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Energy therapy - edit
NCCAM classifications
  1. Alternative Medical Systems
  2. Mind-Body Intervention
  3. Biologically Based Therapy
  4. Manipulative Methods
  5. Energy Therapy
See also

Therapeutic touch (commonly shortened to "TT"), also known as Non-Contact Therapeutic Touch (NCTT),[1] is an energy therapy which practitioners claim promotes healing and reduces pain and anxiety. Practitioners of therapeutic touch state that by placing their hands on, or near, a patient, they are able to detect and manipulate the patient's energy field.[2] One highly cited study, designed by nine year old Emily Rosa and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that practitioners of therapeutic touch could not detect the presence or absence of a hand placed a few inches above theirs when their vision was obstructed.[3][4][5] Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst concluded in their 2008 book Trick or Treatment that "the energy field was probably nothing more than a figment in the imaginations of the healers."[6]


Dora Kunz, a theosophy promoter and one-time president (1975–1987) of the Theosophical Society in America, and Dolores Krieger, a nursing educator at New York University, developed therapeutic touch in the 1970s.[2][7][8][9]

According to Dolores Krieger, practitioners say that therapeutic touch has roots in ancient healing practices,[10] such as the laying on of hands, although it has no connection with religion or with faith healing. Krieger states that, "in the final analysis, it is the healee (client) who heals himself. The healer or therapist, in this view, acts as a human energy support system until the healee's own immunological system is robust enough to take over".[11]

Therapeutic touch originated within a larger movement in the nursing community to move away from the scientific method.[12]

Scientific investigations

Researching therapeutic touch in 1996, the James Randi Educational Foundation and the Philadelphia Association for Critical Thinking (commonly referred to as PhACT) sent invitations to more than 60 nursing organizations and individuals, including Krieger, offering $742,000 to any practitioner who could prove their ability to detect "biofields." Only one practitioner responded, and the results were not statistically significant. PhACT acknowledged that one test on one practitioner is not grounds to dismiss the entire theory of therapeutic touch.[13]

Emily Rosa, at 9 years of age, conceived and executed a study on therapeutic touch. With the help of Stephen Barrett from Quackwatch, and with the assistance of her mother, Linda Rosa, RN, Emily became the youngest research team member to have a paper accepted by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) for her part in a study of therapeutic touch, which debunked the claims of therapeutic touch practitioners. Twenty-one practitioners of therapeutic touch participated in her study, and they attempted to detect her aura. The practitioners stood on one side of a cardboard screen, while Emily stood on the other. The practitioners then placed their hands through holes in the screen. Emily flipped a coin to determine which of the practitioner's hands she would place hers near (without, of course, touching the hand). The practitioners then were to indicate if they could sense her biofield, and where her hand was. Although all of the participants had asserted that they would be able to do this, the actual results did not support their assertions. After repeated trials the practitioners had succeeded in locating her hand at a rate not significantly different from chance.[4][5][7] JAMA editor George D. Lundberg, M.D, recommended that patients and insurance companies alike refuse to pay for therapeutic touch or at least question whether or not payment is appropriate "...until or unless additional honest experimentation demonstrates an actual effect."[7]

A study described by the author as a "pilot study" and published in Holistic Nursing Practice found that "therapeutic touch may be an effective treatment for relieving pain and improving quality of life in ... fibromyalgia syndrome."[14] This study suffered from a small number of self-selected participants (15), unequal numbers in each experimental group, an inadequate control treatment which consisted of simply listening to an audiotape and was carried out by a TT practitioner. It also investigated a clinical condition about which there is little scientific consensus due to the lack of abnormalities on physical examination and the absence of objective diagnostic tests.[15][16][17]

A 1999 review of the physics of complementary therapies states that the existence of a "bio-field" or "bio-energetic field" directly contradicts principles of physics, chemistry, and biology.[18] A systematic review on the effectiveness of various distance healing techniques concluded that "The methodologic limitations of several studies make it difficult to draw definitive conclusions about the efficacy of distant healing. However ... the evidence thus far merits further study."[1]

Therapeutic touch and nursing education

Owen Hammer and James Underdown from the Independent Investigations Group examined nursing standards in California, where registered nurses taking classes in therapeutic touch are awarded continuing education units (CEUs) required for licensure renewal by the California Board of Registered Nursing (CBRN). Hammer and Underdown presented the Board with the scientific evidence refuting the validity of therapeutic touch as a legitimate treatment, but the Board did not change its policy. On July 13, 2009, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger replaced six of the seven appointed members of the CBRN.[19]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Astin, John A., Harkness, Elaine; and Ernst, Edzard (June 6, 2000). The Efficacy of "Distance Healing": A Systematic Review of Randomized Trials. Annals of Internal Medicine 132 (11): 903–910.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Bruno, Leonard C. (1999). "Therapeutic touch". Encyclopedia of Medicine. Gale Research. Retrieved on 2007-07-07. 
  3. Larry Sarner. Therapeutic Touch Study Data. QuackWatch.
  4. 4.0 4.1 includeonly>Glazer, Sarah. "Postmodern Nursing", The Public Interest. Retrieved on 2007-07-07.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Rosa, Linda, Rosa, Emily; Sarner, Larry; and Barrett, Stephen (April 1, 1998). A Close Look at Therapeutic Touch. Journal of the American Medical Association 279 (13): 1005–1010.
  6. (2008) Trick or Treatment, 267–268, Corgi.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Why Therapeutic Touch Should Be Considered Quackery by Stephen Barrett, M.D.
  8. Theos-Talk Archives (April 2005 Message tt00332)
  9. Denison, Barbara L.. Consumer access to complementary therapies such as Therapeutic Touch (TT). Kansas Nurse.
  10. Krieger, Dolores (May 1975). Therapeutic Touch: The Imprimatur of Nursing. The American Journal of Nursing 75 (5): 784–787.
  11. Krieger, Dolores (April 1, 1993). Accepting Your Power to Heal: The Personal Practice of Therapeutic Touch, 7, Bear & Company.
  12. Junkfood Science Special: Trusting nurses with our lives by Sandy Szwarc, BSN, RN, CCP. July 6, 2007.
  13. A Scientific test of TT done by PhACT Date: 14 November 96 by Bob Glickman, R.N.
  14. Denison B. (2004). Touch the pain away: new research on therapeutic touch and persons with fibromyalgia syndrome.. Holist Nurs Pract. 18 (3): 142–51.
  15. Goldenberg DL (January 1995). Fibromyalgia: why such controversy?. Ann. Rheum. Dis. 54 (1): 3–5.
  16. Wolfe F (2009). Fibromyalgia wars. J Rheumatol. 36 (4): 671–8.
  17. Why Fibromyalgia Has a Credibility Problem. URL accessed on 2010-08-22.
  18. Stenger, Victor (Spring/Summer 1999). The Physics of 'Alternative Medicine' Bioenergetic Fields. The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine 3 (1).
  19. Hammer, Owen, James Underdown (November/December 2009). State-Sponsored Quackery: Feng Shui and Snake Oil for California Nurses. Skeptical Inquirer 33 (6): 53–56.

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