therapeutic touch

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal, Financial, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
Related to therapeutic touch: Reiki, Healing Touch

Therapeutic Touch



Therapeutic touch, or TT, is a noninvasive method of healing that was derived from an ancient laying—on of hands technique. In TT, the practitioner alters the patient's energy field through an energy transfer that moves from the hands of the practitioner to the patient.


Therapeutic touch was developed in 1972 by Dora Kunz, a psychic healer, and Dolores Krieger, Ph.D., R.N, a nurse and professor of nursing at New York University. The year before, in 1971, when Krieger was working as a registered nurse in a hospital, she became very frustrated when one of her patients, a 30-year-old female, lay dying from a gallbladder condition. In desperation, she tried what she was learning from Kunz. Within one treatment, the patient's condition began to shift and she lived, surprising the other hospital staff. Krieger and Kunz met during the study of Oskar Estebany, a world—renowned healer. They had invited Estebany to form a study for three years, observing his work with patients. In this study, Estebany practiced laying—on of hands healing on various patients. Using her psychic and intuitive abilities, Kunz would observe and assist in the healing, while Krieger recorded the activities of the healing session and created profiles of the patients.
As the study progressed, Kunz began teaching Krieger how to heal, based on her perceptions of Estebany's healing techniques. During her research of ancient healing methods, Krieger concluded that the energy transfer between the healer and the healee that takes place in a TT session is prana, an Eastern Indian concept representing energy, vitality, and vigor. Krieger then combined her research with Kunz's techniques to create TT.
TT was initially developed for persons in the health professions, but is currently taught worldwide to anyone who is interested in learning the technique. As of 1998, an estimated 100,000 people around the world have been trained in TT; 43,000 of those persons are health care professionals, many of whom use TT in conjunction with traditional medicine, as well as osteopathic, chiropractic, naturopathic, and homeopathic therapies. TT is taught in over 100 colleges, universities, and medical schools.


The major effects of TT are relaxation, pain reduction, accelerated healing, and alleviation of psychosomatic symptoms. Studies have shown that TT has a beneficial effect on the blood as it has the ability to raise hemoglobin values. It also affects brain waves to induce a relaxed state. TT can induce the relaxation response often within five minutes.
Krieger has said that it is not individual illnesses that validate the effectiveness of TT, but rather, it is questioned which systems are most sensitive to TT. She and others have found that the most sensitive is the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which, for example, controls urination. The ANS is followed by dysfunctions of lymphatic and circulatory systems, and then finally musculoskeletal systems. In addition, the female endocrine system is more sensitive to TT than the corresponding male system. Thus, TT helps with dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, problems with contraception, and the course of pregnancy.
TT is reported to have a positive effect on the immune system and thus accelerates the healing of wounds. Nurses use therapeutic touch in operating rooms to relax patients before surgery and in recovery rooms on postoperative patients to help speed the healing process. TT is used in the treatment of terminally ill patients, such as those with cancer and autoimmune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), to relieve anxiety and stress, create peace of mind, and reduce pain.
Many nurses use TT in the nursery. The conditions of many premature babies who received TT reportedly improved rapidly. TT has been used to calm colicky infants, assist women in childbirth, and increase milk let-down in breast-feeding mothers.
Other claims of TT include relief of acute pain, nausea, diarrhea, tension and migraine headaches, fever, and joint and tissue swelling. TT has been used to treat thyroid imbalances, ulcers, psychosomatic illnesses, premenstrual syndrome, Alzheimer's disease, stroke and coma, multiple sclerosis, measles, infections, asthma, and bone and muscle injuries.
Therapeutic touch is performed in many different locations, including healing centers, delivery rooms, hospitals, hospice settings, accident scenes, homes, and schools.


Therapeutic touch treats the whole person: relaxes the mind, heals the body, and soothes the spirit. The principle behind it is that it does not stop at the skin. The human body extends an energy field, or aura, several inches to several feet from the body. When illness occurs, it creates a disturbance or blockage in the vital energy field. The TT practitioner uses her/his hands to sense the blockage or disturbance. In a series of gentle strokes, the healer removes the disturbance and rebalances the energy to restore health.
The TT session generally lasts about 20-30 minutes. Although the name is therapeutic touch, there is generally no touching of the physical body, only the energetic body or field. It is usually performed on fully clothed patients who are either lying down on a flat surface or sitting up in a chair.
Each session consists of five steps. Before the session begins, the practitioner enters a state of quiet meditation in which he/she becomes centered and grounded in order to establish intent for the healing session and to garner the compassion necessary to heal.
The second step involves the assessment of the person's vital energy field. During this step, the practitioner places the palms of his/her hands 2-3 in (5-8 cm) from the patient's body and sweeps them over the energy field in slow, gentle strokes beginning at the head and moving toward the feet. The practitioner might feel heat, coolness, heaviness, pressure, or a prickly or tingling sensation. These cues, as they are called, each signal a blockage or disturbance in the field.
To remove these blockages and restore balance to the body, the practitioner then performs a series of downward sweeping movements to clear away any energy congestion and smooth the energy field. This is known as the unruffling process and is generally performed from head to feet. To prevent any energy from clinging to him/her, the practitioner shakes his/her hands after each stroke.
During the next phase, the practitioner acts as a conduit to transfer energy to the patient. The energy used is not solely the energy of the practitioner. The practitioner relies on a universal source of energy so as not to deplete his/her own supply. In short, the healer acts as an energy support system until the patient's immune system is able to take over.
The practitioner then smoothes the field to balance the energy and create a symmetrical flow. When the session is over, it is recommended that the patient relax for 10-15 minutes in order for the energies to stabilize.

Side effects

The side effects reported occur when an excess of energy enters the body for an extended period of time creating restlessness, irritability, and hostility, or increasing anxiety and pain. Burns are sensitive to therapeutic touch, and it is recommended that TT be performed on burned tissue for short periods, generally two to three minutes at a time.

Research and general acceptance

Therapeutic touch is not generally accepted by Western medical professionals. Basic and anecdotal research has been performed on TT since its development in 1972, although little quantitative research has been carried out. It is based on a theory derived from formal research. It began as the basis of Dolores Krieger's postdoctoral research.
Dolores Krieger has performed extensive research on TT, including with pregnant women, and has noted that the following changes occur in a patient after short, consistent treatment: relaxation within the first five minutes of a session, a reduction of pain, and the acceleration of the healing process.
One study was created to determine the effect TT would have on wounds that resulted from a biopsy of the upper arm. Forty-four patients placed their injured arms through a hole in a door. Twenty-two of them received TT on their arms. The other half received no treatment. The wounds treated with TT healed more quickly than the wounds that received no treatment.
In 1998, a study was performed on 27 patients with osteoarthritis in at least one knee. For six weeks, the patients were treated with therapeutic touch, mock therapeutic touch, or standard care. According to The Journal of Family Practice, the journal who published the study, the results showed that the group who had received TT had "significantly decreased pain and improved function as compared with both the placebo and control groups."
Therapeutic touch can be combined with a number of different therapies, including acupressure, massage, mental imagery, physical therapy, and yoga. When combined with massage and physiotherapy, TT may reduce tension headaches, back pain, stress-related problems, circulatory problems, and constipation. Shiatsu and TT may help sinusitis, digestive disorders, muscle cramps, menstrual difficulties, and insomnia. Yoga and TT may be beneficial in the treatment of bronchitis, asthma, blood pressure, fatigue, and anxiety.
TT is practiced in over 70 countries worldwide: by Egyptians and Israelis during fighting in the Gaza Strip; in South Africa to reduce racial strife; and in Poland, Thailand, and the former Soviet Union.

Training and certification

Therapeutic touch is taught at over 100 universities and nursing and medical schools around the United States and Canada. Although it was developed primarily for nurses, anyone can learn TT.
State laws vary regarding the practice of TT. In general, laypersons are allowed to practice TT within their families. Therapeutic touch is considered an extension of health care skills, so most health care professionals are covered under the state medical practice act.
Many hospitals have established policies allowing nurses and staff to perform TT on patients at no extra charge. The American Nurse's Association often holds workshops on TT at national conventions. Therapeutic touch classes are often held for the general public through community education, healing clinics, and holistic schools.



The Nurse Healers Professional Associates International (NH-PAI), the Official Organization of Therapeutic Touch. 3760 S. Highland Dr. Salt Lake City, UT 84106. (801) 273-3399.


1. palpation with the finger.
2. in the nursing interventions classification, a nursing intervention defined as providing comfort and communication through purposeful tactile contact.
3. the sense by which contact of an object with the skin is recognized. Touch is actually not a single sense, but several. There are separate nerves in the skin to register heat, cold, pressure, pain, light touch, and coarse touch. These thousands of nerves are distributed unevenly over the body, so that some areas are more responsive to cold, others to pain, and others to heat or pressure. Each of these types of nerves has a different structure at the receiving end. A nerve for light touch has an elongated bulb-shaped end; one responsive to cold ends in a squat bulb; one that registers warmth ends with what look like twisted threads; and a nerve for deep pressure has an egg-shaped end. Pain receptors have no protective sheath.

If the sensory nerves were evenly distributed over the whole body, each square inch (6.5 square cm) of skin would have about 50 heat receptors, 8 for cold, 100 for touch, and 800 for pain. The sensitivity of a given spot depends in part on how thickly receptors of any one kind are clustered in that spot, and localization of a particular sensation depends on the concentration of the necessary nerve endings in the area. Light touch, pressure, and pain are sensations that can be localized quite accurately, but sensations of cold and heat are more diffuse.

The thickness of the skin in a given area and its supply of hairs also contribute to its touch sensitivity. A touch as light as one fifteen-thousandth of an ounce on the thin skin of the forehead can be felt, whereas a touch must be two and a half times as heavy to be felt on a fingertip. Hairs grow almost everywhere on the skin except the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. They grow at a slant, and touch spots cluster in the skin near each of them. Even a light touch on the tip of a hair bends it back, and like a tiny lever it communicates the touch to the nerve endings.
therapeutic touch in the nursing interventions classification, a nursing intervention defined as attuning to the universal healing field, seeking to act as an instrument for healing influence, and using the natural sensitivity of the hands to gently focus and direct the intervention process.

therapeutic touch (TT)1

a healing method based on the premise that the body possesses an energy field that can be affected by the focused intention of the healer, using a consciously directed exchange of energy between practitioner and patient. The practitioner uses the hands as a focus to assess the patient's energy field, to release areas where the free flow of energy is blocked, and to balance the patient's energy by transferring energy from a universal life energy force to the patient.

therapeutic touch2

a nursing intervention from the Nursing Interventions Classification (NIC) defined as attuning to the universal healing field, seeking to act as an instrument for healing influence, and using the natural sensitivity of the hands to gently focus and direct the intervention process. See also Nursing Interventions Classification.

therapeutic touch

Fringe medicine
A contemporary form of non-oriental (energetic) massage developed in the 1970s by an American nurse, Dr Dolores Krieger. Therapeutic touch is rooted in the ancient healing arts, and is based on the belief that the human energy field extends beyond the physical boundaries of the skin.

In therapeutic touch, the practitioner’s hands are held two to four inches above the patient’s body and swept rhythmically over the skin, attempting to sense local problems and “treat” them by acting as a conduit for “universal energy” to the patient’s body. It is believed by its advocates to increase haemoglobin levels, reduce anxiety, headaches and postoperative pain, stimulate the immune system, and may increase survival rates of premature infants. There is no peer-reviewed literature that suggests that therapeutic touch produces objective results in all treated patients.

Therapeutic Touch, See reiger/Kunz method.
References in periodicals archive ?
Exploring the experience and impact of therapeutic touch treatments for nurse colleagues.
Best known for its ability to relieve stress and anxiety, Therapeutic Touch has been credited with reducing pain, improving immune function, speeding wound healing, and improving overall health.
Acupuncture, acupressure, reflexology, Reiki, and therapeutic touch are based on the concept of the body as an energy system.
For example, Part 3, which presents the energy therapies of healing touch, therapeutic touch, reiki, and acupressure, begins with an introduction of the cellular model of healing in healing touch.
Tonight's episode looks at Therapeutic Touch, an alternative healing technique that practitioners believe can help in some cases where conventional medicine fails.
Examples of the former category include reiki and therapeutic touch.
Another discredited treatment is therapeutic touch, in which a practitioner's hands move over a subject's body to "decongest" or "balance" the patient's "energy field.
However, there are few studies evaluating the efficacy of biomechanical approaches, such as massage, or chiropractic or bioenergetic approaches, such as homeopathy or therapeutic touch, said Dr.
Less convincing therapies include therapeutic touch and
Her first mistake is to attribute the growth of therapeutic touch to feminism.
Satel's debunking of therapeutic touch goes beyond a rhetorical eye roll.
Moreover, their energy healing approaches, together with Dolores Krieger's conceptually similar Therapeutic Touch, form the basis of the national Healing Touch training courses (offered through the American Holistic Nurses Association) which currently attract a growing number of nurses and health care professionals.

Full browser ?