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What it is; concepts, history...

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Topics covered in this essay:

bullet Why is this essay here?
bullet What is TT?
bullet Basic Concepts
bullet History of TT

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Why is this Essay on a Religious Web Site?

We feel that there is a major moral component to the current debate over TT. And morality is usually one component of religion and spirituality.

bullet If TT is proven to be a reliable technique for some people, then it should be more widely taught. More medical insurance companies should support it financially. It should be more widely used. Unlike other treatments, there is no significant potential for medication errors or adverse reactions by the patient.
bullet If TT is a hoax, then it should be discontinued. Nurses that currently deliver TT to patients could then be reassigned to other work - tasks that might help patients heal. The potential for direct harm is very small. It is difficult to see how the act of passing one's hands over a patient can injure anyone. But, by having skilled medical practitioners deliver a worthless therapy, funds and personnel are tied up that could be more efficiently allocated elsewhere.

A second reason for covering TT on this site is that many conservative Christian groups are opposed to this form of therapy on religious and other grounds.

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What Is Therapeutic Touch?

According to a counter-cult group, the Watchmen Fellowship, TT usually involves four stages: 1

bullet The therapist centers herself. She might recite a mantra or using another meditation method.
bullet The patient is normally horizontal during the session. The healer assesses the client by passing her hands a few inches above the patient, scan his/her body from head to toe. The hands are placed horizontally, side by side, with thumbs touching, and palms facing the patient. No direct touch between healer and patient is involved; rather the energy fields of the practitioner and client interact without contact. The practitioner will "actually 'feel' various energy sensations like: tingling, heat, cold, heaviness, and a drawing feeling, to name a few." This allows them to determine the "type of imbalance is present..loose congestion, tight congestion, localized imbalance, or an energy deficit/void." 2
bullet The third step is "unruffling." The therapist moves her hands in a circular sweeping pattern. This balances the energy by moving "excess energy to areas of low flow"
bullet The final step is "modulation." The healer's hands will hover over parts of the body that have an energy imbalance. Various practitioners have different interpretations of this step.

TT can be used on adults, children, infants, pets, other animals, even plants.

Dimming the room lights, burning incense, playing soothing music can add to the experience. TT works well in conjunction with compatible therapies such as "hypnosis, massage, or acupressure."

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Basic Concepts in Therapeutic Touch:

Practitioners believe that the Universal Life Force Energy is a fundamental form of energy that is found in all living entities. In a healthy individual, the energy freely flows into their body, it circulates within the individual and flows out of the body. The field outside the body generates an aura. Many believe that it extends outwards from the skin for a distance of 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 cm). Others feel that that is only the first layer of the energy field, and that the field extends about 3 feet in all directions from the body. Some healers work in these outer layers.

TT practitioners believe that TT works by the interaction of the practitioner's and the patient's auras. Practitioners believe that they can "transfer some of their own energy to support the energy field of the patient." 3

Rebecca Witmer writes: "The underlying principles upon which this technique is based include acceptance of the Einstein paradigm of a complex, energetic field-like universe (i.e., the existence of a Life energy flowing through and around all of us)." 4 This type of energy field is unknown to science. It cannot be detected by any scientific instruments. If the field exists, then it is not formed from alpha, beta or gamma radiation, from electro-magnetic radiation (radio waves) or from electrostatic, ultrasonic, gravitational or magnetic energy. It must be a totally new form of energy that is unknown to science and which bypasses all known sensors.

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History of Therapeutic Touch:

TT Therapist Janet Carroll writes: "Throughout recorded history, every culture and civilization has always had honored positions for those who have healed through the 'laying-on-of-hands' ...from the temples in Rome and Greece to the pyramids in Egypt, to India, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas."5

The "human energy field" that TT healers believe in has some points of similarity to the "magnetic fluid" or "magnetic force" promoted by Anton Mesmer in the 18th century. Some of Mesmer's findings  were incorporated into Theosophy during the 19th century. This is a syncretistic religion that includes many Hindu concepts and beliefs from what is now called New Age. Dora Kunz, a co-developer of TT, was president of the Theosophical Society of America from 1975 to 1987. The other co-founder is Dolores Krieger, at New York University's Division of Nursing. 6

One source notes that "TT is now supported by major nursing organizations such as the National League of Nurses and the American Nurses Association. 'Energy-field disturbance' is now listed as a nursing diagnosis by the North American Nursing Diagnostic Association." 7 Since its start in the early 1970's, TT has grown rapidly. It is now practiced in over 80 hospitals in North America. It is taught in over 100 locations in 75 countries. More than 100,000 individuals have been taught the method; this includes at least 43,000 health-care professionals.

Rebecca Witmer, an administrator in a medical insurance company writes:

"In its contemporary form, Therapeutic Touch was developed by Dolores Krieger, Ph.D., R.N., (Professor Emerita of New York University) and her mentor, Dora Kunz, in the early nineteen seventies. TT is now practiced by thousands of health care professionals and laypeople worldwide. Popular among nurses in many Canadian hospitals and nursing homes, TT is taught at over 80 universities and hospitals and has been incorporated into the College of Nurses of Ontario 1990 Implementation Standards of Practice. TT has been the subject of numerous doctoral dissertations and masters theses, and in early 1994, the U.S. National Institute of Health awarded a research grant to study TT. For a fledgling alternative health practice, TT has garnered immeasurable respect and interest." 8

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  1. Sharon Fish, "Therapeutic Touch," at:
  2. Ellie Crystal, "Therapeutic Touch," at:
  3. S. Novella, "TherapeuticTouch," Health Care Reality Check, at
  4. Rebecca Witmer, "Hands that Heal: The Art of Therapeutic Touch,"
  5. Janet Carroll, "Therapeutic Touch," at:
  6. Stephen Barrett, "Therapeutic Touch," at:
  7. "Therapeutic Touch Fails a Rare Scientific Test," SCICOP, at:
  8. Rebecca Witmer, "Hands that Heal: The Art of Therapeutic Touch,"   Healing Arts, Cited in "therapeutic touch," at:

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Site navigation: Home page > "Hot" topics and conflicts > TT > here

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Copyright 1998 to 2002 incl. by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Essay originally written: 1998-MAR-4
Latest update; 2002-FEB-8
Author: Bruce A Robinson

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