Over the last decade numerous studies have been published regarding the effectiveness of Therapeutic Touch, a form of Laying on of Hands developed in the early 1970s by Dolores Krieger, Ph.D., RN, a professor at New York University School of Nursing, and Dora Kunz, a well known healer.
In the beginning, Krieger and Kunz only taught the techniques to Krieger’s graduate school nursing students, but Krieger’s professional research and writing increased the popularity of the technique, particularly among nurses.
The practice grew nationwide, through a grassroots effort of nurses throughout the United States. Today, therapeutic touch is taught at hospitals and health centers worldwide and is most commonly practiced by nurses.
What is Therapeutic Touch?
Therapeutic touch is a form of healing that uses a practice called “laying on of hands” to correct or balance energy fields. The word “touch” is misleading because physical touch is generally not involved. Instead, the hands hover over the body. Therapeutic touch is based on the theory that the body, mind, and emotions form a complex energy field.
According to Dr. Krieger, health is an indication of a balanced energy field, and illness represents imbalance. Studies suggest that therapeutic touch can help to heal wounds, reduce pain, and promote relaxation.
What is the Energy Field?
Since the time of the ancient Egyptians to our present age, the vast majority of the world’s spiritual and religious traditions have recognized the presence of a sphere of light penetrating and surrounding the body.
This radiant energy field is thought to facilitate physical life. Also known as the human energy system, it continuously provides the vital energies necessary to sustain human life. It monitors the orderly transmission of higher energies, systematically lowering the vibrations for entry into the physical body.
Clairvoyants, mystics, and healers across the ages have consistently described it. Although scientists differ on the nature and relevance of the human energy field, the concept of an energy field is also a part of other types of healing. In the ancient medical systems of India and China, the energy field is described as life energy.
It is thought to exist throughout the body and is responsible for maintaining normal physiological, psychological, and spiritual functions. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, this energy is called qi (pronounced “chee”); in India’s Ayurvedic medicine it is called prana.
Beginning in the 1980s, research studies results indicate that therapeutic touch has a positive effect on the body’s physiology and the mind (psychologically).
Approximately 75-90% of nursing home residents experiencing dementia develop behaviors that are probably associated with a stress response. This technique has been shown to promote calmness, decrease restlessness and agitation.
A double blind study conducted at UCLA sought to determine therapeutic touch’s effect on cortisol levels and behavioral symptoms. Cortisol is a key hormone in the stress response. Its levels increase in response to perceived stress, as a way of preparing the body to run or fight.
Sixty-five participants, between 67 and 93 years (average age was 85.5 years) were randomly assigned to one of three groups. The experimental group received therapeutic touch twice daily, with contact on the shoulders and neck for three days.
The placebo group received a mimic treatment that was identical in appearance, and the control group received routine care.
The results suggest that therapeutic touch may be effective for management of symptoms like restlessness. In addition to the relief this technique has the potential to provide, it may also help with reducing costs, because it is an intervention that is easy to learn use and can be an alternative to drug treatment for people with behavioral symptoms.