Smooth Out Your Energy Field
When Janet Ziegler's 14-year-old son Daniel broke his collarbone in a cycling accident, the doctor who set the break predicted that the bone would take at least two months to heal.
In the interim, Ziegler decided to treat her son with Therapeutic Touch, a healing technique based on the laying on of hands. A registered nurse trained in the technique, Ziegler gave Daniel a five-minute session three or four times a day.
Two and a half weeks later, Ziegler recalls, she looked out her kitchen window and saw Daniel swinging by his hands from the neighbor's porch railing.
"I said, 'Get down! You have a broken collarbone. You'll hurt yourself!'" says Ziegler. "And he said, 'No, Mom, it's better.' So I took him back to the doctor, who took an x-ray, which showed that the bone was completely healed."
According to Ziegler and others who practice Therapeutic Touch, the therapy enhances the body's ability to heal itself. Research indicates that this healing method helps anxiety, speeds wound healing, induces feelings of relaxation and decreases the perceptions of headache pain. Therapeutic Touch isn't a replacement for conventional treatment, they note, but it is an effective adjunct--that is, a natural way to enhance and speed recovery.
Therapeutic Touch is so effective that every woman should learn it and use it on her family, her friends and herself, says Ziegler, a clinical nurse specialist in Allison Park, Pennsylvania, and coordinator for Nurse-Healers Professional Associates, a professional organization for practitioners of Therapeutic Touch. "I treat women in my office when they have cramps or premenstrual syndrome, and in five minutes, they feel so much better. I use it at work and at home. I really don't know how I would have raised my kids without it."
Developed in the early 1970s by Dolores Krieger, R.N., Ph.D., a New York University nursing professor, and Dora Kunz, a self-taught healer, Therapeutic Touch was at first written off by the medical establishment. Though still controversial, the technique has been gaining credibility ever since. It's now part of the curriculum at more than 100 universities nationwide.
"For some individuals, Therapeutic Touch can be a very important part of the overall healing process," says Jeremy Geffen, M.D., an oncologist in Vero Beach, Florida, who treats cancer with conventional treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation but encourages his patients to supplement those treatments with alternative therapies like Therapeutic Touch.
Therapeutic Touch is one of several hands-on healing techniques. Those who practice it believe that it helps the body to heal itself. While not as widely practiced as therapeutic massage, you can find a practitioner by following these guidelines.
Number of practitioners in the United States: Nurse-Healers Professional Associates has 1,500 members, but thousands of other practitioners use Therapeutic Touch.
Qualifications to look for: No certification exists for Therapeutic Touch. Look for a practitioner who has completed a training course approved by Nurse-Healers Professional Associates.
Professional associations: Nurse-Healers Professional Associates, 1121 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107.
To find a practitioner: Contact the Nurse-Healers Professional Associates at the address listed above, or ask the administrator of a hospital, nursing home or hospice whether any staff members do Therapeutic Touch.
Approximate cost: Cost varies widely. Also, some hospitals and institutions offer Therapeutic Touch as an integral part of health care, at no additional charge.
HEALING WITH ENERGY
Therapeutic Touch is something of a misnomer. A practitioner doesn't need to actually touch the person that she's treating. Usually, she touches the "energy field" surrounding the person or, if she's working on herself, the field surrounding her own body. According to the theory underlying Therapeutic Touch, each of us is surrounded by a human energy field, like an all-body halo. These fields extend out several inches from the skin surface, practitioners say.
When we're healthy, Dr. Krieger explains, our fields are symmetrical or balanced and energy flows evenly through them. But physical and emotional problems--everything from broken bones to depression--cause asymmetries or imbalances in the fields. Therapeutic Touch aims to balance them out, she says.
"You're not healing the person yourself when you do Therapeutic Touch; you're reordering her energy field so that her body can efficiently heal itself," says Ziegler.
If you visited a practitioner of Therapeutic Touch, she would begin the session by getting a sense of imbalances in your energy field. Holding her hands two to six inches above you, she'd begin at your head and work down to your feet. Some practitioners say that a balanced energy field feels like a barely perceptible but steady breeze; but different individuals sense it differently. Imbalances, on the other hand, may feel more tingly or slightly cooler than other areas, and areas with deficient energy may feel empty or congested. A practitioner "balances" the energy field with her hands, using various techniques, as the occasion demands.
No one knows exactly why Therapeutic Touch gets results. Since the practitioner doesn't necessarily touch the client, results can't be attributed to the physiological and psychological effects of physical touch, which science recognizes. Practitioners offer various explanations, based on electromagnetic and quantum physics and psychology. At this point, though, it's not clear which explanations, if any, are correct.
Reiki Practice: Aid to Healing?
Reiki Practice: Aid to Healing?
Reiki is the Japanese word for "universal life energy," and reiki therapists believe they can tap into this energy and use it to enhance healing.
Both reiki (pronounced ray-key) and Therapeutic Touch work with energy, although they are separate practices based on different theories. According to reiki theory, practitioners can channel universal healing energy to balance and enhance the flow of vital energy through their own and others' bodies. A harmonious balance of energy in the body aids healing, explains licensed massage therapist Thomas Claire, a reiki master who practices in New York City and author of Bodywork: What Type of Massage to Get--And How to Make the Most of It.
Reiki practitioners generally touch their clients, albeit very gently. Usually, the person lies on a massage table, fully dressed. (There's no need to undress because the energy permeates clothing, Claire says.)
During a typical 60- to 90-minute healing session, practitioners place their hands, palms down, over your major organs and glands and over various spots that are believed to be centers of subtle energy, called chakras. If the practitioner is treating herself, she holds her hands over the same spots. A practitioner usually holds her hands over each spot for 3 to 5 minutes. During that time, reiki theory has it, the person undergoing treatment draws in whatever energy she needs from the universe through the medium of the practitioner.
Reiki differs from Therapeutic Touch in yet another way, notes Claire. You can't learn to tap or use the energy simply by mastering the hand positions and wanting to heal. You have to go through an initiation--a ritual--in which a reiki master attunes you so that you can become a channel for the healing energy.
There are three degrees of reiki, each requiring an attunement, explains Joyce J. Morris, a reiki master teacher in Encino, California, and author of Reiki--Hands That Heal. After four attunements, says Morris, you're at the first degree of reiki and can transmit healing energy by touching anything alive. To achieve the second degree, you learn sacred symbols, how to send healing energy over a distance and how to amplify the energy of the first degree and treat mental, emotional and addictive problems. After the third and final initiation, you become a reiki master, trained to do reiki attunements.
Reiki is based on ancient Tibetan healing techniques that were rediscovered in the mid-1800s when Mikao Usui, a professor at a Christian seminary in Kyoto, reportedly discovered the keys to the practice in ancient Sanskrit texts. Practitioners say that he discovered the way in which to use them for reiki healing during a mystical experience atop a sacred Japanese mountain.
The secrecy surrounding reiki invites skepticism, acknowledges Claire, who says that he was skeptical himself, initially. But even die-hard skeptics say that they feel something happening during the treatment. People report feeling tingling, heat and spinning sensations and seeing colors. In one study, students who were learning first-degree reiki had higher blood levels of hemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying component of blood) than before the training, suggesting that some kind of beneficial change occurred.
Though you don't have to get initiated to benefit from reiki treatment, the attunement will enhance the treatment, Claire says. Once you're attuned, you can apply the technique to your friends, family and yourself--a real benefit, since reiki masters suggest that you give yourself a treatment every day for optimum results.
MASTERING THE BASICS
Many practitioners of Therapeutic Touch are doctors, nurses, psychotherapists or other health professionals. But with training, anyone can learn the technique, says Dr. Krieger, author of six books about Therapeutic Touch, including The Therapeutic Touch Inner Workbook.
"I've taught the technique to well over 43,000 health professionals in addition to many laypeople," Dr. Krieger says. "And my students have probably taught as many," she adds.
If you want to learn Therapeutic Touch, your best bet is to take classes with a practitioner. "Getting feedback from a teacher or mentor really helps," says Ziegler. Eight to 12 hours of training will cover the essentials.
If you're unable to train with a practitioner, you can still learn the rudiments of Therapeutic Touch.
Let's suppose that you want to treat a friend who's been having muscle aches or headaches. First, find a quiet place in which to work and ask your friend to sit on a stool. Treating someone who's seated in a backless chair gives you access to her entire energy field, says Ziegler. Since the energy field permeates clothing, there's no need to undress for a session, she says. (If your friend has to lie in bed, that's okay, too.)
Once your friend is in position, follow these steps.
Center yourself. This is the most important part, says Dorothy Woods Smith, R.N., Ph.D., associate professor of nursing and instructor of Therapeutic Touch at the University of Southern Maine in Portland. "To center yourself, tune out what's around you. Quiet your mind so that you can become acutely aware and focused throughout the process."
Assess. Become attuned to the energy field around the body of your subject. Holding your hands two to six inches above her, start at her head and continue to work downward to her feet. Smooth your hands over the area above her face, then the sides and back of her head and finally her shoulders. In your mind, compare what you feel on the right side with what you feel on the left; compare sensations in front with those in back. Continue working downward, over her torso, pelvis and both legs. Look for and note signs of imbalance, says Dr. Smith. These may feel like differences in warmth and coolness or as a tingling. The person you're treating won't feel the imbalance.
Even out perceived areas of buildup or deficiency in the energy field. Move your hands downward and outward from the top of each uneven area using a flowing motion, says Dr. Smith. "The strokes should be rhythmic."
Evaluate. To complete the session, reassess your friend's energy field to make sure that you've balanced it out, says Dr. Krieger.
Following a similar procedure, you can also do Therapeutic Touch on yourself. Sit in a backless chair and repeat the above process. You should be able to cover your entire field, though it may be a little more difficult to cover the area between the back of your shoulders and waist, according to Dr. Krieger.
Whether you're using Therapeutic Touch on friends, family or yourself, you can do it a couple times a day. But as a beginner, you should limit each session to five minutes. Otherwise, you'll overload the person you're treating, or yourself, with energy, Ziegler says. That can cause irritability, a sympathetic nervous response, she explains.
You should be particularly careful not to overdo it with the very young, the very old or pregnant women since they can get overloaded easily, Ziegler adds.
Of course, you and any family member can see a professional if there's one in your area. The professional might ask you to come about once a week for a session lasting 20 to 30 minutes, she says.
Reiki practitioners balance and enhance the flow of energy in your body by touching your body in certain ways while you're fully clothed. Here's how to find a practitioner near you.
Number of practitioners in the United States: Thousands of reiki therapists practice in this country, and 1,000 reiki masters practice worldwide.
Qualifications to look for: Look for a practitioner who is a reiki master (that is, one who has complete all three levels of reiki initiation) or one who has been initiated by a reiki master.
To find a practitioner: Contact The Reiki Alliance, P.O. Box 41, Cataldo, ID 83810-1041.
Approximate cost: $30 to $100 per one-hour session.