By Holly Kiger, RN, MN
Psychiatric Clinical Nurse Specialist
Certified Holistic Health Consultant
Published in: The Healthy Caregiver, Fall, 2000
Caregivers are often called upon to find new ways to care for their loved ones, while trying to maintain their own health and emotional well-being. Many are caring for persons who are depressed, anxious, or dealing with a variety of mental and physical health issues. It is not unusual for caregivers themselves to experience emotional distress and physical ailments as well. Therapeutic Touch (TT) is one way to help caregivers assist the persons they are caring for while also helping themselves.
Therapeutic Touch is a modern day adaptation of the many ancient practices which use the hands for healing. The technique is based on the theory that each body has its own personal energy field. When healthy, this energy field flows freely in a balanced, symmetrical manner. TT practitioners use their hands to help move the energy field toward wholeness and wellness.
TT was developed 25 years ago by Dr. Dolores Krieger, RN, PhD, at the University of New York School of Nursing, and Dora Kunz, a noted healer. TT was first taught to nurses and used only in medical settings. It is now being used in over 80 hospitals in the US, taught in over 100 colleges and universities, and used in over 75 countries around the world including England, China, Australia, and the former Soviet Union. It is also now being taught to laypeople, including friends and family of the person being cared for and paid caregivers.
TT is one of the most researched of the energy based healing modalities, with over 80 research studies done to date. TT has been consistently found to have a beneficial effect on:
· pain control
· anxiety reduction
· acceleration of the healing process
· stimulation of the body's immune system
Caregivers often report feeling helpless or guilty that they cannot do more to help their loved ones. TT offers caregivers a technique that is effective with a wide variety of conditions including:
· reducing anxiety in persons with Alzheimers Disease
· helping control arthritis and other chronic pain
· speeding the recovery from a serious operation
· calming persons with mental health disorders
· improving sleep
· reducing pre-operative anxiety and post-operative pain
· reducing the side effects of cancer treatments
· promoting peace and comfort of the terminally ill and their families
· enhancing and supporting medical treatments for serious illnesses
· helping persons find courage and hope during difficult times
One of the unique characteristics of this healing modality is that it is also helpful to the person performing the treatment. As a TT practitioner goes to their quiet place and becomes centered, they begin to experience a peace and calmness within themselves. This centering is maintained throughout the treatment. Those who practice TT on a regular basis often experience many of the same benefits as those who receive TT. Following the treatment, both the practitioner and the recipient commonly report feeling very relaxed and peaceful.
Caregivers themselves often have a variety of uncomfortable physical and mental health symptoms as they experience the ongoing stresses of caring for their loved ones. Finding a TT practitioner from which they can receive TT treatments themselves is a great way for caregivers to re-fuel themselves and help prevent the burned-out feelings of caregiving.
An advantage of TT over some other healing modalities is that it is easily learned, and requires no special equipment. Several excellent books are available with complete descriptions of the TT process. Affordable videos are also available, created by one of the major researchers of TT, Janet Quinn, RN, PhD. Whenever possible it is best to learn directly from an experienced instructor. Names and contact information of qualified teachers are available through the international organization that supports TT, the Nurse Healers-Professional Associates International, Inc. (Click here to go to website)
The process of Therapeutic Touch has been called, profoundly simple and simply profound. The focus of each treatment is on wholeness and wellness of the body-mind-spirit, with a goal of supporting the body's natural healing processes. Because of this holistic focus, the impact of the treatment goes beyond the physical, and impacts ones personal growth, relationships, and life views. Though the technique can be taught in a few hours, practitioners report that it takes a lifetime to experience all the complexities of this unique and powerful healing modality.