Therapeutic Touch

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However, Therapeutic Touch does not stem from one religious faith in particular, and it is not necessary to be religious to either give or receive the therapy. Dolores Krieger, a nursing professor at New York University, and a healer named Dora Kunz created Therapeutic Touch in the ss as a way to establish a more personal relationship between nurses and patients. Krieger learned the technique from Kunz, and began teaching it as Therapeutic Touch to her graduate students. Through her teaching and writing, the therapy gre I popularity, particularly among nurses, and is now practiced at hospitals and health centers all around the world.

Practitioners believe that there is an energy field that surrounds the body. When this energy field is out of balance, health is affected and disease occurs. By moving his or her hands over the body, practitioners are able to sense imbalances and blockages in the energy field and work to correct them by sending positive energy to the affected area. Second, he or she will check for imbalances and blockages in the energy field by placing his or her hands above the body and moving up and down the length of the body.

The final step is an evaluation of the session to make sure nothing was missed, and that the client is feeling good.

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In , 15 practitioners were tested at their homes or offices on different days for a period of several months. In , 13 practitioners, including 7 from the first series, were tested in a single day. The test procedures were explained by 1 of the authors E. The first series of tests was conducted when she was 9 years old. The participants were informed that the study would be published as her fourth-grade science-fair project and gave their consent to be tested. The decision to submit the results to a scientific journal was made several months later, after people who heard about the results encouraged publication.

The second test series was done at the request of a Public Broadcasting Service television producer who had heard about the first study. Participants in the second series were informed that the test would be videotaped for possible broadcast and gave their consent. During each test, the practitioners rested their hands, palms up, on a flat surface, approximately 25 to 30 cm apart. To prevent the experimenter's hands from being seen, a tall, opaque screen with cutouts at its base was placed over the subject's arms, and a cloth towel was attached to the screen and draped over them Figure 1.

Each subject underwent a set of 10 trials. Before each set, the subject was permitted to "center" or make any other mental preparations deemed necessary. The experimenter flipped a coin to determine which of the subject's hands would be the target. The experimenter then hovered her right hand, palm down, 8 to 10 cm above the target and said, "Okay. Each subject was permitted to take as much or as little time as necessary to make each determination.

The time spent ranged from 7 to 19 minutes per set of trials. To examine whether air movement or body heat might be detectable by the experimental subjects, preliminary tests were performed on 7 other subjects who had no training or belief in TT. Four were children who were unaware of the purpose of the test. Those results indicated that the apparatus prevented tactile cues from reaching the subject. We decided in advance that an individual would "pass" by making 8 or more correct selections and that those passing the test would be retested, although the retest results would not be included in the group analysis.


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Results for the group as a whole would not be considered positive unless the average score was above 6. Before testing, all participants said they could use TT to significant therapeutic advantage. Each described sensory cues they used to assess and manipulate the HEF.

All participants but 1 certified massage therapist expressed high confidence in their TT abilities, and even the aforementioned certified massage therapist said afterward that she felt she had passed the test to her own satisfaction. The number of correct choices ranged from 2 to 8. Only 1 subject scored 8, and that same subject scored only 6 on the retest.

After each set of trials, the results were discussed with the participant. Because all but 1 of the trials could have been considered a failure, the participants usually chose to discuss possible explanations for failure. Their rationalizations included the following: However, the first attempts 7 correct and 8 incorrect scored no better than the rest. Moreover, practitioners should be able to tell whether a field they are sensing is "fresh. Moreover, practitioners customarily use both hands to assess. Each subject could be given an example of the experimenter hovering her hand above each of theirs and told which hand it is.

Since the effects of the HEF are described in unsubtle terms, such a procedure should not be necessary, but including it would remove a possible post hoc objection. Therefore, we did so in the follow-up testing. This contradicts the fundamental premise of TT, since the experimenter's role is analogous to that of a patient. Only the practitioner's intentionality and preparation centering are theoretically necessary. If not so, the early experiments on relatively uninvolved subjects, such as infants and barley seeds , cited frequently by TT advocates, must also be discounted.


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This explanation clashes with TT's basic premise that practitioners can sense and manipulate the HEF with their hands during sessions that typically last 20 to 30 minutes. If practitioners become insensitive after only brief testing, the TT hypothesis is untestable. Those who made this complaint did so after they knew the results, not before.

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Moreover, only 7 of the 15 first trials produced correct responses. The testing was completed in 1 day and videotaped by a professional film crew. Each subject was allowed to "feel" the investigator's energy field and choose which hand the investigator would use for testing.


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  6. Seven subjects chose her left hand, and 6 chose her right hand. The test results were similar to those of the first series. The number of correct answers ranged from 1 to 7. However, we do not believe that the situation was more stressful or distracting than the settings in which many hospital nurses practice TT eg, intensive care units. Figure 2 shows the distribution of test results. Our alternative hypothesis was that the subjects would perform at better than chance levels.

    The t statistic of our data did not exceed the upper critical limit of the Student t distribution Table 2. Therefore, the null hypothesis cannot be rejected at the. Our data also showed that if the practitioners could reliably detect an HEF 2 of 3 times, then the probability that either test missed such an effect would be less than. If the practitioners' true detection rate was 3 of 4, then the probability that our experiment missed it would be less than 3 in However, if TT theory is correct, practitioners should always be able to sense the energy field of their patients.

    We would also expect accuracy to increase with experience. We conclude on both statistical and logical grounds that TT practitioners have no such ability. Practitioners of TT are generally reluctant to be tested by people who are not proponents. Although more than American practitioners claim to have such an ability, only 1 person attempted the demonstration.

    We suspect that the present authors were able to secure the cooperation of 21 practitioners because the person conducting the test was a child who displayed no skepticism. Therapeutic touch is grounded on the concept that people have an energy field that is readily detectable and modifiable by TT practitioners. However, this study found that 21 experienced practitioners, when blinded, were unable to tell which of their hands was in the experimenter's energy field.

    The mean correct score for the 28 sets of 10 tests was 4. To our knowledge, no other objective, quantitative study involving more than a few TT practitioners has been published, and no well-designed study demonstrates any health benefit from TT. These facts, together with our experimental findings, suggest that TT claims are groundless and that further use of TT by health professionals is unjustified.

    How does Therapeutic Touch work?

    Draped towel prevents peeking. Drawing by Pat Linse, Skeptics Society. The use of Therapeutic Touch in nursing. J Contin Educ Nurs. Therapeutic Touch Inner Workbook.

    Understanding Therapeutic Touch

    Healing Through Human Energy Fields: Theory and Research [videotapes and study guide]. National League for Nursing; Living the Therapeutic Touch: Healing as a Lifestyle. Accepting Your Power to Heal: The Personal Practice of Therapeutic Touch. An Easy Guide to Hands-on Healing. Psycho immunologic effects of Therapeutic Touch on practitioners and recently bereaved recipients: Nurse knows Therapeutic Touch "works. Using consciousness to heal. Therapeutic Touch during childbirth preparation by the Lamaze method and its relation to marital satisfaction and state anxiety of the married couple.

    The mystery of "Therapeutic Touch. December , ;Health section: Effect of Therapeutic Touch on anxiety level of hospitalized patients. New York University; The child's perception of the human energy field using Therapeutic Touch. The Science of Unitary Human Beings and theory-based practice: Visions of Rogers' Science-Based Nursing. In this way TT has been accepted and legitimized by the nursing profession.

    Their scientific and rational arguments, however, have been countered by the powerful political clout of TT, which was introduced into nursing at a time when the profession was searching for a new level of respect and independence, one which they rightly deserve as health care professionals. The Evidence There has been some research testing the claims of TT, but not much.

    Most research has focused on comparing the outcomes of patients treated with TT compared to those either untreated or given sham TT. Studies have been done on post-operative pain, burn victims, and in other conditions. Such measurements are legitimate if done properly, but they are very soft findings upon which to rest an entire theory of health and disease. Another problem is the difficulty with properly controlling the experiments.

    Control groups are typically given sham TT, which is done by people who do not have training in TT and who are shown simply how to move their hands in a way which mimics TT. The difficulty arises from the possibility, according to TT proponents, that such sham TT might accidentally work. Some sham practitioners have stated that they "felt something" when giving the control therapy.

    This can therefore be used to explain any lack of apparent effect by TT when compared to the control group. She found that, "The more rigorous the research design, the more detailed the statistical analysis, the less evidence that there is any observed - or observable - phenomenon.

    Therapeutic touch Information | Mount Sinai - New York

    Clinical research on homeopathy and acupuncture, for example, follow the same pattern of an inverse relationship between the quality of research, and the observed effect of treatment. Another TT literature review conducted by Kevin Courcey, also a nurse, came to a similar conclusion Courcey, Courcey also noted that TT researchers themselves have had to admit the poor study design of most TT research.

    One researcher, for example, noted, "In the final analysis, the current research base supporting continued nursing practice of therapeutic touch is, at best, weak. It may be presumptuous to teach the art or to seriously discuss the use of this practice in the treatment of illness. Due to the difficulty of establishing rigor in clinical research, it seems more straightforward to test the underlying premises of TT. The HEF, however, remains elusive. No one has ever been able to demonstrate that it exists.

    This, however, is the classic unfalsifiable hypothesis. If the HEF cannot be measured, then there is no way to prove that it does not exist. This renders the theory non-scientific. This, certainly, must be testable. TT practitioners, however, have never subjected this very basic premise of their art to any scientific testing.

    Despite aggressive recruiting, only one TT practitioner took the test, and they failed. Randi, In one person was able to enlist the cooperation of TT practitioners to perform such a study. Emily Rosa was 9 years old when she conducted the only formal study testing the claim that TT practitioners can sense the HEF Rosa The study report speculates that TT practitioners were willing to cooperate in the study because they were not threatened by a child who espoused no skepticism.

    What does a treatment look like?

    Emily was supported by her mother, Linda Rosa, a nurse who rejects TT as an unproven treatment. The test was very simple. The TT practitioners sat behind a cardboard curtain and placed both of their arms through two holes. Emily would then place either her right or left hand chosen by the subject just above either the right or left hand of the subject, determined by a coin flip.

    The subject would then announce whether they felt the presence of the hand, via the HEF, over their right or left hand. Of the 25 subjects there was also no difference between TT practitioners with one year or 20 years experience. The Rosa study was originally designed as a grade school science project. It therefore lacks strict scientific rigor, for example control data was not published along with the study data.