Healing Touch, a practice based on the belief that humans have associated fields of energy, or biofields, that interact with other people and the environment in general, is categorized as an energy therapy, which is one type of alternative therapy approach.
The reestablishment of healthy energy fields is said to promote health throughout the body, mind and spirit. Practitioners of Healing Touch therapy aim to correct any dysfunctions in these biofields, using their hands to interact with them directly. This approach to healing is often used in combination with other alternative health treatments and as a complementary approach with modern medical therapies.
What Is Healing Touch?
Developed in the late 1980s by American nurse Janet Mentgen, Healing Touch has been in use as an alternative therapy since. The theories supporting alternative therapies—techniques outside of what are considered mainstream approaches in Western medicine—are often hard to verify scientifically. Some, like Healing Touch, are supported by anecdotal evidence from therapy recipients, however, and have been associated with significant improvements in both physical and psychological well-being.
As a form of energy therapy, Healing Touch can be described using a variety of existing frameworks from the fields of holistic medicine and quantum physics, among others. While the terminologies may vary between methods, the basic tenets remain the same: Body energy, which is associated with overall well-being, can be manipulated through interactions with the practitioner’s own energy fields. Like many other approach to energy-based healing, Healing Touch has its roots in shamanistic medicinal traditions and Asian healing approaches such as acupuncture and qigong.
What To Expect from a Healing Touch Session
Typical full-body Healing Touch sessions last from 40 to 60 minutes but may be shorter when treatment is focused on localized injuries. The first session, which begins with an interview process that takes additional time, is generally longer. During the interview, the practitioner will take note of the person’s physical, psychological, and spiritual health as it relates to their stated goals for the treatment. They will also answer any questions the person may have about Healing Touch therapy. The overall introductory experience is designed to help establish a sense of relaxation and trust that will support the session and any that take place in the future.
Clients, who remain fully clothed throughout the process, traditionally lie face-up on a massage table to begin a full-body Healing Touch session. Practitioners move their hands across the surface of body areas either by using gentle touch or by remaining slightly above the surface of the body, where (theoretically) the energy fields may be manipulated without directly touching the skin. Through this process, Healing Touch therapists attempt to assess a person for imbalances and then use this information to choose the appropriate techniques for each individual session, whether through the use of gentle or near-touch using the hands.
At the end of the first session, the initial energy assessment will be repeated, and the Healing Touch therapist will discuss the results with the client and answer their questions before scheduling future sessions.
Benefits of Healing Touch
Available research suggests Healing Touch may be beneficial in any number of medical situations, when combined with usual medical treatment (Healing Touch is not considered a substitute for standard care).
Anecdotal evidence supports the use of Healing Touch during recovery from medical procedures and when wounds are healing, for those who experience chronic or acute pain, as a treatment for fibromyalgia, to address sleep issues, to help reduce fatigue from cancer treatments, and to enhance the immune system. Some research has also indicated it can have the benefit of promoting relaxation, when provided before medical procedures
Clients who have received Healing Touch therapy treatments often report subjective improvements in their overall well-being, such as:
- Reduced stress
- Diminished symptoms of anxiety and depression
- Strengthened spirituality
- Reduced pain
Precautions to Consider with Healing Touch
This non-invasive approach to energy-based healing is not known to not carry any inherent risks. The physical aspect of the therapy is minimal and can even be done without, in the case that a client does not wish to be touched.
However, people participating in Healing Touch therapy should be advised that they may experience momentary intensification of the symptoms being treated during their sessions. They could also experience shifts in perception that might be unsettling or otherwise off-putting. Children and older adults may experience these more strongly or be more affected by them, so sessions with these groups may be shorter or less intense. In any case, some amount of mental preparation may be helpful.
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- Anderson, J. G., Suchicital, L., Lang, M., Kukic, A., Mangione, L., Swengros, D., … & Friesen, M. A. (2015). The effects of Healing Touch on pain, nausea, and anxiety following bariatric surgery: A pilot study. EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Healing, 11(3), 208-216. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1550830715000324
- Bach, M. (n. d.). How can Healing Touch help me? Retrieved from https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/healing-touch/how-can-healing-touch-help-me
- Jain, S., McMahon, G. F., Hasen, P., Kozub, M. P., Porter, V., King, R., & Guarneri, E. M. (2012). Healing Touch with guided imagery for PTSD in returning active duty military: A randomized controlled trial. Military Medicine, 177(9), 1015-1021. Retrieved from http://www.healingtouchwesternaustralia.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/PTSDHT.pdf
- What is Healing Touch? (n. d.). Retrieved from http://www.healingtouchprogram.com/about/what-is-healing-touch