Recently I have been introducing Healing Touch to students through evening courses so it makes sense that I have been reading a great deal about it. What a beautiful modality of caring which we are able to share with one another during some challenging and painful situations within our lives.
I find that “touch” has become a word, which brings immediate caution and prudence to many individuals. For example earlier in my life, while caring for young children who were not my own, I was directed by my employing system to refrain from touching, hugging or getting close within their personal space. This was because the children came to me with no file information so we were not aware of how touch and proximity may trigger a child into a traumatic past event. And yet ironically, we also have valid research indicating without human touch, infants will inevitably turn their faces to the wall and allow themselves to drift into death. Being within a physical body for our lifetime is such a privilege because we can experience the comfort and euphoria of touching and being touched by one another. It is a natural and healthy yearning. Intentional touch can be an expression of love, caring and compassion and has been an aid in healing throughout ancient history in places such as India, Tibet, China, Egypt and Chaldea.
We are aware that our instinctive reaction to physical injury is to touch or hold the painful area of either ourselves or a loved one who gets hurt. When a child we love falls and hurts themselves we “rub it better” or hold our hand upon the injury while we hug the child. When pain is internal, we use touch to comfort ourselves and offer solace to others. For example, when we have a stomach ache, we often lay down, and place our hands upon our solar plexus for comfort and healing.
The formal name of Healing Touch is considered an “energy therapy” which uses gentle hand techniques to help re-pattern the patient’s energy field and accelerate healing of the body, mind, and spirit. Healing Touch is based on the principle that human beings are fields of energy that are in constant interaction with others and with one’s surroundings. The goal of Healing Touch is to purposefully use the energetic interaction between the practitioner and the receiver to restore harmony to the patient’s energy system.
Author and practitioner Dawn Nelson in her book From the Heart through the Hands; The Power of Touch in Caregiving (2001, 2006) connects her interest of The Healing Power of Touch back to her first year in life. Her young mother was frightened and overwhelmed when Dawn’s father left for Europe’s war zone. Dawn as an infant was left in her crib within a darkened room for three days and three nights. She was cold, wet hungry and untouched. Her mother never returned. When rescued, she was hospitalized for dehydration and eventually released to be raised by her father’s parents. Within their care, Dawn learned about and experienced the gentle and nurturing power of touch.
Dawn used healing touch with hospice patients and facility-residents and from there she created and launched the Compassionate Touch Program ®, specifically for confined elderly and ill in care facility and home settings. She shares, “I was excited and enthusiastic about making skilled touch available to those who were too old, too weak or too ill to seek out such treatment. I was eager to do something to help enhance the quality of life for those who were isolated, alone, frightened and confused”.
Further to this, Dawn described Compassionate Touch as emanating from the heart first, through intention, and then allowing the heart energy to move through the hands.
“We ignite the flame of compassion in our hearts, allowing it to warm, inform and flow into our hands. In reaching out to another the touch that originates in the heart of the giver has the potential to connect with more than the physical form of the receiver. It has the power to connect two souls in a mutual recognition of their shared humanity and their yearning to be healed”
Therapeutic Touch ** is another term that describes a healing way to touch. Within this particular process, therapists place their hands on or near their patient’s body with the intention to help or heal. In doing so, therapists focus their thoughts and intentions so they consciously direct or modulate an individual’s energies by interacting with their energy field. The focus is on balancing the energies of the total person and stimulating the body’s own natural healing ability rather than on the treatment of specific physical diseases.
Therapeutic Touch is based on the following assumptions:
- The human being is an open energy system composed of layers of energy that are in constant interaction with self, others, and the environment.
- Illness is an imbalance in an individual’s energy field.
- Clearing or balancing the energy field promotes health.
- All humans have natural abilities to heal and enhance the healing in others.
The benefits of well intentioned touch towards health and wellbeing are numerous. Healing touch does not attempt to cure disease, but rather stimulate the body’s natural healing process. The major effects are a deep relaxation response, a noticable reduction of pain and anxiety and a faster process towards healing. As tension and stress are relieved, minor physical ailments sometimes disappear. A reduction in bodily tension promotes benefits such as
- A greater ease in breathing
- Increased mobility
- Increase in appetite
- Improved digestion and elimination
When gentle touch and sensitive age-appropriate massage is administered – either by a professional practitioner, a caring volunteer or a loving life-companion, it helps to reduce the general level of nervous tension within the body. This reduction of tension assists to
- Sometimes decrease the person’s need for pain medication
- Contributes to the person having a more deep and restful sleep
- Increases physical mobility and
- Improve balance and coordination
Healing Touch complements other healing techniques a patient may already be using, including conventional medical practice in hospitals, clinics and in-home care, or other body-mind oriented therapies such as guided imigery, massage, music therapy, acupressure, biofeedback and psychotherapy.
Within Dawn Nelson’s book, she includes many personal experiences of those who use touch with others. She emphasizes that many of us have an innate and natural ability (when we let ourselves) to use our hands to soothe, calm and comfort others. We don’t need expensive certification to bring comfort through touch. There are many ways to learn more about touch without a costly expenditure. Within her practice, she brings comfort simply through applying lotion to the hands of someone who is bedridden. A response from one such client was as follows. “Her touch was so gentle and it warmed my hands and I felt wonderful after her visit!”
One non-professional shared their personal experience with Healing Touch:
In the weeks leading up to her death, I sometimes gave my mom foot rubs, which she loved. Her skin was drying and I would stand at the end of her bed massaging her feet with skin cream. I’ve never had training in massage, but I think it is a natural art. When hands hold feet, and there is a loving relationship there, a natural massaging action begins to take place. No training seems to be required. I experienced the same phenomenon while holding her hands. These messages gave Mom a special kind of relief. She would sigh, as if surprised that her body was still capable of feeling good sensations. These times were a special form of communication between us.
I am very thankful for the leaders and pioneers within this field who have been encouraging and persistent in bringing forward these most rewarding and compassionate concepts and models. They are, in my eyes, Angels who are walking upon our Earth.
In Therapeutic Touch practice,
one adopts a holographic attitude that views the client
as a doorway to the whole of humanity.
**Therapeutic Touch is a contemporary interpretation of several ancient laying-on-of-hands healing practices. Delores Krieger, PhD, RN, professor emeritus of Nursing at New York University, and Dora Kunz, a gifted energy healer, developed and standardized the technique in the 1970s.