Integrative Medicine: How Healing Touch Helps
Madison, Wisconsin - We all wish we could step back from the hectic pace of life, even for just a little bit. Trying to balance the needs of family and friends with the stresses of work, day-to-day anxieties, or even coping with a chronic illness can be overwhelming.
A technique offered through integrative medicine called Healing Touch can help quiet the mind and support the body so an individual can better manage daily life.
Like all integrative medicine approaches, Healing Touch is based on the principle of helping the body to heal itself. Karen Allaire, RN, MS, CHTP, a certified Healing Touch Practitioner with UW Health's Integrative Medicine program, says the effect is like "turning the volume down" on the stresses of life so the body and immune system can recharge.
Healing Touch is a non-invasive technique that, like Reiki or Therapeutic Touch, works with an individual's energy field. Illness causes disruptions to a person's own energy. Bringing that energy into balance can help a person heal. Allaire explains that Healing Touch doesn't necessarily take away the physical pain, but it helps people feel more at peace so they can better deal with it.
"When I try to explain Healing Touch, I often refer to the Star Wars films," says Allaire, with a smile. "People can relate to the idea that there is a limitless energy, 'the force,' surrounding us. As a practitioner, I tap into that source to help bring a person's own energy into the best possible balance."
Jan Manthey, RN, BS, CHTP, also a Certified Healing Touch Practitioner with UW Health, explains that it is like "plugging in a lamp to turn the light on. We're just enabling the patient to connect to a universal energy."
Healing Touch began in the early 1980s when a nurse, Janet Mentgen, and her colleagues developed a training program that brought together different techniques and concepts from a variety of traditions, including Native American, Aboriginal and Japanese. Patients themselves could even learn self-healing techniques to continue the healing practice beyond the treatment room.
Helping the Body Heal
The efficacy of Healing Touch has been largely anecdotal, although there are clinical trials currently underway to examine the effectiveness of Healing Touch with cancer patients. Manthey's own husband was skeptical when she first began her practice.
"He was incredibly supportive, but a skeptic," she says, smiling.
Then, after he slipped on the ice during a skiing trip, Manthey performed Healing Touch on his injury. The next day he wasn't even sure which hip he had fallen on, according to Manthey. That's all it took to convince him.
Early in Manthey's practice, she used to believe it was important to prove the clinical effectiveness of Healing Touch. Now, she says, "I've seen enough people for whom Healing Touch provides comfort and peace of mind. That's really all the validation I need."
Manthey discovered Healing Touch through her practice as an oncology nurse. When she experienced the practice at a holistic nursing conference, she realized it was something she could bring to the patient's bedside.
"There's so much more we can do to help ourselves when we're going through illness," comments Manthey.
According to both Allaire and Manthey, everyone has a different experience with Healing Touch in large part because everyone's energy field is unique. So you never know what to expect.
"Some experience physical sensations, while others have visual experiences," says Manthey. "Some may even feel nothing or have a different way of picking it up. One comment I often hear from patients is that they went into such a deep relaxation, they weren't sure if they were awake or asleep. They were surprised they could relax that much."
"It's a way to give ourselves permission to take a break, relax, and perhaps even provide clarity or insight," comments Allaire.
A Typical Session
A typical Healing Touch session will last an hour. During that time, patients lie fully clothed on a table while the practitioner will use a very light hand touch on or just above the body to move the energy.
Although many of Allaire and Manthey's clients are cancer patients, both point out that Healing Touch can benefit anyone, including infants and children. And while an open mind is best, Allaire jokes, "skeptics are certainly welcome."
A Healing Touch session once a month can be very beneficial, while for specific conditions, such as cancer, more frequent treatments can certainly help.
"I've even performed Healing Touch while a patient is receiving chemo," comments Allaire. "But the frequency of treatment is really whatever is most supportive for the patient."
And patients can continue to use Healing Touch on their own through techniques taught during a session.
"That's what is so great about Healing Touch," says Manthey. "You give patients the tools to do their own energy work. It is empowering to help people learn to help themselves."
The Whole Patient
Both Allaire and Manthey find tremendous satisfaction in treating what they call "the whole patient."
"In my practice, I look at the whole picture - how patients feel physically, emotionally, spiritually, their community of support, how they live in their lives, their bodies and their world," comments Allaire.
Both also point out that self-care is a critical component of Healing Touch. For Allaire, a certified pediatric nurse practitioner and a certified holistic nurse, she models self-care for her clients.
"I walk the talk," she says, adding, "I wasn't always able to do that."
Manthey admits that while she thought she took good care of herself, it wasn't until she began learning Healing Touch that she really began to understand what that meant. Now, she spends an hour every day in practice that includes Qigong, T'ai Chi, meditation and Healing Touch.
"It helps put me in a place of calm so that I can be truly present with patients," she concludes. For both Manthey and Allaire, being present with patients is the most important element of the practice.
Date Published: 02/24/2011