Do terms like "hand-on healing" and "energy work" conjur up images of magicians, sorcerers or tarot card readers with crystal balls at the county fair? Do words like "hokie", "alternative", and "woo-woo" come to mind? Maybe these various modalities just sound too unscientific to be taken seriously? If this is the case, you are not alone.
You should know, however, that in many cases, there are SCIENTIFICALLY VALIDATED, well-documented principles at play, with sound bases in modern neuroscience, quantum physics, psychology, and physiology.
It's difficult to take a healing technique seriously when it seems based on a subjective and "invisible" form of treatment and one that is somewhat difficult to study objectively. Certainly there are some very legitimate limitations to all forms of "energetic" and "hands-on" healing, the most obvious one being: are the effects even measurable or real? Based on current research, the answers are YES and YES!
This is a new era in modern healthcare! We are beginning to understand more and more about the predictable pathways of energy that flow throughout the body, and science is recognizing the power of intention, mindfulness and the mind-body connection. In recent years, our measuring tools for these "complementary" modalities have become more sophisticated, and the body of scientific research to support many once-maligned "fringe" or "alternative" therapies has increased. This continues to lend credibility to the complementary healing arts, in its many forms, and serves to legitimize treatments that may have historically been frowned upon, yet hold significant potential for improving lives.
Savvy consumers are picking up on this: they are looking for healthcare that is effective, less costly, prevents declines in health, and resolves their concerns for good! Complementary modalities can offer all of these benefits and are often less invasive, less costly, and just as effective, or more so, than many conventional therapies.*
While some hands-on modalities involve directly massaging or manipulating the body's structures, many work through sensory referral patterns and/or the body's energetic pathways. The art of adjusting the body's energy or life force to positively influence health and healing has been used effectively in one form or another for millennia. The 2,000+ year-old system of Chinese acupuncture, which has increasing popularity and acceptance in the Western world, is one such example. The Ayurvedic teachings from India and indigenous healing arts of many other cultures also rely heavily on the body's energetic constitution. Many modern forms of hands-on-healing or intentional healing, such as Reiki, Neurolink, Bodytalk, Emotional Freedom Technique and others have the underlying premise that when specific points of the body are stimulated by a trained practitioner, or the individual, sometimes combined with the use of specific thoughts or intentions, the body's subtle energies can realign and healing can occur.
We are electrical beings. Every movement, every thought, every chemical reaction, every nerve impulse within the body is a form of electrical, energetic transfer.
Forms of healing that address living energetics acknowledge the indisputable fact that much of our body's physiology and function is determined and modulated by energetic transfer. From the beating of one's heart to nerve impulses within the brain, muscles, and throughout the body, to the measurable energy fields emanating from all living beings, even at a distance from our "physical" selves, our bodies are complex electrical systems.
So let us look closely at the phenomena of living energetics. Energy is all around us. Every living being and thing has a resonance which can be physically measured and studied. Every tangible thing on this earth, from living to non-living, is made up of protons, electrons, neutrons and other atomic particles, each with their own unique, energetic imprint. These entities interact in an intricate dance. When we hear the hum of electrical wires overhead, get a zap from static electricity on a fuzzy sweater, or feel the pulse of a vibrating loudspeaker, we get a tangible taste of energetic vibrations all around us in the form of electromagnetic radiation, static electricity, and sound waves.
As living beings, our measurable, resonant frequencies vary, depending on our state of health, energy level, emotional wellbeing, and even on proximity to certain objects, such as other living beings, electronic devices, or naturally flowing bodies of water. When our bodies are in direct contact with the earth, our resonance is aligned with that of the earth (a giant magnet) and we are in a state which is more conducive to health and healing (see Earthing by Clinton Ober and Stephen Sinatra and The Body Electric by Robert Becker for more information on this phenomenon). These world renown scientists and many others have contributed to the new wealth of knowledge coming from the field of quantum physics. Our understanding that as living beings we are energetic beings must be taken into account when it comes to wellness, health and healing. To ignor this fundamental component of our existence is to ignore a very basic element of and contributor to wellbeing.
Dr Bruce Lipton, former Stanford microbiologist, world renown author and epigenetics researcher, described this so eloquently when writing:
Everything we thought was physical is not physical...Instead, everything in the Universe is made of immaterial energy and everything radiates energy. It is a given fact of science that every atom and every molecule both radiates and absorbs light (energy). Because all organisms are made of atoms and molecules, you and I and every living thing are radiating energy. True that we look as if we are physical, but it is an illusion, a trick of the light. We are all energy! Once we accept the fact that we are fundamentally energetic beings, inextricably connected to the vast, dynamic energetic field we are part of, we can no longer view ourselves as powerless, isolated individuals, who happen to have won the Darwinian evolutionary lottery. Just as mystics throughout time have told us, everything in the Universe is connected (Lipton, pp17-21, 2013).
Tied to the energetic healing paradigm, is the shift in recent years to a focus on mind-body medicine. Today's research suggests that the health of the physical body is intimately tied to the emotional and spiritual wellbeing of the individual. Our thoughts, our beliefs, our behaviors, and choices can directly influence our health and quality of life for the better or worse. We have more control over our health than we sometimes wish to admit!
It has been well-documented and researched that intentional thought and touch can have a great impact on molecular behavior and structure, and thus, can aid directly in healing. This consciousness and intentionality can effect an energy field of a living being nearby or from a distance or even simply the molecular elements that make up living beings, specifically water. Noteworthy examples of research in this area are famous studies on behavior of water droplets when charged by emotion by Japanese researcher Dr Masaru Emoto, Dr Valerie Hunt's work on energetic healing, Dr Bruce Lipton's research on how belief and intention directly influence cellular function, and French Nobel laureate and virologist, Luc Montagnier's studies on energetically "imprinted" water.
Researchers have repeatedly found that the power of belief has dramatic effects on the body's ability to heal. Limiting beliefs about our abilities and/or health can impair our body's ability to heal or our ability to achieve our goals. Conversely, when we love ourselves, are open to being "well", and approach ourselves and others with patience and kindness, we allow a myriad of possible positive outcomes to occur, including great potential for healing!
It is often the belief in an intervention that triggers a shift and allows improvements in health and wellbeing to occur. In fact, Harvard University now has a dedicated research department to the study of placebo effects in medicine (the Program in Placebo Studies and Therapeutic Environment/PiPS). The concept of "Placebo" is often mistakenly equated with a treatment without merit or substance, but it should actually be thought of as having a strong belief in the healing potential of a treatment or therapy” even if the "treatment" is usually considered an inert or useless substance. If one believes a treatment is helping, it frequently and remarkably does help! The full basis for this paradigm, and how this works, can be attributed to the body's innate intelligence, consciousness, psychological theory, modern neuroscience, and quantum physics, and is beyond the scope of this short essay. If this topic piques your curiosity, there is much written on this subject, including some of the suggestions on our "Resources" page.
What I can say, without hesitation, is that I have been amazed, time and again, to witness the body's innate ability to heal itself from nearly any ailment, when the right intention is put in place.
I have seen clients who, after receiving energetic healing therapies, from skilled providers, have experienced significant, "spontaneous healing" over time. Hands-on Healing and Intentional Healing, as I now call these many forms, are not cure-alls for every ailment, and I cannot make guarantees for any specific outcomes from my therapy sessions, but having a clear understanding of the merits of these types of complementary healing arts, however unusual or obscure some of them might seem to the initial observer (or client!), makes me hopeful that I can and will make a difference.
My clients can heal their own bodies, if only given the awareness to begin the process. I don't heal them directly. Their bodies, in their infinite wisdom and capacity, heal themselves at the perfect pace--sometimes they just need a little push in the right direction.
*There are many ways to heal the body. The trick is finding the unique path that works for each individual and alerts the body to heal itself. Seattle Integrative Therapy is not a substitute for care from a medical doctor. (For further information, please read our disclaimer.)
Citations, videos, and helpful reading can be found on our Resources Page.