Therapeutic Touch

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Related to Healing Touch: Therapeutic touch, Reiki

Therapeutic Touch

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Therapeutic touch is a modern variation on time-honored techniques of the laying on of hands, a healing method that is present in many cultures and religious traditions. Therapeutic touch was developed and named in 1972 by Dolores Krieger, a nursing professor at New York University. Krieger, a theosophist, had been inspired by the therapist and clairvoyant Dora Kunz (d. 1999), the former president of the Theosophical Society who had been studying the laying on of hands. Kunz introduced renowned Hungarian psychic healer Oskar Estabany to Krieger.

As a nursing professor, Krieger sought a means of introducing paranormal healing into nursing care in such a way that the scientific credentials of the nurses would not be compromised nor would a particular religious form of healing be introduced. Estabany, who had worked with researchers Bernard Grad and Justa Smith, was the healer utilized in what were the best experiments on psychic healing to date. At the same time, Krieger had herself run experiments on patients that indicated that such healing could have remarkable effects on patients. Her primary claims for her healing technique included its abilities to reduce pain and anxiety, promote relaxation, and stimulate the body’s natural healing process.

Krieger suggested that therapeutic touch worked on the theory of a flow of life energy in the healthy body, much as is suggested in Oriental understandings of the human body. In a healthy body, the life energy flows freely along established pathways. If the energy is blocked, illness is the result. Many healers claim to “feel” the energy flow. Therapeutic touch practitioners work with the energy field and inject new energy into people with stifled energy flows. Practitioners generally include in their sessions an attempt to feel the energy flow of the patient and direct their healing activity to bring it back to normal. Krieger suggests that the body’s energy field is a form of electromagnetic phenomena.

Once announced to the public and her colleagues, therapeutic touch underwent considerable criticism. Krieger’s own experiments suffered because of the complexity introduced by using human subjects in the healing incidents. Any healing effects of the kind claimed may have been due to other unreported factors, critics held. The suggestion of Oriental energy systems at work further distanced her ideas from accepted experimental methods. On the other hand, Krieger has referred to the work previously done by Estabany as setting the precedent for her own methods.


Krieger, Dolores. Therapeutic Touch: How to Use Your Hands to Help or Heal. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1986.
______. Therapeutic Touch Inner Workbook. Santa Fe, NM: Bear & Company Publishing, 1996.
Macrae, Janet. Therapeutic Touch: A Practical Guide. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1988.
Sayre-Adams, Jean, and Steve Wright. The Theory and Practice of Therapeutic Touch. New York: Churchill Livingstone, Inc., 1995.
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