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What Is Therapeutic Touch?

With the recent explosion of interest in alternative forms of healing, attention has turned to the practice of energy medicine. Energy medicine is an approach to healing based on the assumption that there is a natural field of energy that surrounds and penetrates every living thing. Within such an approach, practitioners attempt to manipulate the field of energy to encourage healing. Most forms of energy medicine developed originally in Asia. Therapeutic Touch, however, developed within the American nursing tradition in the 1970’s.

Therapeutic Touch assumes that an individual’s body, mind, and spirit form a complex energy field that extends beyond the surface of the body. According to proponents of Therapeutic Touch, an individual’s level of health reflects the flow of life energy in and through that individual. In a healthy person there is a symmetrical and balanced flow of energy within the individual and in exchange with the environment. The free flow of energy in this way nourishes the individual and promotes vitality. When illness occurs or an injury happens, the flow of energy becomes obstructed or constricted. It is the practitioner’s task is to find the obstruction, clear it, and re-establish an unrestricted flow of energy.

People who seek intervention through Therapeutic Touch remain fully clothed and may sit up or lie down during a healing session. A Therapeutic Touch session follows a series of prescribed steps. First the practitioner centers self. This is a brief period of meditation and concentration during which the practitioner withdraws his or her attention from the external world. Here the practitioner develops the calm detachment and intent to heal required to participate in the healing process.

Next, the practitioner conducts an assessment of the person who has sought healing. In this phase, the practitioner places his or her hands, palms down, a few inches above the patient’s body. The practitioner then moves his or her hands above the patient’s body, in a rhythmical motion, from head to foot. The practitioner intuitively searches for the areas of constriction and imbalance in the patient’s energy field. Practitioners are said to sense these areas through subtle, but distinct, sensations in their hands (heat, cold, tingling sensations, etc.).

Once an area of congestion is found, the third phase begins. This is the intervention phase during which the practitioner attempts to relieve the congestion and balance the energy field. To do so, the practitioner moves his of her hands in long sweeping motions starting above the point of congestion and moving toward the toes. This process, called “unruffling” is intended to smooth out the energy field and move stagnant energy away from the patient. The practitioner continues in this way until the unusual sensations associated with the congestion are no longer felt.

Next, the practitioner directs additional energy to the patient. By directing additional life energy to the patient, the practitioner is helping to make up for an energy deficit that develops during an illness. The additional energy is said to help the patient’s own healing processes function more effectively.

Finally, the practitioner engages in a period of evaluation and closure. Here the practitioner reassesses the patient’s energy field to determine whether constrictions were missed. The practitioner also solicits feedback from the patient. Together, these sources of information, along with the practitioner’s own intuitions, determine the end of a session.

Therapeutic Touch is most often practiced by nurses, but practitioners may be found among physicians, physical therapists, naturopaths, chiropractors, and massage therapists. Practitioners of Therapeutic Touch see it as an important complement to conventional medical care. According to its proponents, Therapeutic Touch reduces pain and lowers anxiety. It is said to heal fractures and wounds and to clear infections faster than conventional approaches alone. It also may be useful in the treatment of certain allergies and addictions. The relaxation response that occurs during a Therapeutic Touch session is especially important. Deep relaxation reduces stress and lowers blood pressure. These effects alone are likely to promote greater levels of health and vitality. If you are interested in finding a qualified practitioner of Therapeutic Touch, you should contact the Nurse Healers-Professional Associates International.

Douglas Hardwick, Ph.D., holds a doctorate in psychology from the University of Virginia. Dr. Hardwick has extensive interests in aging and holistic health issues. He developed the website: – a holistic health information hub