Exploring Complementary Therapies: Healing Touch

Pictured: Sue Hess, PhD, CHTP, works with a patient.

What Is Healing Touch? 

Healing Touch (HT) is a relaxing, nurturing, heart-centered, holistic energy therapy in which volunteers use their hands and focused intention to assist in balancing physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being. Practitioners believe this clears and balances the energy around or within the body as they work above or lightly on the body to support the patient’s natural ability to heal. It is safe for all ages and can be used before, during and after treatment.

Founded in 1989 by Janet Mentgen, RN, the practice of HT was initially developed as a continuing education program for nurses. Mentgen believed anyone with a compassionate heart and a desire to be of service to others could become a practitioner. HT combines light touch and a collection of teachings and techniques to promote wellness and healing on all levels: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

HT was introduced to Roswell Park by Sue Hess, PhD, a Certified Healing Touch Practitioner with 15 years of experience. Outside of her position as Grant Coordinator in Roswell Park’s Research Support Services Department, Hess runs two HT programs affiliated with Roswell Park. “HT truly exemplifies patient-centered care,” says Dr. Hess. “No matter where someone is on their journey — newly diagnosed, going through treatment, in survivorship or near the end of their cancer journey — HT can be a resource not only for them but also for their caregivers and other members of the care team. It recognizes that cancer affects us all differently, and that we are more than just physical beings.”

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Healing Touch at Roswell Park

During a 30-minute chair session, a trained HT volunteer checks in with participants and answers any questions they have. Recipients are fully clothed. Volunteers set their intention for the participants, emphasizing compassionate, heart-centered care, and use their hands to manipulate the energy in and around the patient.

Roswell Park patient Joseph Bauhofer and his wife, Corlin, receive HT after his monthly appointments. “I feel as if I am surrounded by a warm cocoon of positive energy,” Corlin says. It’s a nice respite of peace in the midst of a busy day. It recharges your battery and you don’t have to understand why.”

Joseph describes his HT sessions as a different experience each time. During his first session, he “felt electric currents run from my head to my feet; you could feel the connection, so to speak.” During his second session, he felt “a more peaceful experience, a calm; I felt very relaxed.” He says what he appreciates most is that the service is also available to his wife of 44 years. He acknowledged her role as his caregiver and is grateful she can take this time to relax while he is in appointments.

What are the benefits of HT?

HT is a noninvasive complement to standard treatments. Some studies have shown it decreases pain, stress, anxiety, depression, PTSD and nausea, while increasing relaxation and a sense of well-being.

Free HT sessions are offered on a walk-in basis on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. in the Survivorship and Supportive Care Center in the Scott Bieler Clinical Sciences Center.

What Is a CHTP?

The credential CHTP (Certified Healing Touch Practitioner) is given by Healing Touch International (HTI) after a candidate has completed a five-level certification program. HTI practitioners follow a code of ethics and standards of practice. HT is endorsed by the American Holistic Nurses Association and recognized by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization as an alternative therapy during end-of-life care.