Exploring the efficacy of healing touch

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Exploring the efficacy of healing touch
Theobald, Jayde A
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viii, 100 leaves : illustrations ; 28 cm


Subjects / Keywords:
Touch -- Therapeutic use ( lcsh )
Touch -- Therapeutic use ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 95-100).
General Note:
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences
Statement of Responsibility:
by Jayde A. Theobald.

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Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
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|Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
255967136 ( OCLC )
LD1193.L58 2008m T43 ( lcc )

Full Text
Jayde A. Theobald
B.S., Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, 2000
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Humanities

This thesis for the Master of Humanities
degree by
Jayde A. Theobald
has been approved
Ruth Possehl
7 -,23-08

Theobald, Jayde A. (M.H., Humanities)
Exploring the Efficacy of Healing Touch
Thesis directed by Senior Instructor Margaret L. Woodhull
In the wake of Cartesian induced dualism and the Enlightenments insistence on
empirical practices, healthcare in the west became less experiential and more empirical. In
America, these trends were solidified by the early 20th century. The mind and body had
effectively split into two disparate entities to be treated. The Western world is currently
experiencing a significant shift toward holistic models of health and healing. Healing Touch
is one of several body-oriented complementary therapies providing enhanced physical and
mental well-being. Healing Touch is used by nurses, massage therapists, counselors,
chaplains, veterinarians, and lay-people and is practiced in a wide variety of settings, from
hospitals to private practice settings. Although its efficacy is supported by a number of
research studies and by anecdotal client report, Healing Touch faces obstacles to utilization.
It is a complementary therapy, which lends itself more readily to the case study than to the
Randomized Clinical Trial; it is a touch therapy in a culture that values the cerebral over the
bodily; and it is a therapy w'hich draws on energetic principles, which are not widely accepted
as therapeutic. Emerging holistic movements create a non-dualistic framework for human
health. Within this framework, it is possible to move away from our traditionally overly
cerebral view of human health and to posit the body as an under explored route to whole-
person healing. While modem Western medicine has become quite adept at repairing the

bodys ailing parts, it rarely views the body as it relates to the mind and emotions. Since the
time of Plato, the Western intellectual tradition has forced a choice between body and mind.
This choice is one that many Eastern philosophies do not require. Healing Touch is a holistic
therapy specifically utilizing touch to work on the body and in the human energy field. As
such, its efficacy is supported by research in other disciplines, such as mind/body studies,
energy medicine, and studies specifically related to touch and the body. Emergent research
across disciplines, though not geared specifically toward Healing Touch, speaks to its
efficacy by supporting its major component parts.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I recommend its
Margaret L. Woodhull

1. INTRODUCTION..............................................................9
2. OVERVIEW OF HEALING TOUCH................................................12
Therapeutic Touch...................................................12
Existing Healing Touch Programs.....................................14
Theoretical Assumptions of Healing Touch............................16
Biofield Therapy..............................................16
Holistic Paradigm.............................................17
Use of Touch..................................................18
The Meditative State..........................................18
Physiological Response........................................18
Healing Touch Research..............................................19
Existing Research.............................................19
Research Limitations..........................................21
A Note About Language...............................................24

Ancient Traditions.................................................25
The 17th Century and Descartes.....................................28
The 18th Century and Mesmer........................................29
The 19th Century and Neurosis......................................31
The 20th Century...................................................33
The Evidence Debate................................................38
4. HEALING TOUCH AS A HOLISTIC THERAPY.....................................44
The Public Seeks CAM...............................................45
Emotion in the Body................................................48
The Big Picture....................................................57
5. HEALING TOUCH AS A TOUCH THERAPY........................................59
American Culture and the Body......................................60
Touch Starvation...................................................61
Touch as Communication.............................................65
Illness and the Body

The Body as a Route to Healing
Research Considerations.......................................71
6. HEALING TOUCH AS AN ENERGY THERAPY................................75
Chinese Medicine..............................................75
Energy Anatomy................................................76
Biofield Therapy..............................................80
Research Considerations.......................................83
Additional Theories under Investigation.......................84
A Quantum View of the Mind....................................86
7. CONCLUSION........................................................88
APPENDIX A...............................................................90

A.l Spectrum of Healthcare........................................................91
A.2 Physiological Response to Healing Touch.......................................92
A.3 Modified Mind Clearing Technique..............................................93
A.4 Drawings by a Young Girl......................................................94

This paper seeks to make an argument for continued use of Healing Touch and for
further research into its efficacy as a complementary practice in medical and mental
healthcare. The Healing Touch Program provides the following definition of Healing Touch.
Healing Touch is a biofield therapy that is an energy-based approach to
health and healing. It uses touch to influence the human energy system,
specifically the energy field that surrounds the body, and the energy centers
that control the energy flow from the energy field to the physical body.
These non-invasive techniques utilize the hands to clear, energize, and
balance the human and environmental energy fields thus affecting physical,
mental, emotional and spiritual health and healing. It is based on a heart-
centered caring relationship in which the practitioner and client come
together energetically to facilitate the clients health and healing.1
This definition of Healing Touch evokes concepts familiar to a traditional Eastern
worldview. Western thought is beginning to move in this direction as new developments in
science and increased client utilization of alternative therapies influence medical thought.
The study will begin with an overview of Healing Touch, including its inherent research
limitations, and will explain why Healing Touch necessarily cannot fit into orthodox
scientific testing models. Despite this fact, client, practitioner and physician reports are
largely favorable. Consumers, physicians and scientists, through continued experimentation
and increased utilization, are bringing Healing Touch and other alternative therapies into
mainstream healthcare. The movement reflects an underlying shift in our cultural paradigm
from dualistic models to holism. Though largely based on subjective report, existing research
Colorado Center for Healing Touch, Inc. d.b.a. Healing Touch Program, Healing Touch Level 1
Notebook, 5th ed. (Golden, CO: Healing Touch Program, 2007), 5.

into the efficacy of Healing Touch will be reviewed. This study recognizes the research
limitations inherent in Healing Touch and argues that research in other disciplines, though not
geared specifically toward Healing Touch, speaks to its efficacy by supporting its major
component parts. To this end, the study will examine Healing Touch as a mind/body therapy,
Healing Touch as a touch therapy, and Healing Touch as an energy therapy.
Following an overview of Healing Touch and a brief review of mind/body therapies
historically, this study will examine some current trends in mind/body medicine. Emerging
mind/body science creates a new foundational paradigm for human health, which, by
integrating body, mind and emotions, necessarily provides support to an argument for the use
of Healing Touch. Next, the study will examine current thinking related to touch and the
body. Ideas presented posit the body, with the mind, as a possible and equal route to healing,
albeit a route that has not been sufficiently explored. This idea is concomitant with Healing
Touch and is particularly relevant in our culture, which tends toward the rational, the dualistic
and cerebral. Finally, the study will examine new developments in energetics and energy
medicine. Presented research focuses on energy anatomy and describes how it might be
possible for the practitioner to affect the energetic field of the client.
As mentioned, the question of valid scientific evidence is central to any argument for
efficacy. In the case of Healing Touch, this is particularly important as the argument for
efficacy rests on a paradigm for human health that is unfamiliar to many in the West. This
new paradigm assumes a holistic view and recognizes the mind and the body as integrated
and equal parts of the same whole. Eastern systems, such as traditional Chinese medicine,
have successfully operated from this mindset for thousands of years. Traditional Western
medicine, however, is built on a long-standing intellectual history of dualism, and insists on

choosing to focus on either the mind or the body in isolation, first curing one and then the
other. Therefore, implications and considerations for research will be presented when
appropriate. The ideas presented are for consideration and speculation.

Healing Touch was developed in 1989 by Janet Mentgen, a nurse in Denver, Colorado.
In the previous year, Mentgen was named holistic nurse of the year by the American Holistic
Nurses Association for her work using touch in the care of patients. In 1990, Healing Touch
became a certificate program of the American Holistic Nurses Association and formal
certification began in 1993. Due to significant growth. Healing Touch International was
formed in 1996, and has since been the certifying body for Healing Touch practitioners.
Healing Touch has a rigorous certification process, which requires five levels of training and
a mentored apprenticeship. Once certified, practitioners are bound by a Code of Ethics and
Standards of Practice. Healing Touch is used widely in the field of nursing and is also
practiced by bodyworkers, chaplains, physicians, counselors and volunteers. Currently, the
program is offered in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Central
America, South America, India, Nepal, Trinidad and South Africa.2
Therapeutic Touch
Therapeutic Touch (TT) was developed in the 1970s, and is a precursor to Healing Touch.
As such, it shares many of the same foundational tenets. Cynthia Poznanski Hutchinson,
Healing Touch Program, Level 1 Notebook, 20.

Healing Touch Program Director, states, Most would credit Therapeutic Touch as the
foundation for Healing Touch. It began in 1972 as a nursing and research-based adaptation
of the ancient practice of laying on of hands by Dolores Krieger, a professor, and Dora
Kunz, a metaphysician.3 In 1975, TT was taught at NYU as part of a course titled,
Frontiers in Nursing and in 1994 it was awarded a research grant from the National Institite
of Health (NIH). Because Therapeutic Touch is almost twenty years older than Healing
Touch, there is more research on its efficacy in existence. Of Therapeutic Touch, Fulghum
Bruce states, Research and experience have shown its effectiveness in: promotion of
relaxation and reduction of anxiety, changing the patients perception of pain, and facilitating
the bodys natural restorative process.4 She continues, One study published in the Subtle
Energies and Energy Medicine Journal (1990) examined the effect of noncontact therapeutic
touch (NCTT) on the rate of surgical wound healing in a double-blind study...Results showed
that treated subjects experienced a significant acceleration in the rate of wound healing as
compared to nontreated subjects.5 While Healing Touch is the primary focus of this study,
Therapeutic Touch will be referred to occasionally. The two methods are similar in their
view of and assumptions about the human energy system, health and healing. However,
specific techniques, movements and sequences used may vary. When asked about the
3 Cynthia Poznanski Hutchinson, Healing Touch: An Energetic Approach, The American Journal of
Nursing 99, no. 4 (April, 1999): 44.
4 Debra Fulghum Bruce, Miracle Touch: A Complete Guide to Hands-On Therapies That Have the
Amazing Ability to Heal (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003), 138.
5 Ibid., 139.

differences, one practitioner states, The two are very similar, but Healing Touch is much
more extensive.6
Existing Healing Touch Programs
Healing Touch has established a presence within the orthodox medical system in a
number of ways. The Healing Touch Program website lists over twenty hospitals running
formal Healing Touch programs.7 Stanford University Medical Center is one such hospital,
offering free Healing Touch sessions to cancer patients from paid staff and volunteers. Kona
Community Hospital in Hawaii uses Healing Touch in Surgery, Intensive care, OB, long-term
care, as well as in the psychiatric unit. The unit notes that, physician response has been
exceptional.8 This is likely due to favorable client report and/or accelerated wound healing,
the two most common outcomes of studies noted in the Healing Touch Research Survey.
Favorable client report could include, but is not limited to, decreased pain, decreased stress
and a greater sense of well-being.
Regions Hospital in St. Paul, MN, outlines the purpose and scope of their Healing
Touch program.
Healing Touch is offered to decrease pain and anxiety and to meet the
holistic needs of hospitalized patients...The program will expand to include
3 more hospital units in early 2008. The program is growing and requests for
services are increasing. Service requests are currently being met by paid staff
and through volunteers.9
6 Interview with Certified Healing Touch Practitioner, 2 March 2008. (Interview was conducted in
confidence and the name of the interviewee is withheld by mutual agreement.)
7 Colorado Center for Healing Touch, Inc. d.b.a. Healing Touch Program, (accessed February 12, 2008).
8 Ibid.
9 Ibid.

Colorado has a number of hospitals maintaining Healing Touch programs, including
Exempla Good Samaritan in Lafayette, Memorial Hospital Central in Colorado Springs,
Hospice of St. John and Harmony Pointe Nursing Center, both in Lakewood. Life Spark
Cancer Resources is a non-profit organization providing support to individuals with cancer.
Through the Energy Partners program in Denver, participants are matched with Healing
Touch volunteers. Volunteers must have completed, at a minimum, Healing Touch
certification training through Level Two as well as 50 clinical practice hours. In the Pall of
2006, LifeSpark partnered with Denver Health in an effort to expand services to a wider and
more diverse population.10 11
Private practitioners can provide support to clients if a formal program is not in place.
One practitioner and Healing Touch instructor in Colorado states that she uses Healing Touch
to provide surgery support to her clients in several hospitals and medical centers in the
Denver/Fort Collins area. Additionally, she receives referrals to her private practice from
doctors, chiropractors, massage therapists and other healthcare professionals." Lisa
Anselme, Executive Director and Holistic Nurse Consultant for Integrative Health Care for
Healing Touch International, Inc., states, I find it negligent not to offer Healing Touch as
part of my nursing practice because I have seen the benefit to people physically, emotionally,
and spiritually.12
10 Lisa Anselme, Executive Director and Holistic Nurse Consultant for Integrative Health Care for
Healing Touch International, Inc., interview by author, 1 November 2007, Denver, CO.
11 Interview with Certified Healing Touch Practitioner, 2 March 2008. (Interview was conducted in
confidence and the name of the interviewee is withheld by mutual agreement.)
12 Lisa Anselme, interview by author, 1 November 2007.

Theoretical Assumptions of Healing Touch
The Healing Touch Program and Healing Touch International describe several
foundational elements and theoretical assumptions of Healing Touch, which will be
introduced here and referred to in subsequent chapters. They include the following:
Biofield Therapy
Healing Touch is an energy-based biofield therapy. Through the study of ancient
traditions and through the work of contributing modem theorists, such as W. Brugh Joy, M.D.
and Barbara Brennan, a composite picture of the human energy system has emerged. Healing
Touch operates on the assumption that living organisms are surrounded by an energetic field,
which extends outward in layers that interpenetrate each other and the physical body. The
energy system is at its lowest frequency closest to the physical body and raises in frequency
as it extends outward.13 The human energy system is composed of three primary elements:
the energy field (aura), the energy centers (chakras), and the energy tracts (meridians).14
Many traditions work with identified energy centers in the body. Healing Touch recognizes
the seven major chakras common to most traditions and The Healing Touch Program states,
Before any physical, emotional, or mental condition materializes, the energy system reflects
13 Healing Touch Program, Level 1 Notebook, 21. The physical body vibrates at a much slower
frequency than any of the auric bodies, which is why it is easily discemable through the ordinary
five senses... Healing Touch Program, Level 1 Notebook, 22.
14 Ibid., 22. The energy centers are called charkas. Chakra is a Sanskrit word meaning wheel or
disk-like spinning vortex of energy. Chakras form the interface between the layers of the energy
field and the physical body. These connect with lines of force called meridians which intersect
through the entire body and relate to the nervous and endocrine systems...The ancient cultures of
the Hindus, Chinese, Egyptians, Greeks, Native Americans and other indigenous cultures all
acknowledge the human energy anatomy of the charkas. They used the knowledge of these centers
for their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health and healing. Healing Touch Program,
Level 1 Notebook, 41.

the disturbance first before it becomes a symptom. Therefore, working with the energy
system directly helps or assists the person to self-heal.15 The energy system can be affected
by the individuals environment, thoughts, emotions and actions. Healing Touch recognizes
a life essence, which has appeared in many traditions under various names. For example, it
exists as Chi in China and as Prana in Indian cultures. In Healing Touch, the practitioner is
free to name or not name this energy. The practitioner is not the source of the energy, but
draws on it to facilitate healing. Thus, Healing Touch is concomitant with any belief system.
Holistic Paradigm
Healing Touch is a holistic therapy, operating on the assumption that the individual is a
unified entity comprising body, mind, spirit and emotions. As such, it employs techniques
intended to treat physical symptoms, such as pain, as well as techniques to ease emotional
states such as stress, depression and anxiety. Memories, emotions and traumas can be held in
the body and may be released during treatments. Healing Touch assumes a difference
between curing and healing. Curing is focused on the alleviation of symptoms while healing
is based on client empowerment and highest good. Highest good could be defined as a
picture of wholeness and healing to which the practitioner inserts no details or independent
ideas about what that would look like for the recipient. Thus, a healing intention typically
has no outcome attached. Healing Touch is a complementary therapy to be used in
conjunction with other treatments and considers itself one of many viable paths toward
15 Ibid., 22.

Use of Touch
Healing Touch uses touch to influence the energy system, including the energy field
surrounding the body and the energy centers, or chakras, which moderate the flow of energy
to the physical body. Many different techniques and interventions are used. Some operate
entirely in the energy field, with the practitioner keeping the hands still or in motion over the
clients body. Other techniques involve a light touch. Many techniques may be performed
with or without touch depending on practitioner and client preference. Touch techniques are
non-invasive and typically involve gentle holding and pressure, which does not feel like
rubbing, prodding or working the body and muscles, as in massage therapy. Clients do not
undress for a Healing Touch session.
The Meditative State
Prior to a session, practitioners take time to center and to identify a healing intention,
usually for highest good for the practitioner and the recipient. This mindset allows the
practitioner to maintain a caring and centered state without attachment to outcomes. The
centered state is one of focused presence and is analogous to the state of being put forth by
many meditative, yogic and zen practices. The emphasis of Healing Touch is on intention
over technique. A centered, peaceful, intentional state is considered much more important
than doing the techniques correctly.
Physiological Response
One way Healing Touch seeks to promote healing is by inducing a relaxation response
in the client. A typical Healing Touch session typically lasts 30-60 minutes. The
environment should be relaxing and conducive to attaining and maintaining a centered,
meditative state. According to the Healing Touch Program, the physiological chain response

to energy healing resembles the following. The treatment initiates a relaxation response in
the body. The relaxation response releases endorphins in the brain, increases circulation, and
elevates oxygen levels in the body. This response builds enzymes, regulates hormones and
allows for more efficient absorption of nutrients. Toxins release from the body and healthy
cells begin to regenerate. The recipient attains a sense of well-being that promotes healing.
Healing Touch Research
Existing Research
The Healing Touch Research Survey, published in 2006, lists just under 100 completed
research studies.16 Hutchinson states, Most HT research is designed by nurses who hold
academic positions or who are completing advanced degree programs, as well as by
psychologists, physicians, and other professionals. Studies cover a range of clinical areas,
using quantitative, qualitative, and triangulated methodologies.17 Experimental methods are
indicative of an attempt to legitimize Healing Touch in the eyes of orthodox Western
medicine by producing results that are consistent and fully replicable, a difficult task for
many complementary therapies. One reason is that many of the variables tested are based on
client report or on the objective measure of subjective feeling states and therefore cannot be
objectively measured and replicated. Further, holistic treatments typically treat the whole
person rather than isolated body parts and issues. When dealing with the individual as a
whole, variables are voluminous and are inherently difficult to control as required for clinical
trials. Hutchinson goes on to say that, Results of completed studies support the use of HT in
16 Healing Touch International, Inc., Healing Touch Research Survey, 8lh ed. (Houston: Research
Office of Healing Touch International, Inc., 2006).
17 Hutchinson, Healing Touch, 47.

people with depression, diabetes, cancer, back injuries, pain, and anxiety.18 Research to date
has been focused on treatment in multiple areas, including cancer, cardio-vascular health,
palliative care, immune functioning, pain, stress, anxiety and mental health. Of the
completed research, the Healing Touch Program states, The research presented does not
allow any conclusions to be made about the efficacy of Healing Touch. The list does
indicate...that further study is warranted.19 I would speculate that this ambiguous conclusion
reflects the fact that, despite favorable report in qualitative studies, Healing Touch is difficult
to test and to replicate using orthodox scientific testing methods, a point which has been
mentioned and which will be addressed in further detail in subsequent chapters.
Diane Wind Warded and Kathryn F. Weymouth (2004) completed a review of over
thirty Healing Touch studies, which they argue provide a strong foundation for further
research as client reported benefits are largely favorable. For example, in nine studies using
Healing Touch with persons in pain, indicated decreased pain, one no change, and
one a decrease when paired with reflexology.20 21 On studies with cancer patients, Warded and
Weymouth state,
...both significant and nonsignificant findings have been reported. Even in
the absence of significant results in outcomes studied, HT recipients often
reported subjective benefits, including, improved mood, well-being, and
interpersonal relationships; reduction in pain, blood pressure, and fatigue;
increase in vitality; and satisfaction with the treatments. Thus, HT might be
a comfort measure for patients undergoing cancer treatment and end-of-life
18 Ibid., 47.
19 Healing Touch International. Research Survey, 52.
20 Diane Wind Warded and Kathryn F. Weymouth, Review of Studies of Healing Touch, Journal of
Nursing Scholarship 36:2 (2004): 150.
21 Ibid., 150.

It is important to note that Healing Touch is a complementary therapy. As such, it
would be used to treat symptoms associated with a disease, and not as a treatment for the
disease itself. While it is common for hospital patients to report mental health benefits, such
as increased well-being, following Healing Touch treatments, studies using Healing Touch
specifically to treat mental health were inconclusive due to inadequate research design and
potential study biases.22
Research Limitations
Healing Touch research is relatively new and, like many complementary therapies,
Healing Touch faces limitations with regard to orthodox research practices. One reason is
that many of the results obtained in research studies are inherently subjective. For example,
does the person feel better? This is due, in part, to the fact that Healing Touch, as mentioned,
is often treating symptoms. Healing Touch is not used to treat cancer, but it could be used to
treat the pain, fatigue, stress and anxiety associated with chemotherapy. Advances in
technology, have allowed some objective measurements of the brain during meditative states.
Newberg and Iverson point out, Functional neuroimaging has opened a new window into the
investigation of meditative states by exploring the neurological correlates of these
experiences.23 This would include PET scans and fMRI.24 However, the limitation here is
22 Ibid., 150.
23 A. B. Newberg and J. Iverson, The Neural Basis of the Complex Mental Task of Meditation:
Neurotransmitter and Neurochemical Considerations, Medical Hypotheses 61(2) (2003): 282.
Research on meditative states is supportive as physiology is similar across disciplines. Newberg and
Iverson continue, Phenomenological analysis suggests that the end results of many practices of
meditation are similar, although these results might be described using different characteristics
depending on the culture and the individual. Newberg and Iverson. Neural Basis of Meditation,

that neurological data does not tell scientists what the brain state feels like to the individual.
The experience is a unique one. Thus, it is an objective measure of a subjective state.
Defining terms and creating the reliable scales of measure required by objective science can
be problematic when one is referring to such variables as increased well-being, decreased
pain, and decreased anxiety.24 25 Further, if brain activity does change during a relaxed or
meditative state, it may be unclear whether the brain activity is causing said state or
responding to it. Posing this question is itself indicative of our inclination to separate the
mind and the body.
Newberg and Iverson note Interindividual Differences, which can also be problematic
for controlled research. This would include differences that are inherent in the treatment and
that cannot be controlled. For example, differences in the level of relaxation attained or in
the depth of the meditative state. In Healing Touch, this could easily be affected by such
variables as the recipients level of comfort with the procedure, any experience of pain, or
presenting stress level.
Further, while beneficial results may be observed and documented by practitioners and
recipients, causation is extremely difficult to pinpoint. In other words, if it does work, it is
difficult to say for sure how or why it works. This has long been a central question in the
evidence debate, a point which will be addressed. Healing Touch comprises several variables
24 Andrew B. Newberg and Bruce Y. Lee, The Neuroscientific Study of Religious and Spiritual
Phenomena: Or Why God Doesnt Use Biostatistics, Zygon 40, no. 2 (June 2005): 475. Another
important point made by the authors is that the fMRI has a operating noise level of 100 decibles, which
often makes it difficult for the subject to attain and maintain a meditative state.
Newberg and Lee, Religious and Spiritual Phenomena, 471.

that arc difficult to isolate. As a result, it is hard to test efficacy using the Randomized
Clinical Trial (RCT). Touch and the relaxation response can be easily found outside of
treatment. Further, when an element as basic as touch is involved, it is very difficult to
provide adequate placebo controls. There simply is no good sham treatment to substitute for
touch. It is feasible that a control group receiving a touch treatment from an untrained
practitioner could still receive benefits just from being touched in a caring way by another
person. Kerr, Wasserman and Moore emphasize this point. They state, Two recent well-
controlled studies of Touch Healing for defined pain conditions found that both sham and
real Class 1 Touch Healing elicited significant pain relief.26 Thus, it is possible that
healing was found in touch alone.
The fact that Healing Touch is difficult to test and that causation is hard to pinpoint
does not prove that Healing Touch is useless as a complementary therapy. This study argues
the opposite, that Healing Touch has several foundational aspects worth exploring for their
therapeutic benefit. Although no one can say for sure why, the fact remains that client report
is largely favorable. This study will look at several possible explanations as to why Healing
Touch so often receives positive feedback from the nurses, doctors and patients who use it.
The goal is not to explain exactly how or why the techniques work. The goal is to present
Catherine E. Kerr, Rachel H. Wasserman and Christopher I. Moore, Cortical Dynamics as a
Therapeutic Mechanism for Touch Healing, The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
13, no. 1 (November 1,2007): 60. Healing Touch would fall into the Kerr et al. definition of a Class 1
Touch Healing therapy. They state, Class 1 TH therapies typically include repeated administration of
real or implicit tactile contact applied to specific skin regions....practitioners frequently claim that
touch stimuli are imbued with a potentiating energy or vibrational power...Class 1 therapies are
nearly always described as relaxing and often include an explicit relaxation instruction prior to onset.
Kerr, Wasserman and Moore, Cortical Dynamics, 62.

existing information in a new way that supports continued use and further investigation into
the efficacy of Healing Touch.
A Note About Language
As with any interdisciplinary study, language can be problematic. The language of
Healing Touch is at times spiritual, psychological and physiological or anatomical. Thus, this
study will draw on concepts and semantics from multiple disciplines. All efforts will be
made to synthesize discourse in a coherent way. Similarly, Healing Touch is a holistic
therapy, which assumes no boundaries between body, brain, mind, emotions and spirit. This
is most similar to Eastern philosophies, which assume an integration, rather than a separation
of the self. Thus, some concepts may appear awkward when presented in our Western
dualistic language, which insists on privileging either the mind or the body. As a result of
this dualism, mental and emotional phenomena are often trapped in the language of
psychology while experiences of the body and brain are frequently expressed in the language
of medicine, anthropology, biology, and/or neuroscience. Finally, recipients of Healing
Touch may be referred to as clients, subjects, individuals or patients. Variance is expected as
the study is exploring within a number of contexts and disciplines.

Looking at historical traditions and trends brings into focus a foundation from which to
examine Healing Touch in its current context.
Ancient Traditions
Prior to and well into the era of modem science, many cultures have practiced healing
techniques involving touch as well as practices involving universal or life force energy.
Healing by the laying on of hands is a tradition in many cultures. Tiffany Field, Director of
the Touch Research Institute in Miami, Florida, notes that touch healing is pictorially
depicted in the Egyptian Ebers Papyrus from 1553 B.C. Field states, In the Greece of
Hippocrates time, around 400 B.C., there were hand healers (comparable to todays
internists) called kheirourgos. This is the origin of the word surgeon, even though the
kheirourgos used the palm and fingers, rather than surgical methods, to heal.27 Fulghum
Bruce adds,.. .it was Hippocrates (around 460 BC) who described the healing power of the
force that flows from many peoples hands.28 Fulgham Bruce notes that the Roman healer
Galen used therapeutic massage and that the laying on of hands is commonplace in all four
gospels in the New Testament.29
27 Tiffany Field, Touch (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2001), 13.
Debra Fulghum Bruce, Miracle Touch: A Complete Guide to Hands-On Therapies That Have the
Amazing Ability to Heal (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003), 21.
29 Ibid., 118.

The Ayurveda, Indias earliest medical text, lists massage as a primary healing practice.
Buckman and Sabbagh quote an Ancient Egyptian text, If thou findest that his flesh has
developed inflammation from the wound that is in his shoulder, while that wound is inflamed,
open and its stitching loose, thou shouldst lay thy hand upon it.30 They continue, The
procedure of the physician laying his hand upon the one of the earliest medical
textbooks to specify the use of therapeutic touch.31 Bcvis Nathan, an osteopath, holds that
physical touch is the archetypal form of empathy. He notes, ...Pythagoras system of
training especially emphasized care and attention of the physical body. Where the body is
believed to be a vehicle through which the soul expresses itself, then alteration of the body
will result in a change in the degree and quality of expressibility in the soul.32 Dylan Evans
describes the oft attended royal touch ceremonies, which occurred between the fourteenth
and nineteenth centuries in Europe, in which the king would lay his hands on those who were
ill.33 Field states that, prior to the emergence opiates in the 1940s, massage was a major pain
Recorded instances of energy healing are almost as old. Barbara Brennan notes that, in
the Western tradition, some type of universal energy has been mentioned by Pythagoras (500
B.C.E.), Liebault (12th century), Paracelsus in the middle ages, Helmont and Mesmer in the
30 Robert Buckman and Karl Sabbagh, Magic or Medicine: An Investigation of Healing and Healers
(Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1995), 13.
31 Ibid., 13.
32 Bevis Nathan, Touch and Emotion in Manual Therapy (Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 1999), 44.
33 Dylan Evans, Placebo: Mind over Matter in Modern Medicine (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
2004), 160.

1800s, and Count Wilhelm von Reichenbach, also in the 1800s.34 Brennan continues, John
White, in his book Future Science, lists 97 different cultures that refer to the auric
phenomenon with 97 different names. 35 Dr. James Oschman dates energy healing back to
2750 B.C.E., when electric eels were used to treat the sick. Electrical healing devices were
used widely during the 18th and 19th centuries. Oschman states, By 1884 it was estimated
that 10,000 physicians in the USA were using electricity every day for therapeutic purposes,
totally without the blessing of science.36 In the late 1800s, Edwin Babbitt claimed that he
could see energy fields around the human body, which he detailed in 1873 in The Principles
of Light and Color. He drew what he saw and today, Oschman states, We know that the
field Babbitt observed corresponds to that expected from neuro-currents flowing through the
interhemispheric fibers of the corpus callosum.37 It is difficult to tell whether or not any of
the touch practices listed above also incorporated energetic principles, but the possibility is
interesting to consider. In Holistic Nursing, Lynn Keegan and Karilee Halo Shames state,
Inside the Pyramids, illustrations thousands of years old show representations of one person
holding hands near another, with waves of energy depicted moving from the hands of the
healer to the body nearby.38
34 Barbara Ann Brennan, Hands of Light: A Guide to Healing Through the Human Energy Field (New
York: Bantam Books, 1988), 29.
35 Ibid., 29.
36 James L. Oschman, Energy Medicine: The Scientific Basis of Bioenergy Therapies, with a foreword
by Candace Pert (Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2000), 9.
37 Oschman, Energy Medicine, 12.
38 Lynn Keegan and Karilee Halo Shames, Touch: Connecting with the Healing Power, in Holistic
Nursing: A Handbook for Practice, 4th ed., eds. Barbara Montgomery Dossey, Lynn Keegan, and
Cathie E. Guzzetta, (Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett, 2005), 644.

The 17th Century and Descartes
Descartes is an infamous figure in the history of modem medicine as it relates to the
treatment of body and mind. Buckman and Sabbagh write that Descartes simultaneously
propelled medicine forward and set it back with his famous philosophical concept.
He freed the body from the shackles of the mind, which enabled scientists to
ask pragmatic questions about bodily function and disease and thus extend
scientific enquiry into the territory of human physiology and pathology. At
the same time, however, post-Cartesian medicine lost any sight of holism
because it could no longer think about the mind and the body at the same
Of course, Descartes did not emerge in a vacuum. His thinking is the product of a
foundational dualism already present in the Western tradition. Since the time of Plato, there
has been a tendency to separate the body from the mind and thus to privilege one over the
other. Some would argue that the mind is more real than the changeable, decaying body.
Others argue that the materially present and knowablc body is more real than the elusive
mind. Ontologies vary, but the common denominator is an underlying separation of the
physical and the mental, which has manifested in Western medicine. Eastern philosophies
and medical systems, which developed apart from the Western tradition, do not exhibit this
The implications are far reaching, but most significant to this study is that the mind,
lacking a physical substance or anatomical place, was ignored by medicine and was handed
over with the soul to the philosophers and theologians. While theology denounces the sinful,
decaying body, science readily acknowledges both the body and the brain, albeit 39
39 Buckman and Sabbagh, Magic or Medicine, 21.

mechanistically. Nathan notes that Descartes location of the self in the abstract mind left the
body free to be merely a machine.40 This turn of events is extremely significant to any
therapy involving the mind and the body. Foundational dualism and Descartes legacy can
certainly be seen in allopathic medicine today, as the human being is viewed as a
conglomeration of mechanical parts. It is quite common to have a specialist working on each
part of the body with no one viewing the whole. Drew Leder points out, ironically, that
Descartes spent several years taking time to visit butcher shops, examining animal corpses in
his quest to understand the human machine. Leder sates, Modem medicine, profoundly
Cartesian in spirit, has continued to use the corpse as a methodological tool and a regulative
ideal. Medical education begins with the cadaver, just as the clinical case ends with the
pathoanatomical dissection. Death unveils the truths of the inner body and its diseases.41
What, if not mind, spirit, and emotions, is missing from the cadaver?
The 18th Century and Mesmer
Franz Anton Mesmer is an interesting and relevant addition to this study for several
reasons. His historical milieu is at the crossroads of so-called primitive healing methods and
the scientific revolution initiated by Descartes and others in the previous century. He uses
both touch and energetics and his case marks a major turning point in the debate about what
constitutes good evidence. According to Harry Herr, the concept of the clinical trial began
here, with Benjamin Franklin and Antione Levoisicrs investigation of Mesmer.
40 Nathan, Touch and Emotion, 25
41 Drew Leder, The Absent Body (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1990), 146.

Mesmer believed that a single fluid flowed through and connected the universe and all
living things. He referred to this phenomenon as animal magnetism. According to Mesmer,
an improper distribution of this fluid was a causal factor in many types of illness. Mesmer
claimed that he could adjust the flow of this fluid and he did so using magnets, iron rods and
his own hands. Although the medical establishment was none too thrilled with Mesmers
theories, he enjoyed great success between 1779 and 1784. Both Mozart and Marie
Antoinette were among Mesmers supporters. Herr states, By the 1780s, mesmerism had
become such a craze that many intellectuals and institutions began to worry that irrational
thought would spread throughout society, not to mention the shrinking practices and profits
among the conventional physicians.42
In 1784, a Royal Commission was established by Louis XVI to investigate Mesmer.
Benjamin Franklin, a well-known expert on electricity, headed the committee. Antoine
Levoisier, widely considered the father of modem chemistry, was also a member. Herr cites
their final report as a key document in the history of human reason, largely because of the
methods they employed. Herr recounts that after 16 different experiments, the commission
concluded that the power of suggestion, rather than magnetic fluid, was ultimately
responsible for Mesmers success. This was determined across a number of experiments
where Mesmerism was applied and not suggested, then suggested but not applied. Patients
who thought that they were being magnetized often experienced full responses, while patients
Harry W. Herr, Franklin, Levoisier, and Mesmer: Origin of the Controlled Clinical Trial,
Urologic Oncology: Seminars and Original Investigations 23, (2005): 348.

who were magnetized without being told displayed no response. Herr states, The Franklin
protocol had compared treatment and no treatment under blind conditions.43
Later, in 1919, English mathematician Sir Ronald Fisher added randomization and probability
to Franklins controlled study model. According to Herr, this is the evolution of the
Randomized Clinical Trial (RCT) in short form. The story of Mesmer is interesting to keep
in mind as we proceed with a look at alternative therapies, research into the power of the
mind, and debates about evidence and the RCT.
The 19th Century and Neurosis
With the focus on anatomy and on empirical data, nineteenth century medicine
rigorously sought the biological origins of illness. This is true in medical and mental health.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, psychiatry, like medicine, became
scientific. Diagnosis, causation and the university replaced bedside manner and the asylum.
However, the mind would not go away quietly. It remained a specter to science. Nervous
disorders were prevalent and were problematic at this time because they did not quite fit the
biological model of disease. In 1875, the Weir Mitchell rest cure, comprising massage
therapy and electrical treatments along with rest, isolation, and a milk diet, demonstrated
great success with female nervous patients. Shorter points out that the cure, much like the
pathology, did not submit to the desired medical paradigm, which was completely
mechanical, positing the body as a machine on which the mind has no bearing. As
mentioned, the paradigm is a cultural one. It is based on the Western dualistic tradition, a
legacy of Plato. The material body, which lends itself to empirical method, becomes the only
43 Ibid., 350.

valid measure for medical science. At the same time, the Puritan tradition, also descending
from Plato via Pauline Christianity, denounces that same body, stating that only the mind and
the spirit are of value. The common denominator is that the integrated whole recognized by
most Eastern traditions is separate and categorical in the West.
In the 19th century, well after Descartes and well before placebo research, doctors had
very little understanding of the power of the mind as a curative agent. Shorter states,
The biological model, as it had evolved by the end of the nineteenth century,
was much lacking in any understanding of the mind as the intervening link
between brain and behavior. Light on the importance of this link started to
glimmer in the private clinics as doctors saw such placebos as a milk diet
completely transform patients lives.44
While biological antecedents were sought during this time, other therapies were still
employed in practice because they worked, as evidenced by the Weir Mitchell Rest Cure.
Several formalized manual therapies, including chiropractic and osteopathy, originated in the
late nineteenth century.45 Both therapies are preventative, holistic and involve touching the
client. Like the Weir Mitchell Rest Cure, they flourished just prior to new scientific
developments, which would steer the course of medicine even further toward hard objective
science in the twentieth century.
44 Ibid., 136
45 Fulghum Bruce points out that Chiropractic is the largest alternative medical profession. It was
started by D.D. Palmer, a vendor in Davenport, IA. He thought it to be a combination of science and
art. He was influenced by a group of magnetic healers who passed through Davenport in 1885. She
states, These healers treated disease by placing their hands upon the patient and letting curative
electromagnetic forces (animal magnetism) flow from the body of the healer through the body of the
patient. In the nineteenth century, there were many such healers. Fulghum Bruce, Miracle Touch, 74.

The 20th Century
Early in the twentieth century, medical schools were overhauled as germs were
identified as the origins of infectious disease. The Flexner Report created a uniform,
scientifically-based medical training curriculum and set the dominant tone for medicine in the
twentieth century. In 1910, electrotherapy was declared unscientific. In mental health, the
two major schools of thought were psychoanalysis and later, behaviorism. Interestingly,
American society also experienced a sharp decline in touch at this time. Technology and
pharmaceuticals usurped many touch remedies as germs created a fear of contact. Fulghum
Bruce notes that, in the early 1900s, pediatrician Luther Emmett Holt encouraged parents to
stop holding and cuddling their babies. Parents across the nation obliged and within a few
years a dramatic rise in infant mortality, even in seemingly healthy babies, was observed.46
All of this coincided with the rise of antibiotics, such as penicillin, discovered by Alexander
Fleming in 1928.47 Anitbiotics, as mentioned previously, displaced many popular touch
Early twentieth century inquiries into mind and body put no dents in the armor of
dualism. In 1939, the first issue of Psychosomatic Medicine was published, marking the first
formal scientific inquiries into psychosomatic illness. Psychosomatic replaced nervous
As mentioned by multiple theorists, this trend with children eventually would be called into question
following unexplained deaths in seemingly healthy infants and Harry Harlows famous experiments
with rhesus monkeys. Harlow found that young monkeys, given their choice of surrogates, preferred a
cloth mother over a wire mother, even if the wire mother had the food.
47 Buckman and Sabbagh, Magic or Medicine, 24.

disease...48 Freuds psychoanalysis, on the rise at this time, supported the psychosomatic
assertion that the mind was capable of causing disease in the body. Interestingly, Carl Jung
was critical of this model because, although it did acknowledge a link between the mind and
the body, its foundation was, at heart, a dualistic one.49 Although acknowledged as causal
agents on one another, the mind and the body remained separate and distinct entities. This
view is in keeping with the Western intellectual tradition and, going forward into the
twentieth century, this is how they would be treated by medical science. Lueger and Sheikh
The philosophical assumption of psycho-physical parallelism furnished the
basis for correlation research and, with strict restrictions on semantic usage, a
means of evading the mind-body problem. A demarcation of psychological
and physical domains was adhered to with rigor, and two sets of theory -
separate but equal allowed conceptual handling of dual subject matters.50
Mental health adhered to the same scientific rigor. B.F. Skinners Radical
Behaviorism, at its pinnacle at mid-century, focused only on observable behavior. For
Skinner, even writing and speech acts were no more than observable behaviors. Thoughts and
mental activities were of no consequence. Treatments comprised stimulus control, flooding
and aversion therapy. Perpetuating the no-touch stance, Behaviorist John Watson once said,
When you are tempted to pet your child, remember that mother love is a dangerous
48 Robert J. Lueger and Anees A. Sheikh, The Four Forces of Psychotherapy, in Eastern and Western
Approaches to Healing, ed. Anees A. Sheikh and Katharina S. Sheikh (New York: John Wiley and
Sons, 1989), 299.
49 Ibid., 303.
50 Ibid., 305.

instrument.51 The thinking of these hard-line behaviorists is in line with the idea of the body
as merely a machine. Since the body and brain may be conditioned, the mind and emotions
are of little consequence. Because they isolate specific behaviors, these methods conform
readily to orthodox scientific testing models. However, they ignore a host of other variables
related to thought and emotion. This is problematic to many as evidenced by the large
number of individuals who feel alienated by orthodox medicine and who seek compassionate
practitioners who will treat them holistically.
Harold Saxton Burr is an anomalous and lesser-known twentieth century figure, but he
deserves mention here as he is relevant to this study. Burr was a Professor of Anatomy at
Yale University Medical School in the 1930s and 1940s. He was convinced that all living
things had an energy blueprint that could be useful in the diagnosis of physical and mental
conditions.52 Burr felt that the energies he studied were consistent with the laws of physics.
Oschman states, Burr was convinced that diseases would show up in the energy field before
symptoms of pathology, such as tumors. His theory was that if the disturbed energy field
could be detected and restored to normal, the pathology could be prevented.53 The concepts
outlined by Burr are consistent with the assumptions of Healing Touch. According to
Oschman, Burr was ahead of his time and ahead of the science needed to support his work.
51 Public Radio International (PRI). Unconditional Love. An episode from This American Life.
Broadcast on Chicago Public Radio, September 15, 2006.
http:/7www.thisamericanlife.or/Radio Episode.aspx'?sched= 1204 (accessed December 29, 2007).
52 Oschman, Energy Medicine, 17.
53 Ibid., 20.

However, modem science is showing a renewed interest in energy medicine, a concept that
will be examined in more detail in Chapter Six.
Humanism emerged in the 1960s, particularly in mental health, with the work of Carl
Rogers, Abraham Maslow, Frederick Peris, and others. Humanism attempted a holistic
stance, recalling the work of such earlier theorists as Carl Jung and William James. The
movement sought to avoid a mechanistic view on the nature of human pathology. Lueger and
Sheikh paraphrase GS Belkin stating, Unlike the psychoanalysts and the behavior therapists,
they refused to subscribe to the notion that the individual is reducible to a series of logical,
causative, deterministic propositions.54 Humanistic models are most similar in process and
stmeture to holistic therapies, including Healing Touch.55 The focus is on experience and on
wholeness. I would argue that the Humanistic movement was a compensatory response to the
isolation and callousness that many felt was inherent in behaviorism. However, because of
advances in technology, the honeymoon for Humanism was short-lived, as biological
determinism came back full-force in the 1970s.
Beginning in the 1970s, particularly in mental health, we can see a shift back to the
biological model, largely due to better medicines and better technology. Modem medicine
began experimentation with and research into brain chemistry.56 Once again, science turned
away from the mind and back to the biological, anatomical brain. Shorter states, After the
54 Lueger and Sheikh. The Four Forces of Psychotherapy, 198.
55 The human potential movement openly embraced the idea of touch. Field, Touch, 63.
56 Shorter, A History of Psychiatry, 238. While beyond the scope of this investigation. Shorter makes
interesting points about the nature of the second era of biological psychiatry, beginning in the 1970s.
He states that the ultimate force behind the discovery and adoption of new drugs such as
chlorpromazine was not scientists or clinicians but the drug companies, who funded the research.

1960s...the neurobiological paradigm came roaring back...with medications that truly worked
and evidence that psychiatric illness represented a biological phenomenon far deeper than
troubled human relations or a schizophrenic mother.57
The definition of mental illness expanded to include the worried well as
unprecedented numbers of people sought services and treatment.58 59 The DSM-III, published
in 1980, was roughly 350 pages longer than previous editions. Shorter notes its theoretical
bent, stating, Harvard psychiatrist Gerald Klerman called DSM-III a victory for science.39
Shorter argues that, at this time, the available treatments became as numerous as the
pathologies they served.60 This includes the advent of alternative therapies and drug
therapies. Peter Kramer, in 1990, used the term cosmetic psychopharmacology to describe
Prozac, a new antidepressant, which he said would make patients feel better than well.61
The major trends in twentieth century healthcare are reflected in the Merck Manual, a
well-known medical text first published in 1899. Prior to 1950, there is no mention of
holism. Between the 9th edition in 1956 and the 12th edition in 1972, the movement toward
57 Ibid., 238.
58 Ibid., 302.
59 Ibid., 302.
60 Ibid., 306. Shorter names Therapeutic Touch in his list of bizarre therapies, stating, With the
transformation of psychoanalysis into yet another postmodern form of discourse, competing
psychotherapies mushroomed.. ..any therapy was considered valid no matter how bizarre, from
therapeutic touching to practicing being bom again midst the sofa cushions on the living room rug.
For psychiatrists, touching these was like touching a coiling mass of serpents. Shorter, A History of
Psychiatry, 306.
61 Ibid., 324. According to Shorter, everyone wanted to take Prozac as researchers continued to expand
the definition of depression and to add to the list of disorders that Prozac could effectively treat. He
states, By 1994, Prozac had become the number two best-selling drug in the world, following,
perhaps ironically, an ulcer drug named Zantac. Shorter, A History of Psychiatry, 324.

holism is reflected by a new category titled, Psychophysiological Autonomic and Visceral
Disorders with symptoms matching nineteenth century nervous disorders. After 1972, the
focus shifts from mental and physical interaction to how the individual adapts to the disease
process. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders shows a similar and
parallel evolution. Speaking of the 1980 DSM-I11, Lueger and Sheikh state, Still more
disquieting for the holistic movement, the establishment of a specific category of physical
conditions affected by psychological factors seems to imply that physical conditions arc not
universally thus affected.62
The Evidence Debate
In 1948, the British Journal of Medicine published the first documented randomized
clinical trial. In the 1970s, the FDA mandated that all new drugs must be tested using the
randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial. In the 1990s there was a large movement for
evidence-based medicine. For many, the Randomized Clinical Trial (RCT) stands alone as
the best method for testing a new therapy as most medical care is focused on objective
measures of outcomes related to the treatment of disease. As mentioned, this leaves many
alternative therapies out in the cold. They do not readily fit this model because they often
rely on subjective measures and, most importantly, because they are foundationally non-
dualistic, which means that variables will necessarily be impossible to isolate from the whole.
There appears now to be widespread debate about what constitutes a viable therapy,
what counts as good clinical evidence, and how much weight should be given to evidence
based on the RCT. Those in favor of the RCT and quantitative research argue that, without
62 Lueger and Sheikh. The Four Forces of Psychotherapy, 311.

research there is always a possibility of adopting treatments that will turn out to be dangerous
or ineffective. Thus, research provides a check on theory. The RCT allows practitioners to
choose the best therapy from many options. Some argue that drugs are held to higher
empirical standards and are, therefore, a better option. Further, a patient who feels better
after visiting an alternative practitioner may be less likely to seek help from an orthodox
physician. F.vans states, A depressed patient may get some relief from a placebo, but if he
takes Prozac he will get more...Even if he has a placebo-responsive condition, and the
therapy does him some good, a less effective treatment has been substituted for a more
effective one.63 Others have little faith in the subjective. Steven J. Hollon states, people
often invent explanations for their subjective experience or actions that bear no objective
relation to the actual factors that control their behavior...! see nothing in qualitative research
that protects against this proclivity.64 In other words, if causation cannot be pinpointed, the
client and the practitioner can attribute progress to whatever he/she would like. Buckman and
Sabbagh make a similar argument, speculating that documented positive responses to
complementary treatments could be based on any of the following factors: misdiagnosis,
misprognosis, premature follow up, spontaneous regression, simultaneous types of treatment
including conventional treatments, or selective recall of what happened.65 Evans argues that
mind oriented treatments require additional skepticism because the idea that belief can cure
disease has become an industry.
63 Evans, Placebo, 192.
64 John C. Norcross, Larry E. Beutler and Ronald F. Levant, eds., Evidence-Based Practices in Mental
Health: Debate and Dialogue on the Fundamental Questions, (Washington, DC: American
Psychological Association, 2006), 117.
65 Buckman and Sabbagh, Magic or Medicine, 155.

While those in favor of the RCT raise valid concerns, I contend that completely
excluding all therapies that cannot be tested in this way is a greater risk. Many on the other
side of the debate would argue, and 1 would agree that, while Healing Touch and other
therapies often do not fit into the RCT model, the supporting research is scientific in that it is
based on observation, theory, experimentation and further observation.66 Many who work
directly with clients know that individuals are unique and that a successful result in the RCT
does not prove that a therapy is better in practice, only that it lends itself more readily to the
RCT. I agree that controlled research, while informative, cannot be prescriptive when it
comes to the individual. The RCT is designed to test one variable at a time, but, as discussed,
the idea that variables exist independently is the consequence of a dualistic worldview. If
individuals are an integrated whole then they must be treated as such. Because individuals
are unique, with their own context and experiences, therapies necessarily cannot be one size
fits all. Many Western doctors and scientists are beginning to argue, and 1 would agree, that
room should be made within science for the subjective experience of the individual and for
contextual variables. Underlying this idea is a foundational shift from dualism to holism.
Thus, ideas presented in subsequent chapters will reinforce a holistic viewpoint, positing the
body and the mind as equal, integrated parts of a whole.
Another important point is that even esteemed science may not always be entirely
pure. This statement, paraphrased from Drazen & Curfman, 2002, is particularly ominous.
Because the editors of the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that they could not
find enough experts without financial ties to the drug industry, the journal soon thereafter
66 Moyers, Bill. Healing and the Mind. Edited by Betty Sue Flowers and David Grubin. New York:
Doubleday, 1993.

relaxed its strict policy against financial conflicts of interest by editorial and review
authors.6. Further, there is debate about how much orthodox medicine has actually been
tested using the RCT. Buckman and Sabbagh note one extreme, quoting the following
statistic from D.M. Eddy and J.D. Billings in their paper, The Quality of Medical Evidence
and Medical Practice prepared for the National Leadership Commission on Healthcare. It
is a commonly held belief, particularly among conventional doctors, that most of
conventional medical practice is based on good scientific evidence and fundamental
biological principles...In fact, the best estimates suggest that approximately 15 per cent of
medical practice is based on sound science. In other words, 85 per cent of it isnt.67 68
To date, many therapies remain caught in the middle of the evidence debate as
observation and experience shows that they work, but the mechanism by which they work
cannot be exactly determined. The question remains, if a treatment works, should it be used
even if the underlying causal mechanism cannot be entirely elucidated in a clinical trial?69
This question was relevant in Mesmers time and it is relevant today. The issues underlying
the answer to this question are steeped in intellectual and cultural traditions. On one side of
the issue, Dr. David Felton states,
Some of my colleagues think.........that if we dont know the mechanism by
which it acts, perhaps wed better be cautious and wait. But 1 think that if it
67 Ibid., 271.
68 Buckman and Sabbagh, Magic or Medicine, 186. According to Buckman and Sabbagh, acupuncture,
osteopathy and traditional Chinese medicine, have been tested using RCT with favorable results.
69 The author is aware that there will always be contextual variables and so does not intend to
oversimplify the issue.

continues to work, we are honor-bound to use it for the benefit of the
patients, and then work vigorously to understand the mechanisms behind it.70
However, in the current climate, new therapies will be considered more successful by
the scientific community if the mechanism by which they work can be demonstrated and
replicated. Certainly, the evidence debate cannot be resolved in this study. Debate about the
fundamental questions raised will and should continue. At this stage, 1 would argue that the
ability for individuals to make informed choices is a worthy and attainable goal.
Lueger and Sheikh state that many feel that now is the time for alternative therapies,
many of which recall the work of theorists whose thinking was, in many ways, ahead of their
time and ahead of the science to support their work.71 Previously, research studies
specifically on the benefits of Healing Touch have been mentioned. While it is a start, the
research to date is admittedly limited. Going forward, the focus will be on developments in
various disciplines that, while not geared specifically toward Healing Touch, could be used to
support its efficacy by supporting its foundational tenets. The research presented should be
considered in addition to the favorable reports of those utilizing Healing Touch and the
community driven movement to integrate complementary therapies into mainstream
healthcare. The emergent theories presented represent a paradigm shift within the medical
and scientific community from viewing the individual as a conglomeration of parts to
70 David Felten, The Brain and the Immune System, interview by Bill Moyers, Healing and the
Mind, eds. Betty Sue Flowers and David Grubin, (New York: Doubleday, 1993), 223.
71 Lueger and Sheikh. The Four Forces of Psychotherapy, 226. According to Lueger and Sheikh,
This includes William Jamess (1950/1961) explorations into higher consciousness, Jungs
(1961/1968) investigation of the individuation process, Assagiolis (1965) incorporation of spiritual
practices into psychotherapy, and Maslows (1968/1971) inquiries into self-actualization and peak
experiences. All were influenced by Eastern disciplines and so were often dismissed by Western
theorists of their time. Lueger and Sheikh. The Four Forces of Psychotherapy, 226.

viewing the individual as an integrated whole. The study will examine the benefits of
Healing Touch as a mind/body therapy, the benefits of Healing Touch as a touch therapy, and
the benefits of Healing Touch as an energetic therapy. Many of the aforementioned
techniques and theoretical assumptions of Healing Touch will be highlighted in subsequent
chapters as we look at how Healing Touch relates to emerging science and new trends in
mind-body medicine.
In evaluating whether or not Healing Touch should be used and/or investigated despite
its described research limitations with regard to the RCT, one should also bear the following
points in mind. Healing Touch is a complementary therapy. As such, it is intended to work
with orthodox medicine. Primarily, it is used to enhance general well-being and to alleviate
symptoms associated with more serious diseases. In other words, Healing Touch makes no
claims with regard to outcomes and is not intended to cure serious diseases, such as cancer.
Healing Touch is non-invasive and has no known harmful side effects. Additionally, despite
research limitations, people are providing and seeking Healing Touch services in increased
Healing Touch International, Research Survey, (summary).

This chapter will review several emergent theories based on an integrated model of
mind, body, spirit and emotions. Many of these theories rest on a holistic view of the
individual that is contrary to the dominant dualistic model. The movement toward a holistic
model of human health reflects a major paradigm shift in the West and is driven by
consumers, who are seeking holistic therapies in increased numbers, as well as by doctors and
scientists, who advocate for integrative healthcare despite its inherent research limitations.
Establishing a holistic, rather than a dualistic, model provides a new conceptual framework
from which to view human health. As an integrated mind-body therapy, Healing Touch
works to reducing stress and induce relaxation, which will positively affect the recipient,
helping them to self-heal. The research presented here is significant because, by linking
body, mind and emotions, it supports the idea that physiological relaxation can affect emotion
and cognition and vice versa. While the hypotheses and initial studies are promising, further
research is needed in many areas before conclusions can be presented as definitive.
However, current studies open an exciting realm of possibilities.
Healing Touch operates on the assumption that the mind and the emotions are
integrated with physiology. Once forgotten by science, the mind is becoming a central player
in many theories and fields of study. Scientists, doctors and consumers alike are precipitating
a shift to a new paradigm for human health. Much research suggests that the mind and
emotions indeed play a role in health and well-being, although the scope of reach remains

unknown. Ideas presented here include those of neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, who
locates emotion in the body and in the mind, of placebo research, which speaks to the power
of the mind as a healing agent, and of psychoneuroimmunology, which extends the reach of
the mind into the immune system, very recently thought to be autonomous and beyond the
power of the mind.
The Public Seeks CAM
Many consumers, doctors and scientists are making a space for complementary
therapies within mainstream Western healthcare. The community driven movement is
evidence that the current system is lacking something that the public wants and needs.
Whether or not everyone in the scientific community is ready, public allegiance is shifting
from orthodox to alternative medicine. Tiffany Field states, A recent New England Journal
of Medicine article by D.M. Eisenberg and his colleagues from Harvard reported survey data
suggesting that as many as 33 percent of the American people are paying for alternative
medicine out of their own pockets because it is not covered by most health care plans.73
The prevalence of individuals seeking Complementary and Alternative Medicine
necessitates the question, what are people seeking that they arent getting from orthodox
medicine? The answer is whole-person healing. Pelletier and Herzing state, There is an
anachronistic and inaccurate division between the concepts of mind and body proposed by
Descartes and the overwhelming evidence in the physical sciences for the continuity between
73 Field, Touch, 91.

matter and energy and the emergent properties of whole systems.74 I would argue that
many orthodox physicians are at a loss when there is not a concrete presenting problem, no
clear-cut, explicit answer to the question, What brings you in? Often, individuals are forced
to pinpoint a specific isolated issue to be cured when what they really need is whole-person
healing. Tiffany Field cites this figure, ...a 1993 US Public Health Survey estimated that 70
to 80 percent of Americans who visit conventional physicians suffer from a stress-related
disorder.75 Fulgham Bruce notes the following statistic,
Physical discomfort resulting from psychosocial distress is one of the most
common reasons why people seek medical care. A revealing twenty-year
study by Kaiser Permanente concluded that over 60 percent of their medical
visits were by the worried well, with no diagnosable medical condition.
Not surprisingly, the U.S. Public Health Service estimates that 70 percent of
the current health-care budget is spent treating individuals with chronic
diseases many caused by negative lifestyle habits or chronic stress.76
Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen provides an eloquent distinction between healing and curing.
Healing is different from curing, you know. Healing is a process were all
involved in all the time....Sometimes people heal physically, and they dont
heal emotionally, or mentally, or spiritually. And sometimes people heal
emotionally, and they dont heal physically...People have been healing each
other long before there were doctors.77
Of course, orthodox medicine is extremely valuable and curing is necessary. However, so is
healing. Many people agree with this assertion, as evidenced by the large number who are
74 Kenneth R. Pelletier and Denise L. Herzing, Psychoneuroimmunology: Toward a Mind-Body
Model, in Eastern and Western Approaches to Healing, eds. Anees A. Sheikh and Katharina S.
Sheikh (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1989), 348.
75 Ibid., 16.
76 Fulgham Bruce, Miracle Touch, 4.
77 Rachel Naomi Remen, Wholeness, interview by Bill Moyers, Healing and the Mind, eds. Betty
Sue Flowers and David Grubin, (New York: Doubleday, 1993), 344.

willing to pay out-of-pocket for holistic treatments and by the growing number of physicians
who acknowledge that, in practice, it is essential to treat the whole person.
Dr. Ron Anderson states, Although we have advanced technology and spend a lot, this
nation is not satisfying its patients. Were the only country where the more we spend, the less
people are satisfied with health care.78 Dr. David Smith adds,
We used to see the patient as a whole...Weve seen the pendulum swing all
the way over to a compartmentalized medical focus. Weve become experts
in particular areas, but were not experts on the entire human being. We
really dont like the unknown, and mind/body medicine is full of unknowns,
so you have to have an open mind as a health care provider to practice it.79
Dr. Dean Ornish argues the point that alternative therapies should not be viewed as
threatening or dangerous. Many are effective, although not precisely measurable.
These techniques have been around for thousands of years in one form or
another. You find them in every culture, every religion, and every group of
people. Sometimes they are a little hidden below the surface, buried in ritual,
or they go by different names. But the essence of those techniques is what 1
find most interesting. The essence consists of tools for quieting the mind and
body, and also focusing it. When the mind quiets down, an individual can
begin to experience more of an inner sense of peace, contentment, and well-
being health, if you will...we tend to think of a breakthrough in medicine as
being something like a new surgical technique or a new drug. We have a
hard time believing that these simple, ancient, inexpensive approaches can be
so powerful. But were finding that they often are.80
In an interview with Bill Moyers, Dr. Thomas Delbanco talks about his education and
subsequent experience as a practicing physician.
Ron Anderson, The Art of Healing, interview by Bill Moyers, Healing and the Mind, eds. Betty
Sue Flowers and David Grubin, (New York: Doubleday, 1993), 31.
David Smith, Healing and the Community, interview by Bill Moyers, Healing and the Mind, eds.
Betty Sue Flowers and David Grubin, (New York: Doubleday, 1993), 62.
Dean Ornish, Changing Life Habits, interview by Bill Moyers, Healing and the Mind, eds. Betty
Sue Flowers and David Grubin, (New York: Doubleday, 1993), 108.

I know more about the body than the mind. Its probably easier to study
and thats what we learned in medical school ninety-five percent body
and five percent mind. But Ill tell you, once youre in practice, and youre
taking care of real people, it becomes much closer to fifty-fifty....When
someones belly hurts, I ask very quickly whats going on in the mind as
well as in the abdomen. When someone is depressed, I think also about
what might be going on in the body thats leading to the depression. Mind
and body are inextricably woven together. Every primary physician knows
that. Studies show that probably half the visits to us in the office are for
things related to mind issues rather than body issues. Wed better be
educated in both if were going to serve those patients well.81
Despite described research limitations, science is now investigating what many have
always intuitively known, that the body, mind and emotions form an integrated system, each
piece inseparable from the others. Science is returning to the mind, but this time it is not at
the expense of the body. Science is now investigating the individual as an integrated entity.
Emotion in the Body
Antonio Damasio is a behavioral neurologist with a background in philosophy. His
thinking reflects one way that science is returning to the mind, to feelings and to the emotions
without disregarding the body. Some scientists, including Damasio, are now locating
emotions within the physical body. Damasio states, The gist of my current view is that
feelings are the expression of human flourishing or human distress, as they occur in mind and
body... 82 Damasio contends that emotions occur as felt experiences in the body and that
they precede feelings, which occur in the mind. He states, Elucidating the neurobiology of
feelings and their antecedent emotions contributes to our views on the mind-body problem, a
81 Thomas Delbanco, The Healing Roles of Doctor and Patient, interview by Bill Moyers, Healing
and the Mind, eds. Betty Sue Flowers and David Grubin, (New York: Doubleday, 1993), 8.
Antonio Damasio, Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain (Orlando, FL: Harcourt,
Inc., 2003), 6.

problem central to the understanding of who we are. Emotion and related reactions are
aligned with the body, feelings with the mind.83 Emotions in the body arc triggered by
thoughts, which then become a feeling in the mind. Thus, in his book Looking for Spinoza,
Damasio argues that science is now revealing what Spinoza knew. Organisms react
emotionally to various stimuli and events. The reaction is followed by a feeling. Emotions
cannot be overcome by reason, only by a stronger emotion. This assertion is significant in
practice and, if emotions are indeed found in the body, is necessarily an argument for the
body to assume a larger role in facilitating well-being.
Damasio describes how thoughts and emotions are linked, each having the ability to
invoke the other. To illustrate this point, he cites a study by Paul Ekman and colleagues.
Ekman asked subjects to move their faces in a certain sequence, which they did not know
would put them in an expression of sadness, happiness, etc. The subjects ended up feeling
the corresponding emotions. Damasio states, Psychologically unmotivated and acted
emotional expressions have the power to cause feeling. The expressions conjure up the
feelings and the kinds of thoughts that have been learned as consonant with those emotional
expressions.84 Feelings are, in essence, a cognitive mapping of a bodily or emotional state.85
83 Ibid., 7.
84 Ibid., 71. Further, emotions, such as crying and laughter, have been spontaneously induced in the lab
by stimulating certain portions of the brain with electrical currents. The emotions were subsequently
followed by the corresponding feelings of sadness and joy. Damasio notes, Just as interestingly, the
cause of the laughter was attributed to whichever object the patient was concentrating on at the time of
the stimulation. For example, if the patient was being shown a picture of a horse, she would say, The
horse is so funny. On occasion the investigators themselves were deemed to be an emotionally
competent stimulus as when she concluded: You guys are just so funny.......standing around.
Damasio, Looking for Spinoza, 75.

While Damasio himself does not seem to subscribe to therapies like Healing Touch, his
argument does support the idea that bringing the body into a given state can result in
corresponding feelings and thoughts. This is significant to Healing Touch, which relies
largely, but not exclusively, on positioning the body in a state conducive to healing. Further,
because Damasio is a Western trained neuroscientist, he speaks the language of categorical
orthodox science. However, his model of body, mind and emotions is an integrated one.
Research on stress has shown that a relaxed state increases endorphins and reduces the
stress hormone cortisol, thereby putting the individual in an optimal state for healing. Debra
Fulghum Bruce describes the relaxation response studied by Dr. Herbert Benson. The
relaxation response is counter to the fight-or-flight response. The relaxation response slows
down the sympathetic nervous system, leading to deacreased heart rate, blood pressure, sweat
production, oxygen consumption, and cortisol (stress hormone) production. She describes it
as, a physiological state of inner quiet and peacefulness, a calming of negative thoughts and
worries, and a mental focus away from the pain itself. There are many techniques to elicit the
relaxation response....85 86 Healing Touch is one such technique. The relaxation response, as
described by Fulghum Bruce, is quite similar to the physiological response to Healing Touch
presented in the second chapter.
85 Ibid., 113. According to Damasio, the brain can assemble maps of the body state at any given point
in time. Other brain regions can interfere with these maps, creating a false picture of what is
happening in the body. Detailed evidence about how this occurs biologically is now available. Nuclei
in part of the brain stem send message which intercept the signals of pain. Mood altering drugs, such
as alcohol, narcotics, hormones, and Prozac, can also play a role in determining feeling states, although
the explanation of exactly how they work is somewhat incomplete. Substance abusers often report
physiological changes or states that precede a change in mood.
86 Fulghum Bruce, Miracle Touch, 166.

Damasio makes another point that is significant when considering the question of
scientific research. He points out the emotions and feelings are an adaptive response to
stimuli in the environment, which causes changes in the body and brain. Thus, emotions are
indicative of ones appraisal of the situation, which is inherently individual, based on specific
life experiences and cultural norms. Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz concurs, stating, Every conscious
state has a certain feel to it, and possibly a unique one...Not even the most detailed fMRI
gives us more than the physical basis of perception or awareness; it doesnt come close to
explaining what it feels like from the inside. It doesnt explain the first person feeling...87
If emotion and feelings are at the same time significant to the bodymind and highly
individual, we are again faced with a problematic issue. We can demonstrate impact, but
impact that is not reproducible. Science can map brain states and changes in the brain, but
cannot with certainty say how this feels to the individual. Again, I would argue that this
inability to replicate or to fully elucidate is inherent and does not render the phenomenon
itself clinically insignificant.
The word placebo often emerges when one considers the power of the mind, and it is
often referred to in any mention of complementary therapy. In the eighteenth century, the
term placebo was used to describe fake remedies. Serious scientific inquiry into placebos
began after World War II. Dylan Evans recounts the work of placebo pioneer Henry
87 Jeffrey Schwartz and Sharon Begley, The Mind and The Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of
Mental Force (New York: Regan Books, 2002), 27.

In 1955, Beecher summed up the new view of placebos in an influential
article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Entitled The Powerful Placebo, the article claimed that placebos could
produce gross physical change, including objective changes at the end
organ which may exceed those attributable to potent pharmacological
action. Placebos, in other words, had real effects on real bodies.88
Evans points out that in discussing placebos, neurologists use more anatomical
concepts while psychologists often use mentalistic terms. Psychological concepts, such as
belief, desire, or emotion, are more accessible, and so are more widely used.89 Thus, when
discussing placebos, we might say that it will work if the individual believes that it will work.
In this way, placebos have likely been operant throughout history, although they may be hard
to pinpoint as their physical manifestation is culturally contingent. In our modem day and
age, we may believe in the pill, the framed degree, the austere office or the white coat.90
Evans argues that shamans and ancient healers probably relied on the placebo effect long
before it was elucidated by modem researchers. He also contends that, until the advent of
new technologies, such as the internet, doctors were not unlike their shaman ancestors in the
extent to which they have been uncontested experts with exclusive access to truth.
88 Evans, Placebo, 4.
89 Ibid., 74. Evans states, Some day, we may hope, the two approaches may come together, and we
may be able to jump freely back and forth between the language of the neuroscientist and that of the
psychologist...Some doubt that this scientific dream will ever become reality; and even if it does it is
surely a long way off. For the time being, we must be content to pursue both types of enquiry on their
own terms. Evans, Placebo, 58.
90 Our cultural symbols of healing reflect our highly cerebral, mechanistic paradigm, a point, which
will be addressed in more detail in the next chapter. Some theorists would argue that our association
of these modem symbols with feeling better makes us more dependent on drugs and pills to make us
whole. Others, like Evans, would argue that pharmaceuticals enhance brain chemistry functioning and
should be taken because we can feel even better than we could feel with a mere placebo.

Buckman and Sabbagh state, We now know that the placebo effect can cause an
improvement in almost any bodily symptom, including pain, sleeplessness, nausea, and
depression, and there is even a single reported case in which injections of placebo caused a
documented regression of lymphoma.9' They continue, Overall, the placebo effect seems
to produce an improvement in symptoms in at least one-third of all patients, and, in some
series, up to 60 per cent.* 92 The mind can override a number of bodily conditions, which
science, at present, credits to the brains release of endorphins and natural pain-killers.93
Improvement in symptoms is consistent with the reported experience of many
Healing Touch recipients. Likewise, a release of endorphins is listed as a physiological
response to the relaxation state induced by Healing Touch. However, the subjective/objective
dilemma presents itself once again. In order to be a worthy treatment, does the subject need
to get better or is it enough to feel better? Evans holds that, at times, there is a mismatch
between objective and subjective assessments. In one survey, for example, only 46 per cent
of patients judged that the complementary therapy had improved their condition greatly, but
54 per cent said that they felt much better after visiting the practitioner. Clearly, an objective
improvement in health is not the only thing that matters to patients.94 I contend here, again,
that since Healing Touch is making no claims to cure disease, that improvements in well-
being, even by subjective report, warrant continued use and further study, particularly given
Buckman and Sabbagh, Magic or Medicine, 158.
92 Ibid., 158.
93 Evans, Placebo, 58. Ideas are still considered speculative, so further research is warranted.
Insurance companies are interested.
94 Ibid., 154.

the demand for services and the low danger of adverse side-effects associated with Healing
Evans does attribute much of the success of complementary therapies to the placebo
response. He states, The high levels of consumer satisfaction among users of alternative
medicine suggest that alternative therapies are better at evoking confidence and trust in their
patients, and so better able to mobilize the placebo response, than are conventional doctors.
He continues,
The various ingredients which distinguish the typical consultation with a
conventional doctor from one with an alternative therapist such as time,
enthusiasm, ritual and touch are all likely to enhance the placebo response
in alternative therapy and diminish it in conventional medicine..It is
therefore quite possible that, in the context of actual clinical practice, certain
kinds of alternative therapy may be more effective than orthodox medicine at
relieving certain conditions, even though they are pure placebos.95
In considering this, one is again reminded of the causation dilemma. If the response
to Healing Touch, or any other complementary therapy, could be attributed to placebo
response, should this disqualify it as a legitimate therapy?
Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) examines the link between the central nervous system
and the immune system. A look at PNI will recall placebo research and the ideas of Damasio
presented above. Fulghum Bruce states, Health professionals in this field figure that
between 90 and 95 percent of all health problems can be traced to the influence of
95 Ibid., 161. Evans himself likely would not support a therapy such as Healing Touch. He states,
Certainly, the laying on of hands is a common trick that has been used by many quacks and frauds,
from the notorious Valentine Greatraks, also known as the Stroker, who conned money out of
gullible sick people in seventeenth century England, to the equally fraudulent Christian healers who
practice similar tricks in America today. Evans, Placebo, 164. Nevertheless, his research on placebos
does provide one possible explanation for positive reports by recipients of Healing Touch.

emotions.96 Some see PNI as a new field, while others see it as an extension of stress
research pioneered by Dr. Herbert Benson and others. Serious research in this area began in
the 1970s when Robert Ader and Nicholas Cohens experiments with rats produced the
unintended consequence of demonstrating that the immune system, previously thought to be
autonomous, could be classically conditioned using a placebo. Dr. Ader and Dr. Cohen
decided to conduct more experiments, which yielded similar results. The experiments
applied classical Pavlovian conditioning to physiological responses not thought to be
controlled by the brain. This suggests that the placebo effect is a learned response. However,
it is too early to say that humans can voluntarily learn to modify their immune system.97
Following Ader and Cohens work, numerous connections have been discovered,
suggesting a complex and interactive system, which could bring together previously disparate
causal models of illness. Pelletier and Herzing state, Given these complex connections and
subtle interactions, the influence of psychological and psychosocial factors may well
determine the immunological consequences of exposure to a variety of invading stressors -
psychological as well as physical stressors.98 Thus, scientists are now looking at the
individuals stress response, as many view the adaptive response as equally important with
regard to health as the stressor itself. This research is significant as Healing Touch
practitioners frequently provide treatment during the adaptive response phase (e.g. during a
96 Fulghum Bruce, Miracle Touch, 163.
97 Pelletier and Herzing, Psychoneuroimmunology, 340.
98 Ibid., 349.

hospital stay, prior to surgery, or in response to client request, which frequently involves a
Dr. Candace Pert is a leading researcher in PNI. Pert and others have theorized that
neuropeptides and their receptors are the biochemical correlates of emotions." Pelletier and
Herzing note that, Mood or emotionally modulated areas of the brain, the amygdala and the
hypothalamus, have 40 times the number of neuropeptide receptors than other areas in the
brain, suggesting that these substances function in the biochemical mediation of emotion.* 100
When asked if emotions (anger) are mental or physical, Pert responds, Its both. Thats
whats so interesting about emotions. Theyre the bridge between the mental and the
physical, or the physical and the mental. Its either way.101 This recalls the theories of
Damasio, who also posits emotions as the link between the body and subsequent feelings.
Interestingly, the brain and the immune system use many of the same molecules to
communicate with each other and with the rest of the body. This discovery is breaking down
the old emphasis, which, as stated, was strictly confined to the brain. Pert states,
When people discovered that there were endorphins in the brain that caused
euphoria and pain relief, everybody could handle that. But when they
discovered they were in your immune system, too, it just didnt fit, so it was
denied for years. The original scientists had to repeat their studies many,
" Candace Pert, The Chemical Communicators, interview by Bill Moyers, Healing and the Mind,
eds. Betty Sue Flowers and David Grubin, (New York: Doubleday, 1993), 178.
100 Pelletier and Herzing, Psychoneuroimmunology, 354.
101 Pert, Chemical Communicators, 179. Pert also notes the limitations of science on this point,
.. .emotions are in two realms. They can be in the physical realm, where were talking about
molecules whose molecular weight I can tell you, and whose sequences I can write as formulas. And
theres another realm that we experience thats not under the purview of science...qualities that seem
to be outside of matter.People with multiple personalities sometimes have extremely clear physical
symptoms that vary with each personality. You can show that one personality is making as much
insulin as it needs, and the next one, who shows up a half an hour later, cant make insulin (182).

many times to be believed. It was just very upsetting to our paradigm to find
mood-altering chemicals in the immune system and not just the chemicals,
but the receptors as well.102
Pert argues that because peptide and receptor molecules may be found everywhere, the mind
is effectively in every cell of the body. She refers to this as the wisdom of the body, which is
separate from intellectualizing. Perts statement explicates what many have felt intuitively
and provides a strong argument for Healing Touch, which seeks to heal the whole person via
the body and its surrounding energy field.
The Big Picture
Looking at these theories together paints an interesting picture. According to Damasio,
emotional states felt in the body largely affect the mind. Placebo research indicates that the
mind can play a significant role in alleviating symptoms in the body. PNI research
demonstrates that even once autonomous body systems can have a physiological placebo-like
response when there is no active stimulus other than the mind. Certainly, these theories
demonstrate an integrated model of health, one that, if widely accepted, would be integral to
the success of therapies such as Healing Touch.
According to Damasio and others, the mind-body problem has typically belonged to
philosophy rather than to the empirical sciences.103 He concurs with the point already made
in this study that scientific method and approach have proved to be one initial barrier. He
102 Ibid., 180.
103 Damasio, Looking for Spinoza, 184. Damasio notes contributions made by science.
Neurobiological and cognitive studies have elucidated some aspects of the mind-body puzzle, but the
resulting interpretations remain so contested that there is little incentive for reflection on the existing
evidence or the gathering of new evidence. This is unfortunate because, in spite of the barriers,
progress is being made, and there is more knowledge available than meets the eye, if only the eye is
theoretically free to see. Damasio, Looking for Spinoza, 184.

also agrees that, thus far, Descartes substance dualism has kept science focused on the brain
and brain chemistry, without considering the mind. He states, This view, substance dualism,
is no longer mainstream in science or philosophy, although it is probably the view that most
human beings today would regard as their own.104
Clearly, the mind-body problem has yet to be sufficiently explained. Dualism and its
underlying theme of separation is a Platonic legacy still present in culture today. Throughout
history, dualism has been a central tenet of Western thought and it has manifested in many
ways. According to Damasio, todays dualism, rather than pairing body and brain, couples
the mind with the brain and separates the body from both.105 Damasios assertion creates a
fitting segue to an examination of Healing Touch as a touch therapy.
104 Ibid., 187.
105 Ibid., 190.

Healing Touch practitioners, in addition to working in the human energy field, employ
extensive use of touch. This section will examine briefly the Wests cultural views on touch
and the body. Overall, and relative to other cultures, individuals in the Western world
experience significantly less touch, leaning heavily on the rational and cerebral as
foundational tenets. Thus, the therapeutic benefits of caring touch and the possibility that the
body provides a legitimate route to healing are often overlooked.
I would argue that many who readily support a holistic view of human health will still
draw the line when it comes to discussing touch and the body. Unlike other mind/body
therapies, such as deep breathing, meditation, or Qigong, being touched by another requires a
certain amount of passivity and vulnerability. It requires a relinquishing of ones own mental
power and control over the body. The rational mind and its physical manifestation must rest
in the hands of another. While this may cause a certain amount of discomfort in our
cerebrally oriented culture, I would argue that it is nonetheless an essential part of being
human and an essential element in healing. Compared to many other cultures, we engage in
significantly less meaningful touch outside of intimate relationships. I contend that the
overall lack of relational touch experienced by many people makes the therapeutic benefits of
caring touch by a practitioner even more pronounced. Thus, the simple act of touching, in
and of itself, is put forth as another possible reason for the reported success of Healing

American Culture and the Body
Drew Leder, in his book, The Absent Body, points out how our cultural experience of
the body helps to reinforce Cartesian dualism. Ironically, while empirical method eliminates
the mind from the body, philosophically we often prefer to eliminate the body from the mind.
Leder states, It has often been observed that modem Western society is typified by a certain
disembodied style of life.106 He argues that the, ...rising interest in finding ways to return
to the body, whether via exercise, hatha yoga, body therapies, craft-work, or intimacy with
nature, is but a reaction to this general trend toward a decorporealized existence.107
Philosophically, since Plato, the West has preferred to lock itself within the realm of ideas.
Thus, the body, while always physically present, is often absent from our conscious
awareness. We privilege rationality, the brain and the visual over the tactile.108 The body is
second in command to the mind; it is inessential, a hindrance, the realm of disease, decay and
death. In modem times it is rationality and reason that rule over the body, curing disease and
extending the life span.109
Our unwavering faith in stand-alone rationality is reflected in what we value. Pratt &
Mason cite Burton & Heller who point out that,
106 Leder, The Absent Body, 3.
Ibid., 3.
108 Ibid., 29. Leder makes an interesting follow up point here, when he states, Cultures even differ on
the bodily seat of consciousness or soul. Most modem Westerners would experience this
unequivocally as the head. But the Greeks found this center within the chest, and the Zen meditator
develops the hara, located within the belly, as the wellspring of enlightened experience and action.
Leder, The Absent Body, 29.
109 Ibid., 145.
60 cultures evolve, the sensory qualities of immediate experience tend to
be relinquished for intellectual forms more conceptual in nature; our words
are becoming symbolic; we deal with ideas more than practicalities; our jobs
increasingly are about figures and words, communication and mental
conflict; only rarely do they demand physical as well as intellectual skill.110
We can see this philosophical stance manifest in our day-to-day lives. Leder mentions
Brian Easleys observation of the workforce, stating, Lower class workers are seen as just
bodies who must be supervised and managed by management minds.111 It is true that often
white collar jobs are viewed as more desirable and worthy of respect than blue collar jobs or
jobs that involve using the body. This is not due to objective worth, but to cultural valuation.
By and large, we give more respect to those who work primarily with their minds rather than
with their bodies. I would argue that this is privileging of the rational is also reflected in
healthcare. We pay larger salaries and give more of our respect to doctors who diagnose,
figure out. and prescribe a remedy than to the nurses who tend to spend more time caring for
and in contact with the patient. Osteopath Bevis Nathan states, The possibility that the
expressive touch and care of a nurse might be as effective as the powerful and mysterious
acts of a doctor in stimulating a patients self-healing resources remains.112
Touch Starvation
Although touch is largely a taboo topic for conversation, our cultural view of touch is
clearly articulated by absence. American society has experienced an exponential decrease in
110 Pratt & Mason. The Caring Touch, 78. Drew Leder takes this point further, arguing that cultures
that are more concerned with earth and the body are labeled as primitive. Leder, The Absent Body,
111 Leder, The Absent Body, 154.
112 Nathan, Touch and Emotion, 96.

touch converse to the advance of science and technology. Touch is typically
compartmentalized, restricted and limited to parent/child and/or sexual relationships."3
Institutions often have formal no touch policies."4 Tiffany Field, Director of the Touch
Research Institute in Miami, Florida, states, Despite the many critically important functions
of touch, most children, in our country at least, are socialized at an early age to limit their
touching....By adolescence, they have learned to be cautious about physical intimacy and to
express themselves by facial expressions and words rather than by touch."5
Compared to other countries, infants and children in the United States receive less
touch and exposure to touch typically decreases as we age. Field makes the important point
that, while there are many existing touch studies with infants and children, there is little
research on touch therapy with adults. Further, existing research is anecdotal and does little
to sway the scientific community."6 This is significant to Healing Touch and to all touch
therapies as cultural conceptions, fears of litigation and misrepresentation, a scientific
paradigm in healthcare and mechanistic worldview combine to ensure few opportunities for
adults to receive safe, affirming touch outside of intimate relationships. In the West, it is
considered extremely offensive to touch another person without permission. Bevis Nathan 113 * 116
113 Several authors describe a well-known study by University of Florida psychologist Sidney Jourard,
who visited cafes in various parts of the world, recording the number of times two people sharing
coffee touched each other. The results were startling. In London, the number was 0; in Gainesville,
FL, the observed pair touched two times; in Paris, the total was 110; and in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the
number was over 180.
1,4 Tiffany field, Touch, 8.
116 Ibid., 132.

states, Fear of sexuality has led to a decline in the appreciation of sensuality, which is the
non-sexual, simple pleasure derived from the normal operation of the senses.117
Eliminating the phenomenon of touch does nothing to eliminate our need for it.
Unfortunately, outside of intimate relationships, there are few opportunities to fulfill this
basic human need. This does not, however, prevent individuals from seeking it out. Pratt and
Mason cite a telling study. Hollender et al (1969)..reported that in order to obtain the
close body contact or embracing needed by some women, they were prepared to trade sexual
intercourse as the price fore being held and cuddled.118 Field illustrates other ways that
people seek out touch.
It seems that, as our culture places more restrictions on touch within human
relationships, alternative forms of touch become more popular. It is as if we
needed a minimum of touch for our emotional well-being and physical
wellness, so we find acceptable ways, and sometimes functional ways (e.g,
going to the hairdresser) of being touched.119
Field continues, Some people say the scalp massage during the shampoo is the best part of
their weekly visits to the hairdresser. For others, this weekly visit is the only occasion for
being touched by another person.120 Many attempt to provide their own at-home touch
therapies. Field points out Americas huge market for touch toys. She states, Touch toys
constitute almost 30 percent of the inventory of popular mail-order catalog companies such as
Brookstone, Hammacher-Schlemmer, Self-Care and The Sharper Image.121 This is an
117 Nathan, Touch and Emotion, 92.
118 Pratt and Mason, The Caring Touch, 5.
119 Field, Touch, 108.
120 Ibid., 108.
121 Ibid., 109.

interesting and telling phenomenon. Stores sell pocket devices, body brushes, chair
massagers, foot massagers, undulating beds, scalp massagers, and special brushes and combs.
While these devices may provide a substitute for the physical stimulus (mechanism) of touch,
they cannot substitute for the caring presence of another human. In my view, it is unfortunate
that we are turning to technology or to sex to fulfill such a basic human need. It is also
unfortunate that touch has been relegated to the realm of self-payment, largely limiting it to
the affluent, who can afford to pay out-of-pocket for massages, facials and other therapies
involving touch.
Pratt & Mason cite Sidney Simon (1976), who argues that, Every human being comes
into the world needing to be touched, and the need for skin contact persists until death,
despite societys efforts to make us believe otherwise.122 Simon believes that adequate
levels of touch enhance quality of life and reduce the need for abnormal stimuli such as food,
alcohol and drugs, which often become addictions.123 I would agree that this assertion indeed
makes sense, particularly in light of the emerging science linking feelings of well-being with
the release of neurotransmitters and chemicals in the brain. At the very least, it is noteworthy
that a neurochemical such as serotonin, linked to feelings of well-being, can be affected by
touch, by food, and by Prozac.124
122 Pratt and Mason, The Caring Touch, 97.
Ibid., 97.
124 See Chapter Four, (emphasis mine).

Touch as Communication
As many holistic practitioners have argued, clients and practitioners have been
conditioned to separate the body (machine) from the person (self)- However, for most
people, touch holds an unconscious emotional charge. Memories of touch are stored
emotionally and kinesthetically, meaning that psychological effects may be experienced
regardless of the intent of the practitioner or the purpose of the treatment.125 Thus, manual
therapies, such as Healing Touch, may feel like more than a medical intervention to the
recipient. Nathan states, From the patients point of view, the touch has its roots in non
verbal communication and involves her self. She is being held, cradled,
stroked, caressed, valued, cared-for, healed. The patients experience is above all a
psychological and existential one.126
Thus, touching is a form of communication, which is different and more primal than
speech. Very often, touch surpasses verbal communication in authenticity and in scope.
Nathan states, It is profoundly different from language because it can express and
communicate emotions and messages which ordinary words cannot.127 Mason and Pratt add
that when a person is confused, disoriented or exhausted, words can be a source of even more
frustration. The process of locating the patient in the here and now is sometimes achieved
by hand to hand or body contact.128 Touch can communicate acceptance and affirmation to
125 Nathan, Touch and Emotion, 96.
126 Ibid., 9.
127 Nathan, Touch and Emotion, 88.
128 Pratt and Mason, The Caring Touch, 61.

a person who may be feeling a strong sense of self-loathing, which could be related to
trauma, illness, a physical defect, or shame related to past behaviors.129 This is relevant to
Healing Touch practitioners, who daily provide a comforting presence in many of the
aforementioned states. Dr. Naoimi Remen states,
You know, touching is a very old way of healing. We dont touch each other
in this culture, and touching is often misunderstood or even sexualized. As a
physician, I was taught that you touch people only to diagnose them......And
yet, touch is the oldest way of healing. Touch is deeply reassuring and
nurturing.....One woman said, Sometimes when I go for my chemotherapy,
they touch me as if they dont know anybodys inside this body. And so we
try to touch people with the tenderness of a mother touching a child.130
Thus, very often, it could be the touch act itself that is providing the healing. Bevis
Nathan discusses the effects of a lateral fluctuation technique done by massage therapists on a
clients head. This particular technique is very gentle and involves sustained, intentional
holding, which is similar to several Healing Touch techniques.131 Holding techniques feel
different to a patient than do moving techniques. Nathan describes this as a being with
rather than a doing to.132
The possibility must be acknowledged that the practitioner need only have
placed her hands on the patients head with due care, refinement of touch,
respect and intention to help for such a healing response to be forthcoming.
This kind of healing is reminiscent of the laying on of hands, and the term
technique seems somehow inappropriate in this context...It is healing, that
much is clear, but it is whole-person healing and not simply a medical
technique or procedure.133
129 Ibid., 80.
130 Remen. Wholeness, 355.
131 See Figure A.3.
132 Nathan, Touch and Emotion, 27.
133 Ibid., 14. As often happens in interdisciplinarity, language can become problematic. In this case,
the language of physiology, utilized in most manual therapy schools, is inadequate to describe the

This is in line with the tenets of Healing Touch and helps to explain why caring
intention is emphasized over proper technique. Like Damasio and Pert, Nathan holds that
emotions and physical sensations are both felt experiences. However, Nathans assertion
begins in the body rather than in the brain. He, too, differentiates between cognition and
emotion, stating,
So called emotional pain is felt in the body because true emotions are
extraordinarily somatic phenomena. They are not cognitive events despite
usually being accompanied by these...The relevance of the mind lies in
making the associations with past experience, held beliefs and knowledge, so
that a person is then moved...134
Pratt and Mason hold that observation and common sense reveal to us the therapeutic value of
touch. Touch is an indication of acceptance; it tells the patient that his helper has a
continuing commitment to him as a person; that he understands, empathizes and is willing to
go on with the therapy even though the patient is anxious, rejecting, aggressive or doubtful
either in relation to himself or to the therapist.135
Illness and the Body
If there is ever a time when we are forced, like it or not, to acknowledge the body, it is
when we are ill. Leder points out that the body is most easily ignored when it behaves as it
should, according to established norms. The experience of a dysfunction brings the body
psychological effects of touch. Nathan points out that emotions and neurological phenomena in the
brain are ontologically distinct. Thus, they cannot be described in the same way. Nathan refers to this
as the problem of ontological conversion. Damasio, a neurologist, makes a similar argument (See
Chapter Four). The language of Healing Touch as a discipline can seem confusing, appearing at times
to be psychological at other times spiritual and/or physiological.
134 Ibid., 116.
135 Pratt and Mason, The Caring Touch, 77.

back to the forefront of consciousness. Pain, in particular, has this effect. Affective states
can incite a similar response. Depression and anger, for example, may manifest in the body
as lethargy or tenseness.136 Thus, those who find themselves in an undesirable state may
welcome a dualistic stance, separating their self from their body. Since the body has been
equated with dysfunction, it is easier to regard it as something other than the self. This is
significant for Healing Touch as it is used to provide relief in hospitals, hospices and even in
psychiatric wards. The caring presence provided by the practitioner becomes even more
valuable when one considers that the patient, in addition to being in physical pain, might also
be feeling the psychological pain of being forced into an acute awareness of their own body.
Any experience of shame, rejection or humiliation at this stage would likely be very difficult.
Conversely, a feeling of acceptance and validation, demonstrated by the practitioners caring
presence and willingness to touch, could prove very beneficial.
The Body as a Route to Healing
Aristotle suggests that the heart, rather than the skin, is the primary organ of touch.
Nathan quotes Wittgenstein, who in 1975 wrote, the human body is the best picture of the
human soul.137 Interestingly, the cure for mental anguish is, at times, learned via the body.
When mental and emotional anguish cannot be reconciled through words and reason, the
body may provide an alternate medium of communication. Bevis Nathan states,
Psychological trauma is also trauma to the body. Physical trauma is also trauma to the
136 Leder, The Absent Body, 76.
137 Nathan, Touch and Emotion, 61.

psyche. Trauma is simply trauma. People selves are traumatized, not bodies or psyches.
A traumatic event reverberates throughout all aspects of the human being.138
National Public Radios popular program, This American Life, broadcast the following story.
The young boy at the center of this story spent the first seven years of his
life in a Romanian orphanage. Daniel slept sitting up and only left the crib
to use the bathroom. When he was seven he was adopted and moved to
America. After six months and the celebration of his eighth birthday,
Daniel changed. He was full of rage, which he took out on his new family.
He had tantrums lasting eight hours; he put hundreds of holes in the walls
until everything but the mattress was moved out of his room; social
workers left bleeding; he gave his mother a black eye, held a knife to her
throat and seemed to take pleasure in hurting her. After multiple calls to
the police, Heidi, Daniels mother, turned to mental health. According to
Heidi, pills for ADHD did little more than improve Daniels handwriting.
One psychiatrist recommended a puppy, which Daniel began strangling
within the first week. Two psychiatrists told her to put Daniel in foster
care because he would never love her. He was diagnosed with attachment
disorder, meaning he could not connect to other people.
What finally worked for Heidi and Daniel was a therapy based on close
body contact. For eight weeks, Heidi and Daniel were never more than
three feet apart. Heidi did not work. Daniel did not go to school. When
one went to the bathroom, the other waited outside of the door. Daniel was
not allowed to verbally express any needs to Heidi. After three weeks,
Daniel began to stop hating Heidi. He was next to her all the time.
According to Daniel, after several years with Heidi, he finally began to get
that she loved him. The realization dawned on him in a new way. After
eight weeks, the violence had subsided but Daniel was still acting out.
They continued the therapy with at least twenty minutes of holding each
other and talking every day. Daniel said that, for the first time, he was able
to talk about his feelings and about his time in the orphanage. He began to
make friends his own age and the furniture was moved back into his room.
He was named valedictorian of his confirmation class, an award he
dedicated to Heidi. 139
138 Ibid., 148.
139 Public Radio International. Unconditional Love. An episode from This American Life. Broadcast
on Chicago Public Radio, September 15, 2006.
hllp:// Episode.aspx?sched=T204

In this story, placing the body in the position of being loved, cared for and provided for
allowed for a subsequent emotional and mental understanding. This is interesting when
considered with Damasio, Pert and others theories on emotions in the body. I do not intend
to argue carelessly that bodywork can substitute for appropriate healthcare and mental health
counseling, only that it is indeed possible that the body is an under-explored avenue to health
and healing. The conception of the individual as a holistic entity inherently places the body
on an equal plane with the mind and elevates it from its traditionally subjugated role. If there
is merit in this view, then Healing Touch is a therapy that is well-suited to provide whole
person healing to a touch starved population as it provides a caring presence, wordless
affirmation of the self, close contact with another person, healing intention and a therapeutic
relationship. Bevis Nathan makes two eloquent and intriguing points for consideration.
Psychotherapists and psychoanalysts have always maintained that the self
can heal through psychotherapeutic conversation in its various forms,
without explicit reference to, or working upon, the body. If the self is a
unitary body-self then there is no reason why the converse should not also
be true namely, that sensitive bodywork, without the use of explicit
psychotherapeutic techniques, can also facilitate healing of that same self.
If mental and physical self are a unity, then together they are available to
both psychological and somatic forms of therapy.140
It is a matter for concern that practitioners of health care with such
different emphases as manual therapists and counselors may see the same
conditions (i.e. patients) and give radically different interpretations or
diagnoses of the presenting disorder. Why are the diagnoses by two
experts not the same? Is this difference because the two disciplines see
entirely different patient populations? Or is the truth of the situation more
likely to be that each discipline overemphasizes its own explanation,
thereby failing properly to develop adequate and whole insights into
departures from health.141
140 Nathan, Touch and Emotion, 188.
141 Ibid., 147.

Pratt and Mason state, We would argue that touch is a medium through which we can
lower the rather false boundaries between these two elements (physical and mental) and we
would agree with the idea that they are merely shadows thrown by the same object.142
Research Considerations
As the anatomical seat of disease and disorder, the body lends itself more readily to a
mechanistic view than does the mind. Thus, we forget that the treatment of the body, because
it also involves the self, can be as nuanced and tricky as the treatment of the mind. Both
involve a unique individual. Bevis Nathan is an osteopath who argues that the psychological
aspect of touch is insufficiently addressed in most therapies treating the whole person,
including many manual therapies. This is problematic because touch is always significant.
According to Nathan, while there is a movement within healthcare to treat the whole person,
psychology avoids the touch taboo and manual therapy avoids the psychological aspect of its
own work.143 We must consider both. Nathan argues that Descartes body-as-machine
legacy has forestalled any serious inquiry into the effects of touch. In his view, studying
touch might illuminate new aspects of the healing process not yet considered by science.144
Dylan Evans, author of Placebo, states, Current medical thinking attributes the benefit
of massage to the direct physical action on the muscles themselves, but it is quite possible
142 Pratt and Mason, The Caring Touch, 72.
143 Nathan, Touch and Emotion, xiv.
144 Nathan, Touch and Emotion, 197. Nathan points out that phenomenological language, with a focus
on the lived body, has begun to permeate medical discourse. For the phenomenologist, the body can
never be an object in the world because it is the body that brings the world about. The body discloses
the world and exists as a part of it. Inherent in phenomenology is a counterargument to Cartesian
language, which separates the mind from the body machine.

that much of it is due rather to the fact that being touched by another is interpreted by the
brain as a signal of social support.145
As stated previously, touch therapies also do not fare well with orthodox science.
Manual and touch therapies are quite problematic for the Randomized Clinical Trial because
control groups might experience a therapeutic response to touch that is not related to a set
procedure, that is, a response to the touch act itself. Latey argues that the therapeutic response
to bodywork is highly unique. Of bodywork and the placebo response, Latey states, It is not
easy to study these qualities, and clearly they are precisely the sort of individual differences
that the randomized clinical trial (RCT) is designed to exclude.146
While it is difficult to test actual incidences of touch using the RCT, it is possible to
hypothesize about the benefits using existing research. For example, the neurotransmitter
serotonin is the base for many pain relieving drugs. Many who suffer from chronic pain are
not responsive to traditional medical interventions. However, these same people often find
benefit in touch therapy. Field argues that, .these (touch) therapies may be effective
because they lower anxiety levels, which tend to aggravate pain, or because they release pain
killing endorphins and serotonin, or because they stimulate the longer nerve fibers that
transmit their signals to the brain faster than the shorter pain signals.147
145 Evans, Placebo, 160.
146 Phil Latey, Placebo Responses in Bodywork, in Understanding the Placebo Effect in
Complementary Medicine: Theory, Practice and Research, ed. David Peters, (Edinburgh: Churchill
Livingstone, 2001), 140.
147 Field. Touch, 87. Interestingly, Field also states that the pain-relieving effects of natural painkillers,
such as endorphins and serotonin, can be enhanced by electrical stimulation. Though she says nothing
further on the topic, it is noteworthy as the next chapter will examine Healing Touch as an energetic

Touch as technique and touch as expression co-exist and often overlap. Bevis Nathan
states that, One is mechanical and psychological, the other largely emotional. If most
therapeutic touches will evoke emotional responses in addition to mechanical ones, the
question arises: which component is responsible for the healing?148 Again, we have returned
to causation, a major point in the evidence debate. For many hardliners, the inability to
pinpoint causation is enough to disqualify touch as a relevant form of therapy. Others argue
that the fact that the experience of touch is an individualized phenomenon makes it inherently
non-prescriptive. Pratt & Mason state,
Whilst arguing strongly for its further study and extended use one cannot be
dogmatic or uniformly prescriptive about this. In the final analysis it is
probably beyond explanation, representing something of the instinctive, the
intuitive or the spiritual, perhaps part of what some people prefer to call the
art (as opposed to the science) of healing.149
We have briefly examined the human need for touch as well as our cultures relative
lack of it. As a gentle, energy-based therapy, Healing Touch allows for the experience of a
touch therapy without some of the elements that intimidate many clients. The recipient is not
required to undress. Further, the techniques are gentle and will not feel at all like poking or
prodding. While there are times when another therapy is more appropriate, Healing Touch
can be very comforting to the client who is in a great deal of pain or who might be
intimidated by the idea of disrobing to be touched by a stranger. As stated in the second
chapter, Healing Touch relies more on intention over technique. This philosophy is different
from many other manual therapies, which focus a great deal on procedure. One could argue
148 Nathan, Touch and Emotion, 10.
149 Pratt and Mason, The Caring Touch, 108.

that this focus on intention over procedure creates a space for the type of emotional healing
described by Bevis Nathan, the healing that involves being with rather than doing to.
Whether or not this involves a placebo response is a larger argument. As Nathan and others
have stated, inquiries into touch, and by extension, Healing Touch, are frequently stunted
because they do not fit into existing frameworks. In my view, this is unfortunate. That said,
we continue on, from an ancient tradition to a new frontier, as we examine Healing Touch as
an energetic therapy.

Chinese Medicine
Of course, energetics is only a new frontier as far as modem science is concerned.
Despite the focus thus far on trends in the Western world, it should be noted that Eastern
cultures have relied on many of these practices, including energetics, for thousands of years.
Many cultures accept these principles, so foreign to us, as readily as we accept the
Randomized Clinical Trail. Keegan and Halo Shames state, The Eastern worldview is
founded on energy, whereas the Western world view is based on reductionism of matter.
This basic cultural difference has led to the evolution of widely differing approaches to
Chinese medicine is largely based on energetic principles. Many of the foundational
tenets are analogous to Healing Touch including the recognition of life energy (Chi), the
blending of body, mind and emotions, and the intentional, meditative state of the practitioner
working with Chi. In Chinese medicine, it is quite natural to accept the mind and the
emotions as integral to health. In China, many people attempt to manipulate their own chi by
practicing chi gong. Dr. David Eisenberg explains that those who practice are sure that chi is
not in their head, but that it can be felt. On talking to many patients who have been
successful with chi gong, Dr. Eisenberg states,
150 Keegan and Halo Shames. Touch: Healing Power, 645.

Now thats anecdotal evidence that wont convince any of my skeptical
colleagues. But if you interview dozens and dozens of people who all seem
very credible and realistic and practical, you have to wonder are they all
following some fantasy, or is there something here to be studied? Thats
why I keep coming back.151
Dr. Eisenberg describes external chi gong therapy, which is very similar in appearance
to Healing Touch in that the doctor uses his energy to help redirect the flow of the patients
energy. In an interview with Bill Moyers, Eisenberg recounts the words of Dr. Lu, Director
of the Chi Gong Clinic.
Generally speaking, when you emit chi, you should not think about where it
is coming from. If you do not focus on where the chi comes from, but think
only of the need to cure the patients disease and give him your chi, then the
chi which is emitted will be complete and may even be greater than expected.
The chi need not be forced must focus only on your objective to
give chi to the other person. You cannot use a false heart and a false mind to
give chi.152
The doctors described state is very similar to Healing Touch as the main focus of the
practitioner is simply on using the energy available to for highest good and on maintaining an
intentional, meditative affect.
Energy Anatomy
According to Dr. James Oschman, concepts such as life force and healing energy, have
been viewed with a great deal of skepticism by the scientific community. Although still not
overwhelmingly accepted, many energy therapies are receiving increased support from
doctors, scientists, and researchers. Very recently, energy fields were not even thought to
exist. Now, scientists can detect these fields and explore how they are generated, altered and
151 David Eisenberg, Medicine in a Mind/Body Culture, interview by Bill Moyers, Healing and the
Mind, eds. Betty Sue Flowers and David Grubin, (New York: Doubleday, 1993), 291.
152 Ibid., 293.

manipulated.153 According to Oschman, the life force energy referred to in countless
practices is actually many energy systems, transporting and conducting information and
energy throughout the body.154 Oschman states, In a few decades scientists have gone from
a conviction that there is no such thing as energy fields in and around the human body to an
absolute certainty that they exist....Medical interest has focused on the magnetic fields
around the body, which are now referred to as biomagnetic fields.155
Oschman synthesizes the thinking of scientists and theorists across many disciplines,
whose combined work provides insight into the emerging picture of energy medicine.
Oschman states, In the process of writing...I noticed similarities between the discoveries of
modem medical researchers and the daily observations of hands-on energy therapists. In
essence, these traditionally very different approaches to the body are beginning to validate
one another.156
Candace Pert, leading PNI researcher, supports Oschmans inquiries into energetics.
Pert, as mentioned, investigates emotions in the body. She states,
There are many emotional messages that dont percolate up to your level of
knowing them. Even so, they are used to run everything in your body. I
personally think that there are many phenomena that we cant explain
153 Oschman, Energy Medicine, 2. In 1970, J.E. Zimmerman and colleagues developed the SQUID
(superconducting quantum interference device). SQUIDs are used today in medical research to map
biomagnetic fields in humans and globally to map the geomagnetic field of the earth. The SQUID can
measure the bodys electromagnetic fields without touching the body.
154 Ibid., 2. Oschman points out that the energy system is one integrated aspect of a single functioning
unit. He states, The physiological and anatomical systems in the body and the energy systems
interdigitate. Effective therapeutic work on one system inevitably affects the composite. Oschman,
Energy Medicine, 2.
155 Ibid., 27.
156 Ibid., xiv.

without going into energy. As a scientist, I believe that were going to
understand everything one day, but that this understanding will require
bringing in a realm we dont understand at all yet. Were going to have to
bring in that extra-energy realm, the realm of spirit and soul that Descartes
kicked out of Western scientific thought.157
Magnetic fields arise from electric currents. The bodys circulatory system is an
excellent conductor, which carries electricity throughout the body via the blood. Oschman
explains, It is a basic law in physics that when an electric current flows through a conductor,
a magnetic field is created in the surrounding space.158 Oschman notes that, in 1963, Baule
and McFee were able to measure the hearts magnetic field, extending in front of and behind
the body. He states, One of the academic questions created by the discovery of the hearts
magnetic field is the location of the boundary between the organism and the environment. In
the past, we could define an individual as that which lies within the skin; but it is a fact of
physics that energy fields are unbounded.159 Healing Touch recognizes the heart center as
one of the seven major chakras. Further, as mentioned in Chapter Two, Healing Touch holds
that the bodys energy centers extend outward from the body, with resonant frequencies
increasing with distance from the body.
Oschman adds that the structure of the cell, once thought to comprise a great deal of
empty space, is now know to be full of filaments, tubes and fibers, which in combination with
the connective tissue system, form part of the living matrix. Dossey also notes this subatomic
interconnectedness. He states, particles, including those of the body, can no longer be seen
157 Pert, Chemical Communicators187.
158 Oschman, Energy Medicine, 28.
159 Ibid., 29.

as idealized billiard balls caroming off each other. Rather, they are described by physicists as
processes that overlap in never-ending webs of interaction.160
Conventional medicine produces specialists on various pieces of the living matrix,
while complementary therapists often provide treatment based on an assessment of the
integrated system.161 A picture of the living matrix as an electronic network is emerging.
Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, in 1941, suggested that the bodys proteins are semiconductors.
Semiconductors are unique in that their conduction can be precisely controlled. Oschman
states, While Szent-Gyorgyis idea of semiconduction in living systems was vigorously
opposed, it was eventually shown to be entirely correct. Further, Szent-Gyorgyi argued in
1988 that molecules do not need to touch in order to interact. This, too, was subsequently
verified. Considering also the work of Herbert Frohlich and others, we now know that each
part of the living matrix emits vibrations within the organism and in the environment.
Oschman states, These vibrations occur at many different frequencies, including visible and
near visible light frequencies.162 This phenomenon recalls the experience of Harold Saxson
Burr, mentioned previously, and could also explain why some energy therapists practicing
today claim that they can see energy when they are working with clients.
160 Larry Dossey. The Importance of Physics to Modem Medicine. in Eastern and Western
Approaches to Healing, ed. Anees A. Sheikh and Katharina S. Sheikh (New York: John Wiley and
Sons, 1989), 401. Dossey also points out the carelessness of making a simple generalization that this
subatomic picture holds true at the macro level, although it cannot be ruled out.
161 Oschman, Energy Medicine, 47. Oschman states, Conceptually, these discoveries are profoundly
important. The boundaries between the cell environment, the cell interior, and the genetic material are
not as sharp or as impermeable as we once thought. As a hands-on therapist, what you touch is not
merely the skin you contact a continuous interconnected network that extends throughout the body.
Oschman, Energy Medicine, 47.
162 Ibid., 62.

Physics plays a particularly important role in energy medicine as it focuses on the
principles of matter and energy and, as a discipline, creates foundations for subsequent
thought. Larry Dossey points out that physics is always evolving and there is often little
consensus even among experts. Dossey claims that questions of meaning are more common
in physics than questions about fact. Interestingly, Candace Perts theories on emotion recall
the complimentarity principle in physics, which states that light can behave as either a
particle or as a wave. Pelletier and Herzing quote Perts work, stating,
Evidence suggests that all neuropeptides may be made up of one molecule
and that changes in the configuration of this molecule result in new
information that differentiates neuropeptides from one another (Pert, 1987).
This change in the configuration is so instantaneous that researchers have
speculated that the receptors for the neuropeptides have both a wave-like and
a particulate character.163
Perts research is one example of the application of modem technology to the question of
subtle energy.
Biofield Therapy
Oschman has found a compelling common denominator between energy therapists and
modem medical devices utilizing magnetic fields. If a bone is fractured and fails to heal in a
timely manner, doctors will often prescribe pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy.
The procedure stimulates bone repair by sending currents into surrounding tissues. Testing
low energy, low frequency PEMF therapy on soft tissues has thus far have produced
favorable results, indicating accelerated recovery, reduced pain and swelling and enhanced
nerve regeneration. Studies in rats even suggest that pre-injury treatments are beneficial.
Oschman says, In other words, energy field therapy prior to injury enhanced the bodys
163 Pelletier and Herzing, Psychoneuroimmunology, 346.

ability to respond to subsequent injury.164 Even more intriguing is that energy therapists
have been shown, in the lab, to have the ability to project fields with similar frequencies and
intensities from their hands.165 Oschman recounts one study in Colorado.
In the early 1980s, Dr. John Zimmerman began a series of important
studies on therapeutic touch with a SQUID magnetometer at the University
of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver (1990).........A therapeutic touch
practitioner and his patient entered a magnetically shielded chamber
containing a SQUID detector. The practitioner held his hand close to the
patient, and a baseline recording was made with the SQUID. Then the
therapist relaxed into the meditative or healing state.....Immediately the
SQUID detected a large biomagnetic field emanating from the
practitioners hand. The field was so strong that the amplifiers and
recorder had to be readjusted so that a recording could be made. This was
the strongest biomagnetic field Dr. Zimmerman has encountered in his
years of medical research using the SQUID. The signal was not constant
but moved back and forth through a range of frequencies within the ELF
range in a sweeping or scanning motion. The ELF range is Extremely Low
Frequency, below 100 Hz. The practitioner operated between .3 and 30
Hz, mostly in the 7-8 Hz range.166
Oschman is careful to point out that further investigation is needed because actual
clinical healing has not been documented. He continues, However, the evidence shows that
practitioners can emit powerful pulsing biomagnetic fields in the same frequency range that
biomedical researchers have identified for jump starting healing of soft and hard tissue
injuries.167 Of note is that similar frequencies are only recorded once the practitioner has
164 Ibid., 76.
165 Ibid., 78.
166 Ibid., 78. This study using Therapeutic Touch was conducted prior to the development of Healing
Touch. However, the two therapies are fundamentally similar.
167 Ibid., 80.

attained a meditative state conducive to healing.168 This is consistent with the tenets of
Healing Touch as a meditative state is considered integral to the practice.
Each molecule has a unique and ideal resonant frequency. It responds to and
communicates with other molecules. Recognition between molecules is dependent on
resonant frequencies. The model of communication, once thought to resemble a lock and
key, is now thought to look more like a radio antenna giving and receiving signals.169
Oschman point out that, At the atomic scale, physical contact between two molecules has
less meaning than the ways they interact energetically.170 Conventional pharmacology
works by restoring or blocking the bodys regulatory pathways. Oschman contends that this
is problematic because it focuses on the chemical but ignores and underlying energetic issues.
He holds that disease alters the electromagnetic properties of body cells and tissues, which
can manifest as an excess or deficiency in the electromagnetic signature. In bodywork and
movement therapies, the emanations from a therapists own tissues can provide
electromagnetic information that opens or augments vital communications in a patients
tissues.171 Smith, quoted by Oschman, makes a similar assertion, There are two ways of
altering functions in the body: one is to add particular molecules to the system, and the other
168 Ibid., 107. In the last third of the twentieth century, Robert O. Beck conducted an extended study of
many different types of healers, recording their brain waved during healing with an EEG
(electroencephalograph). All of the healers registered brain wave activity averaging about 7.8-8.0
cycles/second while they were in their healing state, regardless of their beliefs and customs.
169 Ibid., 197. Oschman states, From the research of Smith (1987) and Benveniste (1998), and their
colleagues, there is every reason to think that signal molecules can activate their corresponding
receptor sites without physical contact. The signal molecule emits frequencies that resonate with the
receptor and cause it to vibrate as well. The therapeutic implications are substantial. Oschman,
Energy Medicine, 198.
170 Ibid., 133.
171 Ibid., 139.

is to add the electromagnetic signature of those molecules. The energy fields projected from
the hands of bodyworkers are in the range of intensity and frequency that can influence
regulatory processes within the body of another person.172
Candace Pert concurs with Oschmans work thus far. She states,
Dr. Oschmanns new paradigm vision of the human body allows me at last to
be able to begin to understand how different emotional states, by triggering
the release of various peptide ligands, trigger sudden, even quantum shifts in
consciousness accompanied by concomitant shifts in behavior, memory and
body posture. Perhaps we can now begin to imagine how physical
adjustments of spinal joints that house peptidergic nerve bundles, therapies
that emphasize emotional expression and feeling within the body, and hands
on healings where practitioners claim to be able to feel energetic differences
and emit appropriate corrective energies share common energetic
Research Considerations
It should be noted that the frequency range that is optimal for healing is very specific
and does not necessarily correspond to signal strength. Although humans have been shown to
be quite sensitive to low frequency energy signals, individuals vary widely in their response.
This, again, makes results difficult to replicate. I would argue that for Healing Touch, the
issue of replicable results becomes further conflated when one considers the possibility of a
therapeutic effect stemming from the relaxation response or a therapeutic response to the
caring touch of another person.174
Oschman makes the important point that many concepts presented here are individually
accepted as unproblematic by scientists.
172 Ibid., 136.
Ibid., xi.
174 See Chapter Four and Chapter Five.

None of the work on electromagnetic interactions between molecules violates
any of the known laws of chemistry, physics, or biology. The passage from a
biology of rigid structures randomly bumping into each other to one of
information traveling at the speed of light can be accomplished without a
scientific revolution. All of the pieces of the puzzle are well accepted.175
However, as Oschman points out, the dissemination of information to the public is
often muddled and obscure, largely because of scientific bias and because some of the
information presented may play a role in validating disciplines traditionally considered
Body psychologists argue that the body has an ideal state or alignment for optimal
well-being. This is interesting when viewed in light of Oschmans micro-observations of the
molecule, Damasios macro observations of individuals who experience emotion when placed
in a corresponding physical position, and the psychologically significant experiences of many
recipients of touch therapy. While it would be careless to generalize here, the idea is
intriguing and has implications for Healing Touch research.
Additional Theories under Investigation
The research summarized by Oschman provides a possible model for many theories of
healing energy. In his published writings, Oschmans language is often highly technical and
scientific because he welcomes peer reviews of his work. A technical report of the numerous
theories under exploration is beyond the scope of this work. However, a brief mention of
some additional theories is warranted simply to convey to the reader that there is voluminous
information available to those interested in further research.
175 Ibid., 199.
176 Ibid., 210.

Entrainment is a controversial and intriguing phenomenon. Entrainment is defined in
physics as a state in which two rhythms of nearly the same frequency become coupled to each
other so as to match frequencies.177 Current scientific consensus is that biological rhythms
are internally regulated. However, some argue that biological rhythms are subject to the
persuasion of external electric and magnetic rhythms, such as those produced by other living
organisms, or by other celestial and terrestrial rhythms and pulsations. As stated, the subject
is controversial, but there are implications for Healing Touch if one considers the possibility
that the client could energetically entrain with the practitioner.
Other phenomena under investigation include: The a piezoelectric effect produced by
crystalline structures in the bodys tissues; Donald Ingbers conception of the body as a
tensegrity structure, which, because it is mechanical and vibrational, creates a conceptual link
between structural system and the energy system in the body; William Redpaths trauma
energetics, which proposes a preverbal path to trauma healing via its energetic signature; The
Schumann resonance, which proposes a physical link between solar, lunar, and planetary
rhythms and human physiology based on frequencies in the ELF (extremely low frequency)
range; Experiments with non-local, or distance, healing; Studies of magnetic and electrical
pulses in the brain prior to movement. For example, an athlete or performer might engage in
mental rehearsal in an effort to pre-condition neural pathways for optimum performance.
According to Pelletier and Herzing, in 1984, Priggone and Stenger postulated a theory
of dissipative structures, stating that, .living things are open systems and thrive above
states of equilibrium that demand entropic prediction from the laws of systems are able to exchange energy with the environment and
177 Ibid., 102.

therefore are stabilized by change and flow of information, thus avoiding entropy and the
collapse of the system.178 Oversimplified, thermodynamics is an energy accounting, in
which everything must balance. Energy, after all, can be converted but cannot be created or
A Quantum View of the Mind
Jeffrey Schwartz is a medical doctor who works with OCD patients. Drawing on
philosophy, neuroscience and physics, Schwartz argues that the mind can exert causal
influence on the brain. While a full exploration of this idea is also beyond the scope of this
work, 1 mention it briefly here to illustrate the broad scope of scientific inquiry with regard to
the power of the mind, a subject once thought to be completely out of the realm of science.
Our current worldview assumes that the brain causes everything in the mind. According to
Schwartz, the opposite could be true. Schwartz holds that the structure of the brain is not
static. It changes adaptively and can be directed by mental force. Schwartz states, The goal
is to become, as Gotama Buddha termed it, a master of the course of thought. Volitional
effort and attentional refocusing generate a mental force that changes brain circuitry.and,
over time, produces a willfully induced change in the very circuitry of the brain.179 The idea
that the mind can exert force over brain chemistry is relevant to complementary therapies,
such as Healing Touch, and comes loaded with numerous clinical, social and ethical
implications that this author would not presume to take lightly.
178 Pelletier and Herzing, Psychoneuroimmunology, 346.
179 Schwartz and Begley. Mind and Brain, 317.

Schwartz does make another interesting point in his argument regarding mental force.
He contends that attention can magnify or suppress the effects of stimuli. Likewise, the over-
focus on one sense can have a tempering effect on our other senses. He states, Attending to
one sense, such as vision, does not simply kick up the activity in the region of the brain in
charge of that sense. It also reduces activity in regions responsible for other senses.1*0 If
Schwartzs theories are indeed possible, one could wonder whether certain tendencies, such
as our negligence of bodily experience, discussed in the previous chapter, are becoming more
than a cultural choice. Perhaps it is possible for these tendencies to become neurologically
ingrained patterns of thought and behavior.
180 Ibid., 333.

While Healing Touch research is a relatively new field, it has fared well thus far in
studies involving observation and client report. This paper attempts to argue for the
continued use of Healing Touch and for additional research into its efficacy through an
exploration of existing research across several disciplines. While not specifically geared
toward Healing Touch, research in other disciplines supports Healing Touch by speaking to
the efficacy of its foundational tenets. The answer to why Healing Touch receives favorable
report may be found in any, all, or none of the ideas presented here. Perhaps the reasons it
works are as unique, nuanced and varied as the individuals who find benefit in it.
Throughout the study, efforts have been made to explain why much of the presented research
does not readily fit into established objective testing models. Adherents to orthodox science
might argue that this renders the research invalid because it lacks the rigor of the Randomized
Clinical Trial. Others would argue that, while Healing Touch does not fit into the RCT
model, the supporting research is scientific in that it is based on observation, theory,
experimentation and further observation. The argument here is in favor of the use of Healing
Touch, despite its research limitations. The primary goal, however, is not to settle the
evidence debate, but to present information in a new way that will inspire additional research
and, hopefully, more informed choices.

Central to this argument for Healing Touch is the idea that the body may provide an
alternate route to whole-person healing. This is contrary to our modem tendencies, as we try
to attain wellness by forcing the body to trail obediently in the footsteps of the rational mind.
After looking at the research presented here, the question I pose in conclusion is, what would
happen if we led with the body and let the mind follow? In a holistic model of the individual,
is it possible to position the body in an optimal healing state that will then translate itself to
the mind? Throughout this study, we have heard terms such as the wisdom of the body. It
is not wisdom as our culture traditionally defines it, but, I would argue, it is wisdom
nonetheless. We have looked at such phenomena as emotion in the body and how touch
alone might have the ability to heal. I would argue, in closing, that there is enough evidence
to posit the body as a parallel and equal route to healing, a route that we are often too hesitant
to explore in our cerebral society. Drawing on concepts of the bodymind, touch, and
energetics, Healing Touch is one possible way to begin to implement body led healing.
Unlike ancient times, touch has been virtually eliminated from the realm of healing. Healing
Touch is one way to put it back.


The Spectrum of Health Care
by Cynthia Hutchison, DNSc, RN, CHTP/l

Radiation Therapy
Education, Exercise,
Basic Nutrition*
Physical, Occupational, / \ Pharmaceuticals Vitamins,
Respiratory Therapy / \ Psychotherapy
Surgery Treatments
Humor. Gratitude
^pi ritual Practice
Chinese Medicine
Movement Therapies
Music Therapy
Massage &
Bodywork Therapies
Fig. A. 1. Spectrum of Healthcare.
From Healing Touch Program, Level 1 Notebook, 71.



Fig. A.2. Physiological Response to Healing Touch.
From Healing Touch Program, Level 1 Notebook, 35.

Mind Clearing
Fig. A.3 Modified Mind Clearing Technique.
From Healing Touch Program, Level 1 Notebook, 120.

Fig. A.4. Drawings by a Young Girl.
Self-perception of a 5-year-old girl with asthma before (A) and after (B) a Therapeutic
Touch Session. From Keegan and Halo Shames, Touch: Connecting with the Healing
Power, in Holistic Nursing, 660.

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