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Therapeutic touch: Healing Therapy or Hoax?

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Therapeutic Touch (TT) practitioners, (a.k.a. healers) believe that a Universal Life Force Energy flows freely in, through, and out of  the body when a person is healthy. But illness, pain, injury etc can interrupt or unbalance this life force. Skilled practitioners believe that they can detect these fluctuations by passing their hands above the patient's body without contacting it. They beleive that the energy imbalances can be equalized, and a contribution made to the patient's healing. There are about 40,000 practitioners in the world. As of 1988, TT was taught in 80 colleges and universities in the U.S. and in 65 foreign countries.

The technique has come under attack by various skeptics groups in recent years, and is seen by some as worthless, practiced by sincere but deluded practitioners. Numerous studies have indicated that TT is effective. However, no study has shown it to be more effective than an untrained but caring empathic individual aimlessly waving their arms over a patient. 

An award in excess of $1 million dollars US has been offered to any individual who can prove under controlled conditions that they can detect human energy fields. All a therapist has to do to claim the award is to pass their hands over a space that might contain a person's body or may be just air. If she/he can correctly identify whether a body was present for a certain number of tries, then the money is theirs. The claimant and the prize sponsor must first agree on a precise protocol before the test begins. One TT healer tried for the award but failed; she was unable to detect energy fields with an accuracy any better than pure chance. The award is called  "The $1,000,000 Paranormal Challenge" and is awarded to anyone who can prove paranormal abilities: from water dousing to the detection of human energy fields. Persons who believe that they have psychic powers, or think that they can detect personal auras, or believe that they have built a perpetual motion machine might wish to compete for the prize. Nobody has succeeded yet. Meanwhile the amount of the challenge continues to increase. 1

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Topics Covered in this section:

bullet Background material: Why is this essay here?, What is TT?, Basic Concepts, History of TT.
bullet Studies of TT: From 1994 to 1996.
bullet Other material: Opposition by Conservative Christians, Does it Really Work?, Statement of author bias, Books on TT.

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Reference used:

  1. "One million dollars remains unclaimed in the Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge," James Randi Educational Foundation, at: 

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Lists of links to Therapeutic Touch information:

bullet Eric Krieg, "Therapeutic Touch Is it Valid?" at: This site is particularly valuable because it lists dozens of TT hyperlinks to sites maintained by both practitioners and skeptics. He operates an Email discussion list.
bullet "Therapeutic Touch Document List," Parascope, at: This list contains documents related to the Alabama and Colorado 1994 studies.

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Copyright 1998 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Essay originally written: 1998-MAR-4
Latest update: 2013-JUN-11
Author: Bruce A Robinson
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