Therapeutic Touch: A Healing Lifestyle
Crystal Hawk, M.Ed.


The world is awakening

to a compassionate responsibility for the environment and all forms of life. This re-examining of the nature of being has supported a resurgence of healers and healing, a reinstatement of their credibility, and a new understanding and acceptance of feminine aspects in healing.

It has fostered the resurgence of re-learning ancient techniques to relieve or eliminate physical and emotional pain in ourselves and in others. Therapeutic Touch is one of these healing techniques; it is a non-invasive, holistic approach to healing which stimulates the receiver's own recuperative powers. It is a modern form of laying-on-of-hands and is based on principles of an energy exchange between people. It is most useful to reduce or eliminate pain, promote healing, and elicit a relaxation response.

Therapeutic Touch was developed in the early 1970's by a remarkable woman, Dolores Krieger, Ph.D., R.N., then a Professor of Nursing at New York University, and her mentor, the late Dora Kunz, a well-respected "natural" healer. Together these two women developed a healing form which can be easily taught and easily learned. Dr. Krieger is now a Professor Emerita of Nursing, New York University. Dr. Krieger continues to explore and expand the possibilities of Therapeutic Touch as she actively travels the world to share her knowledge and experiences.

Therapeutic Touch was first conceived as an extension of professional nursing care and was taught by Dr. Krieger in a class aptly called "The Frontiers Of Nursing". These classes marked the first time in history that laying-on-of-hands was taught as a full-time university subject. Health professionals today stand firmly on it's 25 years of effective clinical practice and the solid Therapeutic Touch research that has resulted in it's wide acceptance.

In Canada, Therapeutic Touch's clinical acceptance is growing rapidly. I began teaching Therapeutic Touch in Ontario 23 years ago and nurses who came to my classes at that time subsequently gave Therapeutic Touch treatments "in the closet", risking their jobs to do so. But as these courageous women continued to use Therapeutic Touch their hospitals began receiving positive feedback from patients. Sometimes the sheer effectiveness of energy healing overcomes any skepticism in the establishment, so that they begin to allow its use and even to validate it. The Order of Nurses of Quebec, the Ontario College of Nurses and the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) have accepted Therapeutic Touch as a nursing modality. In various Canadian hospitals it is used in Oncology and Maternity, with organ transplant, in Intensive Care Units and on the wards. In some Canadian hospitals all nurses are learning this skill; in others it is studied on a volunteer basis.

In 1994 I co-founded The Therapeutic Touch Network of Ontario now with 1,200 members. It's been joined by similar Therapeutic Touch Networks in Alberta, The Atlantic Provinces, British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec. There are many advantages to all of us because Therapeutic Touch grew up within the nursing profession. As nurses who practised Therapeutic Touch advanced to Masters and Ph.D. programs many of them based their thesis work on this healing modality, and an extensive body of solid research began to emerge, and almost all Therapeutic Touch research has been done on patients, within clinical settings. Today there are more than 18 Ph.D. Theses on Therapeutic Touch and 22 Post-Doctoral Therapeutic Touch Research Projects.

At the same time that I began studying Therapeutic Touch I was enrolled in a University of Toronto course on Quantum Mechanics taught without the math component. Perhaps if I had not been studying Quantum Mechanics I might not have been so ready to accept the energy component of Therapeutic Touch. I found that modern physics is far more unbelievable than any science fiction that I had read. And studying Quantum Mechanics stretched my "boggle threshold", the point at which I would usually say "I can accept this and this as real, but not THAT".

Through studying Therapeutic Touch and physics simultaneously I began to understand that we live in a world constrained by shared cultural beliefs, by what's comfortable and manageable for the majority with no requirement that these beliefs be accurate representations of what really is. And I began to understand that we had also built a model of health and illness on an outmoded conceptual model of how the universe behaves and one which was fundamentally flawed. Science, instead of a fixed, proven body of knowledge surfaced as a group of theories, accepted as useful in explaining phenomena and almost as changeable as the wind. In a light-hearted manner, one could say that scientific "facts" are the ones printed in this month's scientific journals: these "facts" may be replaced month by month, they are never static. I now consider the idea of a "scientific fact" as an outmoded phrase without meaning.

In our understanding of how the universe operates we are on the verge of a major paradigm shift that extends across the sciences, from physics to medicine and biology. We used to rely on a mechanistic Newtonian model of the universe. We thought the world was like a grand machine and that we could learn about it by breaking it down into little pieces and learning about each part. It taught us little about how the whole actually worked.

We have moved to exploring a model based on the Einsteinian paradigm of a complex, yet interconnected, energetic-field-like universe as a great mystery.

The new science is interested in process; it studies wholes, sees these wholes as interconnected, has a place for creativity and newness, raises consciousness to an important place, deals with reciprocal interaction, probabilities and tendencies. It's dynamic and relational. We now see that systems impact and interact with each other and that we are an integral part of these systems and of the whole.

Theories of wholeness and interconnectedness are some of the basic assumptions on which Therapeutic Touch stands. So it's acceptance is understandable for this time in our historical development. More and more we are learning to rely on ourselves instead of relying on drugs and technology and Therapeutic Touch is used and accepted because it works. Not all of the time, of course, but then, neither does anything else. The mystery of how it works remains as does so many other mysteries of our time, such as what makes lithium, aspirin, anesthetics or electricity work.

Understanding that experts of the world have no definite answers helped me lose my need for definite answers. I understand that beliefs help us organize our world. Now I see that they also act as filters for our senses and color our perception in a "Catch 22" way. We actually become caught in the limits of our own belief systems. Our perceptions, beliefs and values are intermingled and enmeshed together as our private or personal model or paradigm of the universe. When any of those change, the others must also change. When we begin to see things differently, then our values, both personal and global, begin to change.

Therapeutic Touch has now moved into the community at large and half of all Therapeutic Touch practitioners in Canada are lay persons. Grandparents, parents and young adults are learning this healing skill which allows them to reduce anxiety, promote relaxation, lessen pain and facilitate body-mind healing in their loved ones.

Historically the nurturing aspect of our nature has been denigrated and devalued. Today almost everyone lives with excess stress. Nurturing and compassion have come to be appreciated. Knowing a reliable healing modality allows a person to express their compassion and caring in a way that lets them impact people safely and effectively. With some instruction and practice they can make a noticeable difference in pain and stress levels, bring about a relaxation response and help to recharge immune systems in their loved ones.

Practitioners say they feel especially blessed to have Therapeutic Touch at their "fingertips", so to speak, to be available within families and their circle of close friends. Whether it's helping recovery from a serious operation, helping to heal a broken bone, a cut or splinter, relaxing someone before dental surgery and helping them to heal afterwards, soothing grandchildren's growing pains, helping them to settle for the night, or offering the gift of an almost instant relaxation response, knowing Therapeutic Touch has allowed people to have a way to effectively offer the compassionate part of themselves to those they care about.

Parents of adolescents, especially adolescent athletes, report that although their children are hesitant and even embarrassed to try mother's weird new healing stuff, they often come to depend on it to help with pulled muscles and scrapes, headaches, and for helping to relieve anxiety during studying and before exams. Adult athletes in the family often decide to take advantage of Therapeutic Touch as well.

In the community at large there is no lack of people who need and appreciate a helping hand. And the beauty of hands-on-healing is that it is instantly available in the home, the office, on the beach, in stores or wherever it's needed because no instruments are required. Recently, while on a plane, I quieted a hysterical child, with openly expressed thanks from my fellow passengers. On my street I "treated" both an injured dog and the little girl crying at it's side as she waited for her mother to bring the car to take them to the vet. One day, downtown, I saw a cyclist who had injured himself. He was sitting on a curb; without a word spoken, I treated him until the ambulance arrived. A woman fell down in my aerobics class and I treated her until the official help arrived. While visiting a high school I helped a youngster who had just been hit in the face with a soccer ball. The swelling on his nose and lip was almost gone when the nurse arrived. While travelling by bus in England I helped a youngster who was hit on the head by a falling suitcase.

With aging parents Therapeutic Touch allows people to comfort without the need for talking. And because Therapeutic Touch promotes relaxation, reduces anxiety, and often alters a person's perception of pain it is especially useful in hospice work, allowing volunteers and family members a positive way to "utilize" their compassionate feelings, giving them an effective form through which their loving feelings are organized in a positive and healing way. As one of my students said, "Knowing Therapeutic Touch is never having to feel helpless" -- now that's empowering!!!

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