Healing Touch therapy is a gentle, non-invasive, and relaxing energy-based therapy. It involves the use of a very light touch, or near-body touch, of the hands in order to clear, stimulate, and restore balance to the energy flowing through your body as well as the energy field surrounding it. The goal is to support and promote healing and wellbeing on all levels – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
Healing Touch is a holistic therapy in that the mind, body, and spirit are regarded as a whole unit – and should be treated as such – rather than as individual components. It’s also a compassionate, “heart-centered” therapy. The practitioner’s “intention” is believed to play an important role in energy therapies. He or she uses intention to help direct the flow of energy.
Like other types of energy therapy, such as Reiki and therapeutic touch, Healing Touch is based on the premise that your body has a natural ability to heal. However, when the energy or “life force” flowing through your body becomes blocked or out of balance, problems start to develop and fester. As a result, the innate capacity for healing is hindered. Problems also occur, or worsen, when the energy fields surrounding your body are disturbed and become imbalanced.
While some practitioners make contact with various parts of your body via very gentle touch, others keep their hands above your body and don’t actually touch you at all. In Healing Touch therapy, either way works in order to affect the flow of energy.
Healing Touch therapy is a non-invasive and safe form of treatment for individuals of all ages, from very young children to the elderly. It can be easily integrated with traditional treatments as well as alternative therapies.
How Healing Touch Works
There are different theories and perspectives regarding the actual underlying mechanisms of Healing Touch and similar energy therapies. Perhaps the simplest explanation (or hypothesis, as much is still unknown) is that it promotes healing by removing or “clearing” energy blocks and disturbances, and restoring energy balance and flow. Not only does this restore health, it also helps prevent future problems – problems that will inevitably occur if the disturbances and imbalances persist. As Healing Touch practitioners move their hands, they are moving them through these energy fields.
One of the possible explanations for the effectiveness of Healing Touch therapy is that your health greatly benefits whenever your body is in a deeply relaxed state. And Healing Touch therapy accomplishes that quite well. When your mind and body are very relaxed your breathing and heart rate slow down and your blood pressure decreases. Tension in your muscles is reduced and your circulation improves, which means more oxygen and vital nutrients are getting to your cells. When all of these things are taking place in your body, your immune functioning improves and healing can take place more efficiently.
What to Expect
Healing Touch sessions are very low key. Many practitioners use a setting very similar to that of massage therapists. You won’t need to disrobe for your session. Typically, you will lie face up on a table, although sessions can also be conducted if you’re sitting or standing; whatever the position, it’s important that you’re comfortable. If you’re not, you’ll have a difficult time relaxing.
As with most types of therapy, your initial visit will involve a brief discussion of your concerns – i.e., what it is you hope to accomplish with treatment – as well as an overview of your medical history.
Your Healing Touch practitioner will evaluate your energy field. This is done by hand movements and observation. Once problem areas are determined (i.e. places where energy flow is disturbed or blocked), the practitioner will proceed. As mentioned above, some practitioners will touch you very gently in various places on your body, while others will move their hands just above your body. In energy therapy, the primary goal is to get energy flowing properly again which, in turn, restores the body’s natural capacity for healing.
During your session, you’ll likely feel very relaxed and calm – perhaps even slightly sedated. Your body may start to feel warm, and sensations may occur such as tingling or muscle twitches. You may also have an emotional response during the session, or an out-of-body sensation.
Sessions may last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. The number of sessions required will depend upon your particular needs. Many practitioners recommend starting with three sessions, and then reassessing to determine whether or not more sessions are needed. The reason for this is because it often takes 2 to 3 visits to notice the effects of treatment.
The frequency of your sessions will depend largely upon what’s being treated. For example, if you’re recovering from a recent injury or surgery, you may need to be seen every other day or even daily for the first few sessions. If you’re being treated for a chronic issue, then sessions will likely be more spread out, such as once a week.
Disorders and Issues That May Benefit From Healing Touch
Healing Touch has been used in the treatment of a wide range of physical illnesses and symptoms, as well as numerous mental health issues and disorders, including:
- Chronic and acute pain
- Compromised immune functioning
- Heart disease
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)*
- Issues related to death and dying
- Sleep problems
- Surgery recovery
- Cancer support
*A 2012 study involving 123 marines with at least one symptom of PTSD showed that the group whose treatment included a combination of Healing Touch and guided imagery improved significantly more than the group whose treatment didn’t include those two therapies.
Advantages of Healing Touch
Compared to many more traditional types of treatment, Healing Touch has many advantages:
- There are really no limitations to the types of symptoms, disorders, or ailments for which it can be used.
- It’s very safe.
- It’s non-invasive. Healing Touch practitioners use only their hands and light, gentle touch in order to treat individuals. No invasive procedures or instruments are used, such as needles or tubes, and no medication or surgery is involved.
- Rather than inducing anxiety, Healing Touch therapy helps you feel more relaxed. Research suggests that this deep relaxed state can help accelerate the healing process.
- It’s cost-effective, since it doesn’t require a special setting, the use of high-tech instruments, or any type of medication or other substance.
- Since medications and invasive procedures aren’t used in Healing Touch, you don’t need to worry about highly unpleasant or potentially dangerous side effects from anesthesia or medication.
Potential Disadvantages of Healing Touch
As with all types of treatment, there are several potential disadvantages with Healing Touch therapy:
- Some individuals may find that their symptoms briefly get worse before getting better. This may be due to Healing Touch therapy actually speeding up the healing process. This can be very concerning if you aren’t aware of the possibility of it occurring.
- The state of deep relaxation from Healing Touch may cause you to feel somewhat disoriented, groggy, or lightheaded following a session. If you have a history of certain medical conditions (e.g. low blood pressure or vertigo) you may be particularly susceptible to this side effect. Use extra caution, such as staying well hydrated and avoiding standing up too quickly following a session. Be sure to discuss any concerns you may have with your medical doctor prior to starting therapy.
- If you have a history of emotional trauma, you may experience an unexpected response during a Healing Touch session.
- Like other types of energy therapy, Healing Touch is still highly controversial. This is largely due to the non-contact (or extremely light touch) element of the therapy, as well as many expert’s skepticism regarding the existence of “external energy fields” surrounding the body. Although there is some research that suggests it is effective, there’s very little empirical evidence to support it as a viable treatment approach. Hopefully, more research will be done that provides more solid scientific support for the therapeutic effectiveness of Healing Touch.
- Most health insurance plans don’t cover Healing Touch therapy, although a few are beginning to do so. Although it’s a relatively low cost form of treatment, be aware before starting therapy that you will likely have to pay for sessions out of pocket.
Benefits of Healing Touch
There are many potential benefits of Healing Touch therapy, including – but not limited to – the following:
- It may accelerate wound healing
- It can reduce the length of your hospital stay following surgery or other medical procedures
- It produces a deep relaxed stress, which can play a significant role in stress reduction
- It can help reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health disorders
- It helps boost immune functioning
- It can enhance your spiritual awareness
- It can help alleviate pain
- It can help reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and other cancer treatments, and also enhance quality of life for those battling cancer
Where is Healing Touch Therapy Used?
Despite the controversy regarding this form of energy therapy, Healing Touch is used in a variety of settings. These include:
- Surgical care centers
- Nursing homes
- Hospice care facilities
- Massage therapy settings
- Long-term care facilities
- Private practice settings
Many universities, medical schools, and nursing schools offer courses in Healing Touch. Classes are also offered by licensed clinicians in private practice settings. Training and certification as a Healing Touch practitioner can be obtained through the Healing Touch Program, founded by Janet Mentgen in 1989, and also Healing Touch International (also known as Healing Beyond Borders).
Finding a Qualified Healing Touch Practitioner
Practitioners who are certified in Healing Touch usually have one of two professional credentials after their name: HTCP (Healing Touch Certified Practitioner, from the Healing Touch Program) or CHTP (Certified Healing touch Practitioner, from the Healing Beyond Borders training program). You can find a qualified practitioner in your area through their respective websites: http://www.htpractitioner.com/find-a-practitioner or http://www.healingtouchinternational.org.
A wide variety of individuals offer Healing Touch therapy. These include medical professionals such as nurses and physicians, mental health professionals including psychologists and counselors, and other types of healthcare professionals such as massage therapists. There are also many qualified Healing Touch practitioners who do not have a medical, mental health, or other type of healthcare background.