chin. Tapping, however, is needle-free, utilizing steady pressure instead of puncturing the skin.
“When you use tapping, it sends a calming signal through your nervous system and regulates brain waves,” Kelly explains. “It’s a retraining of the nervous system so that you can be in a stressful environment and maintain your composure.”
Stimulating the nervous system during an episode of anxiety writes over the physical stress response, she says, resetting the body and mind to a state of calm.
For Kelly, her initial exposure to tapping was revolutionary. After learning the basics, she was able to tap on herself and rapidly decrease her work-related anxiety. From there, she decided to get professionally trained in the practice.
“It worked so quickly and so well,” she explains. “I couldn’t stop reading about it. I devoured every bit of information that I could about it. The closest training I could find was in Chicago.”
Kelly’s training process spanned four two-day weekends. During that time, she had to complete 50 case studies and 20 hours of practice on herself with a certified coach. Since her initial training, she has received a handful of additional certifications, such as a specific trauma-coaching certificate. Her local practice, Kelly Howe Coaching, has been providing Columbia with a tapping guide for the past five years.
A year ago, Nikki Aleto hit a breaking point after a drawn out fight with her mother. She entered an appointment with Kelly for consulting on her personal training business, but the meeting eventually drifted into a discussion of Nikki’s family stress. By the end, Kelly had coached Nikki through her first tapping session.
“We had such a big breakthrough,” Nikki says about that first appointment. “It seemed like this secret magic trick. But it’s a magic trick with a real, true-life result. I was like, this is it. This is what I need to be doing with my clients.” Kelly trained Nikki in the practice, and Nikki quickly integrated tapping into her own business, Nikki Aleto Coaching.
For Columbia’s two tapping experts, the possible applications of tapping are endless. They list tapping as a treatment for everything from anxiety and phobias to chronic pain and learning disabilities. They believe that bringing tapping to community spaces such as schools, hospitals, and law enforcement agencies could mitigate stress and trauma on a larger scale, as well. And while both experts advocate for tapping as a do-anywhere self-help tool, they also point out that practicing with a trained coach has its unique benefits. Nikki says that tapping with a coach allows a patient to unearth subconscious stress that’s hard to deal with alone.
Whether tapping individually or with a professional, Nikki and Kelly agree on the practice’s potential to advance mental and physical health.
“Every health professional should know about this,” Kelly says. “The reality is you can’t separate the mind and the body. It’s a mental health treatment, but it’s a beautiful way to integrate the physical body where so much of our culture separates it out.”