Therapeutic touch: Massaging our inner energy

Imagine you’re more than just a physical body — more, even, than a heart beating with emotion and a brain teeming with thought. Imagine you don’t end at your skin.

Some people believe we have nonphysical bodies extending a few centimetres to a couple of metres beyond our skin. It’s this energy field — invisible to most — that may form the aura portrayed by religious artists as halos.

Far out? Maybe not. The human energy field has been used in healing for centuries. Conventional western medicine generally distances itself from alternative therapies, with one exception: therapeutic touch (TT) – a means of stroking, rearranging and redirecting energy taught in more than 80 colleges and universities around the world. In North America alone, 37,000 registered nurses are practising TT in operating rooms, cancer wards, delivery rooms, intensive care units, pediatric wards, emergency rooms and hospices.

In Canada, a computerized network of 660 practitioners, half of them nurses, makes TT accessible. At the Toronto East General and Orthopaedic Hospital, TT is now written into the institution’s policies and procedures and covered by Ontariols health insurance plan. It’s used tinduce relaxation, alleviate pain, increase healing, boost the immune system, and reduces anxiety and blood pressure.

Crystal Hawk is the person most responsible for bringing TT to Canada 15 years ago. A former Gestalt therapist, and now a respected teacher and practitioner of TT, she was instrumental in founding the Therapeutic Touch Network. As she explains, there are distinct steps in treatment. First is centering. Standing behind the seated recipient, the therapist places her hands on the person’s shoulders and grounds herself in a meditative state. Hawk employs the imagery of a tree, imagining roots sunk deep in the ground.

Next is scanning, a diagnostic once-over of the body. Holdlng her hands just above the recipient’s skin, the therapist notes areas where the energy field seems disturbed: warm, cold or tingling. These areas may feel painful to the recipient, but to the practitioner they indicate where energy may be congested.

The third step, known as unruffling, involves the therapist working on problem areas noted during the scan — Hawk often visualizes pulling blue, healing light through the person’s energy fields and body tissues.

Sometimes the practitioner performs an energy exchange, cupping her hands and willing healing energy to pour into the recipient Is body. Hawk learned the process from a book called The Therapeutic Touch: How Lo Use Your Hands Lo Help or Heal. The author, Dolores Krieger (RN, PhD, and professor emeritus of New York University) , exhibited a no-nonsense approach that appealed to Hawk.

During her first year as a practitioner, Hawk was herself unsure of the therapy. "I kept thinking how wonderful if this were true," she says. "I was skeptical. It seemed so far-fetched."

Meanwhile, Krieger’s attempts to prove the legitimacy of the therapy met with success when she tested recipient’s blood after they had undergone treatment and found significantly raised hemoglobin levels. But skeptics still insist TT is only a placebo. "You should never deny that intention, attention and caring are important when you’re sick," says Hawk. "All of that plays a role, but it’s not the definitive role, because TT works on people who are unconscious. It works well with plants and animals, and it would be hard to talk about the placebo effect there."<!–

Dr. Ken Walker practises medicine in Toronto and also writes under the pen name of Gifford-Jones.—>