Despite its current label as complementary and alternative medicine, therapies that involve a therapeutic touch have existed for thousands of years. Massage therapies vary across the globe, but all feature the act of touch as a beneficial tool. Today, healing by touch exists in multiple fields, such as massage therapy, chiropractic care, and reflexology. In the United States, another system for this traditional tool is Healing Touch. This system, which was started by a registered nurse in 1989, features certified therapists worldwide and offers potential benefits for many different medical conditions.

What Is Healing Touch Therapy?

Healing Touch therapy is a therapy where practitioners use their hands to manipulate a patient's biofield for health benefits. This is performed for health improvement to both the physical body as well asmental-emotional and spiritual conditions. Treatments are non-invasive, with hands-on techniques utilized to balance and harmonize a patient's energy system. When properly balanced, this energy allows a patient's body to heal itself properly. Janet Mentgen, a registered nurse, founded this system of therapy in 1989. This treatment does not require a patient to disrobe or perform any task other than to relax.

Biofield

The theory behind healing touch therapy is the biofield, or the magnetic field around one's body. Although not fully understood and controversial to some scientists, the manipulation of a person's biofield for health purposes is supported by doctors and scientists such as Dr. Andrew Weil of the University of Arizona. Healing touch practitioners focus on unblocking the flow of these energy fields and within centers in the body. Research appears to support health benefits from proper energy flow for conditions such as immune function, pain, and psychological conditions.

When practitioners move their hands during therapy sessions, they pass through their patient's energy fields. Therefore, restoring proper flow may or may not require practitioners to physically touch their patient, as the key contact is with the energy field. Other than the occasional use of crystals, practitioners mainly use their hands for assessment and treatment. The energy fields intersect with the body in areas called chakras. This makes the biofield part of the body, and an important element to consider in healthcare treatments.

It is important to note that the biofield does not heal the body. It is the body that heals itself. However, the body requires a proper flow of energy through the biofield to be in the proper state for healing. Thus, any impediment to this energy flow will indirectly impair the body's healing. Healing Touch is not a technique or therapy which heals the body. Rather, it is a holistic therapy that allows the body to properly heal itself.

Certification of Health Touch Practitioners

Practitioners are certified as either a Healing Touch Certified Practitioner (HTCP) or Certified Healing Touch Practitioner (CHTP). This system was created by a registered nurse and administered through the Healing Touch Program in America or Healing Touch International. This certification is often held by practitioners in addition to other healthcare training such as nursing, massage therapy, and counseling. However, not all practitioners possess additional training. Like all healthcare professions, Healing Touch practitioners can receive board-certified continuing education hours.

Is There a Need for Healing Touch Therapy?

Healing touch therapy has been researched for many common healthcare conditions including the following:

  • Cancer support
  • Cardiovascular disease/heart disease
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Issues related to death and dying
  • Endocrine function
  • Pain
  • Stress, including anxiety
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Stress

stress

The need for healing touch comes from the frequent occurrence of stress and related issues in our modern world. With today's sedentary and high stress lifestyles, perhaps nearly all people will experience stress to some degree in their lifetime. While scientific medicine offers medications to reduce the symptoms , many seek alternative treatments due to the ineffectiveness or perhaps unwanted side effects of medications.

Along with everyday stress, patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may receive some benefits from this treatment. In 2012, a study showed significant improvement for subjects with PTSD receiving a combination of healing touch and guided imagery compared to those who did not receive the combination. 123 marines served as subjects for this study. Along with PTSD, patients with insomnia and fibromyalgia, conditions that are often hard to treat, have demonstrated benefits from healing touch treatments.

Spiritual Benefits

stress free

In addition to physical and mental benefits, some patients report improved spiritual well-being and awareness. The Healing Touch certification includes training for these spiritual aspects. Mind, body, and spirit are treated as parts of the whole body, making this a holistic form of therapy. A patient may be experiencing pain in their leg or cancer in their lungs, but these conditions affect them as a whole. Therefore, it is important to also treat the entire patient and not neglect any portion of their whole self.

Advantages to Healing Touch Therapy

Head Acupressure

By being non-invasive, healing touch therapy offers a safe alternative treatment for these conditions. Minimal equipment is required as it is primarily performed by a practitioner's hands. This makes Healing Touch cost-effective. Finally, due to the relaxed state of patients receiving this therapy, anxiety and stress are often reduced significantly. This calm mental state also appears to potentially speed healing in research. By being safe, inexpensive, and with significant benefits, healing touch possesses strong advantages to other therapies.

Various Ways to Receive Healing Touch Therapy

Healing touch practitioners perform their therapies in various settings. Although the lack of equipment required seems to imply that healing touch can be performed anywhere, there are certain common settings for patients to receive healing touch therapy. One key for this therapy is to check the certification of providers. Although Reiki and other energy field therapies may express similar goal and techniques, healing touch practitioners hold a specific certification for their assessment and therapy techniques

Counseling Offices

two people conversing over a coffee

As stated before, certified Healing Touch practitioners also often hold other healthcare degrees. This can be of great benefit to a patient. For example, emotional benefits can result from healing touch treatments. Counselors and psychologist and use these in combination with their psychological training to further aid their patients. Of course, this requires that the practitioner has undertaken mental health training and certification, which not all possess. Along with counseling, some practitioners also hold hypnosis or other guided imagery training, like in the Marine PTSD study, and combine this with healing touch techniques.

Bodywork Therapy

Massage

Although healing touch therapy focuses on energy flow through biofields, the combination with physical techniques can produce positive results. Massage therapy, such as shiatsu and Swedish techniques, can loosen muscles tightened by stress. Therapeutic movement, such as yoga and tai chi, can stretch muscles and create a flow of the physical body to counteract a stressful sitting position encountered by many at work. These multiple means of targeting stress effects can create an augmented benefit for patients.

Hospitals and Rehabilitation Centers

rehab center

Although healing touch does not utilize much equipment or invasive surgical and medical techniques, it can be effectively usedin conjunction with other medical care. For example, it has been used on burn victims to desensitize injured skin that could otherwise not be touched. Some research suggests that healing touch could make hospital stays shorter or decrease the time required to heal wounds. Finally, medical centers are working this therapy into treatment plans to better relax patients before surgery or chemotherapy. In this scenario, healing touch becomes a non-invasive anti-anxiety treatment.

What to Expect During a Healing Touch Treatment

Patients can range in age from infants to the elderly. The key for patients during these treatment sessions is relaxation. Patient may be asked to lie down, sit, or possibly even stand. Treatments are performed over clothing, so no special dress is required. There may also be a medical history check and consent should be obtained for therapy and for physical contact. Finally, it is important that patients feel comfortable during the session. Overall, patients are encouraged to relax and feel comfortable.

Practice

A treatment session often begins with meditation or some sort of mental centering. Then the practitioner will assess a patient's energy field. This can be done through a combination of observation, hand movements, and the use of crystals. This may be done over chakras, which is where the physical body connects with the energy fields.

Once an assessment is complete, practitioners will often use Healing Touch techniques to treat the energy field disturbances. Patients may experience light touch, or possibly the practitioner's hands being placed over the body in specific areas. These areas will be where energy flow was detected to be impaired, and will be treated to direct the flow to the desired location. Ideally, this treatment will remove blockades to one's energy flow, bringing their body into an ideal state for healing.

Results

For patients, a sense of calm and relaxation is common, often to the point of sleep or daydreaming. Some patients experience warmth or see colors. Often, patients can feel emotional releases after treatments, or even physical releases through muscle tightening or jerking. The exact causes of these results is not fully understood at this time.

With the relaxation and release, patients should take care if standing up from lying on a table to avoid lightheaded sensations. This is important for patients who have experienced low blood pressure, anemia, or fainting spells in the past. Practitioners may tell patients to hydrate well and to take note of any physical changes over the next few days. Some practitioners may also "ground" their patients by placing their hands on the feet or shoulders of their patients.

What Is the Time Commitment for Healing Touch Treatments?

A typical treatment session can last from 15 minutes to an hour. Although practitioners often recommend a starting series of 3 treatment sessions, the total number of treatments can vary greatly based on a patient's needs. The three starting sessions are to show an effect from the treatments. For acute injuries or after a surgery, practitioners may recommend multiple treatments per week or possibly even daily sessions. For chronic conditions, the frequency will be decreased. However, it is important for patients to discuss this with their healing touch practitioner.

Will Insurance Cover Healing Touch Treatments?

People interested in Healing Touch or any therapy should directly contact their insurance companies for coverage information. However, though many traditional healing techniques use the idea of the body's energy fields, their detection and presence is debated by health insurance companies. A few health insurances are reported to cover treatments, but most patients should probably expect to pay for Healing Touch treatments. However, as research continues, it is likely that positive results with low levels of side effects will encourage more health insurances to cover these treatments.

Conclusion

Healing touch is a holistic treatment system with certified practitioners. Although the analysis of energy fields and flow is not a part of modern medicine, these ideas and techniques have existed for centuries in health care. It is a system that takes traditional techniques and teaches them to many who work in modern healthcare disciplines for the betterment of their patient population. Potential patients include both those suffering from symptoms of stress and modern life as well those with an acute injury or who have just had surgeries.

Unlike many modern medical treatments, this type of therapy is non-invasive and does not require much equipment. The experience is relaxing for patients and can be a good treatment for anxiety conditions. These mental health benefits include both daily stress and post-traumatic stress as shown through research. Also, many practitioners also possess additional mental health training, providing a greater benefit to their patients.

Whether one is experiencing significant physical and mental concerns, or simply wishes to know of relaxation therapies with minimal risks and side effects, Healing Touch therapy may provide an effective, safe, and low-cost solution. For those skeptical, remember that practitioners are certified through a program created by a healthcare professional, and often hold other healthcare licenses in addition to their Healing Touch certification.

Ask a certified Healing Touch practitioner to find out if this treatment is right for you.

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