Therapeutic touch

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Therapeutic touch is a complementary and alternative medicine discipline in whichthe hands of the healer upon the person to be cured with the intent of spiritual energetic healing.[1]. It is not a bodywork or musculoskeletal technique such as massage therapy, but what the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine terms a biofield therapy.[2]

It may involve healing forces that come from the practitioner, or, in the classical term "laying on of hands", may be based on an assumption that the practitioner acts as a conduit for spiritual forces external to the healer.


While there have been concepts of healing touch in ancient societies, modern therapeutic touch, not involving spiritual forces, is claimed, by the Theosophical Society, to have been developed at a Society spiritual retreat center, Pumpkin Farm Hill (PFH). It was preceded by the work of Dora Kunz who had a "highly developed sensitivity". In 1972, Kunz, with Dolores Krieger, PhD, RN, a faculty member at New York University's Division of Nursing; developed Therapeutic Touch (TT). They developed a program for teaching the procedures and attitudes necessary for TT. Formal classes began at PHF, where patients were referred by their physicians.[3]

There has been considerable interest in therapeutic touch in the nursing profession, and the Nurse Healers - Professional Associates International, Inc. (NH-PAI) was established in 1977 under the leadership of Dolores Krieger, PhD, RN. It is a voluntary, not-for-profit, 501 (c)(3) organization, all donations are tax-deductible. Nurse Healers-Professional Associates International, Inc. It serves as the expert resource for the practice of therapeutic touch.[4]

One critic, Kevin Courcey, observed that the developers are female, the majority of practitioners and advocates have been female nurses, and the drive for acceptance may reflect desires for more autonomy of nurses from physicians, or a desire to establish a female-oriented skill. [5] Kourcey has published a number of papers and web documents doubting the technique.


The NH-PAI technique is described at [6]. The basic instructions are to explain, to the patient, "can be explained as a relaxation intervention that may relieve pain, decrease anxiety, and/or promote a sense of well being." The therapist "centers" and calms herself or himself, and then senses energy fields around the patient, and will "use calm and rhythmic hand movements to clear areas of energy imbalance in the field (Formerly called unruffling)." Training teaches the practitioner to sense the imbalances.


One study used experienced TT practitioners as test subjects, testing the hypothesis that an experienced practitioner should be able to detect the hand of a therapeutic healer. 21 practitioners, with varying levels of TT experience, were tested, under blinding, to state which of their hand was closest to the therapist's hand. The subjects were tested either 10 or 20 times. If the hypothesis is completely true, than the practitioner should be able to identify the practitioner's hand 100 percent of the time; chance would give a 50 percent identification.

The correct hand was identified 44% of the time, in 123 (44%) of 280 trials. No statistically significant correlation between the practitioner's score and length of experience (r=0.23). The investigators concluded that the fundamental assumption of TT is flawed if experienced practitioners could not detect the hand, and recommended against its further use. [7] One quetion raised on this study, is that only one investigator positioned her hand over the test subjects, introducing the possibility that the investigator was somehow not able to sense the TT energy fields. The person whose hand was to be sensed was the 9-year-old daughter,Emily, of the principal investigator, Linda Rosa who is a registered nurse who is critical of TT. Emily could see the subject, but not the revers.

Apparently one trial, authorized by explicit legislation, funded research on TT, at the University of Alabama, for the Department of Defense. Secondary reports suggested it helped relieve burn pain but had a higher incidence of infection. It has not been possible to obtain the actual report.


  1. Anonymous (2023), Therapeutic touch (English). Medical Subject Headings. U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  2. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, What is CAM?
  3. Pumpkin Hollow Farm, Therapeutic Touch committee, What is Therapeutic Touch
  4. Nurse Healers - Professional Associates International, Inc., About NHPAI
  5. Courcey, Kevin, Further Notes on Therapeutic Touch
  6. <cite style="font-style:normal" class="external text" id="CITEREFKrieger and Kunz Therapeutic TouchSM; Nurse Healers-Professional Associates International, Inc.">Krieger and Kunz Therapeutic TouchSM; Nurse Healers-Professional Associates International, Inc., Therapeutic Touch Policy and Procedure for Health Care Professionals
  7. Rosa L et al. (1998), "A Close Look at Therapeutic Touch", Journal of the American Medical Association 279: 1005-1010