Mapping the Field of Subtle Energy Healing

Research

Completed
Intramural Project

Mapping the Field of Subtle Energy Healing

A web resource for research on energy healing modalities
Principal Investigator(s): 
Garret Yount, PhD
Co-investigator(s): 
Alan Pierce
Key Collaborator(s): 
Joseph Burnett, Pavle Marinkovic
Program Areas: 
Consciousness & Healing
Project Year Started: 
2012
Description: 

Resource List

The following will assist patients and health professionals to navigate the vast field of subtle energies and energy healing modalities for use in their personal and professional endeavors.

This resource serves as a selective literature review. Each overview presents a:

  • Brief description
  • Summary of the theories that have been put forth to explain the mechanism of action underlying the purported efficacy
  • Description of the procedures that healers undergo when administering the treatments
  • Summary of the results of published scientific reports
  • Bibliography of the reports summarized

For more resources on energy medicine check out:

Body Talk™

BodyTalk™ is an integrative mind/body energy therapy that draws from ancient Chinese medicine, acupuncture, yoga and meditation, as well as neuroscience, epigenetics, psychoneuroimmunology (BodyTalk, n.d.) and neurolinguistic programming (Bandler & Grinder, 1982). There are over two thousand BodyTalk™ practitioners (Ventegodt, Veltheim, & Merrick, 2011).

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Emotional Freedom Techniques

A brief exposure therapy with both a somatic and cognitive elements (Church et. al, 2013), Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) is a psychotherapeutic tool used with the goal of relieving a variety of psychological conditions and/or somatic symptoms (Brattberg 2008). EFT treatment can be administered by a therapist and also taught to individuals for later self-administration (Salas et al., 2011).

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Healing Touch

Healing Touch (HT), a nurse-initiated biofield modality developed in the early 1980s by Janet Mentgen, aims at balancing energy systems in the body to initiate or accelerate the self-healing process (Hardwick, Pulido, & Adelson, 2012; Hover-Kramer, 2002; MacIntyre, 2008). During her 43-year emergency and home nursing career, Janet Mentgen (1938–2005) noticed the powerful therapeutic effects a compassionate presence can have on critically ill patients. Through the development of the HT program, Mentgen sought to deepen the connection between nurses and patients, acknowledging the ability of a caring presence to prompt another body’s capacity to heal itself.

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Intercessory Prayer

National data from the General Social Survey’s analysis from 1972 to 2006 indicates that up to 97% of Americans pray, with some 57% reporting that they pray at least once a day (General Social Survey, 2008). The act of praying for the welfare of others is termed “intercessory prayer” in the scientific literature, a term which specifies that such prayers serve as an intercession with God's will on the behalf of others. This term typically denotes distant healing studies conducted with prayer agents of a Christian faith. It is important to note that different sects within Christianity espouse different beliefs concerning the nature of prayer, God's will, and which living creatures are worthy of receiving benevolent attention from God (Lesniak, 2006); this must be considered in the design of distant healing experiments.

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Johrei

The Gale Encyclopedia of Mental Health (2012) defines Johrei (pronounced Jo-ray) as a form of energy therapy in which a practitioner’s channeling of spiritual energy raises the spiritual vibrations of patients, healing them of accumulated toxins in their physical bodies. Johrei can also be practiced as part of daily family routines for good health and well-being, with each individual taking turns as practitioner and recipient (Clarke, 2000).

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Laying on of Hands/Therapeutic Touch

Therapeutic Touch™ (TT) is an energy based holistic healing practice developed in the 1970s by Dolores Krieger, Ph.D., RN, a professor at New York University’s Division of Nursing, and Dora Kunz, an alternative healer and psychic. (Krieger, 1979). TT is a contemporary interpretation of Laying on of Hands (LH) outside of any particular religious framework. LH, also called imposition of hands, originated from a religious ritual act in which a priest or other religious head would place his palms on the top of another’s head while reciting a prayer or blessing. TT is a variation of this practice.

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Magnet Therapy

Magnet Therapy is an alternative medicine practice in which practitioners use static magnets on certain parts of the body to promote health and healing. The effects of energy forces and magnetism have been studied by many cultures dating back as early as the Roman and Greek Empires. In addition, within the Traditional Chinese Medicine model it is believed that qi, the energy innate in all living things, can be affected by magnet therapy.

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Polarity Therapy

Based in an energetic model, Polarity Therapy (PT) involves a holistic framework of healing that includes an attention to lifestyle choices (i.e. diet and exercise) as well as bodywork techniques administered by a practitioner (Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 2011). PT practitioners aim to release blockages of life energy and to restore balance and reinvigorate the flow of this energy within the human body, the process of which purports to bring about relaxation, healing and overall well-being (Roscoe, Matteson, et al. 2005). View PDF of details

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Pranic Healing

Pranic healing (PH) is a type of energy healing classified as “non-touch healing” that manipulates subtle life-energy, or “prana,” in order to benefit physical health (Tsuchiya, Motoyama, 2009). The term “prana” is a Sanskrit word meaning a usually invisible yet vital energy that permeates all living things (Tsuchiya, Motoyama, 2009). Synonymous with “qi” from Traditional Chinese Medicine, the word is derived from “pra” and “an” which mean “forth” and “ to breathe,” respectively (Landsdowne, 1986).

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Qigong

The word qi is often translated as “vital energy” and gong as “training” (Wu et al., 1999) or “discipline” (Chan et al., 2012). Considered a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), qigong is a system of techniques to influence or cultivate the flow of qi within the body in order to attain and/or maintain mental and physical health.

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Quantum Touch

Quantum Touch (QT) is a method of hands-on healing, initially developed in the late 1970s, purported to stimulate the body’s capacity to heal itself. Practitioners claim that through the use of light touching, breathing techniques, and body awareness meditations they are able to influence the “life-force” (sometimes called qi) of the body, which facilitates self-healing in patients (Walton, 2011).

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Reconnective Healing

Reconnective Healing (RH) was established by Dr. Eric Pearl, a chiropractor, in 1993. According to Dr. Pearl, he had an ability to connect with energy and work with it to heal people (Pearl, 2002). His technique involved aligning the energetic field of a patient without any physical contact. RH practitioners claim that the technique physically heals the patient in addition to balancing emotional and mental states (Pearl, 2002).

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Reflexology

Reflexology consists of applying pressure to different areas of the feet, hands and ears to relieve pain and stress in the body (Kannathal, et. al. 2004). Although methods overlap with massage, reflexology focuses on stimulating precise nerve endings that correlate with internal organs, glands and muscles (Lakasing, 2010; Kannathal, et. al. 2004).

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Reiki

Even though many varying schools of Reiki exist, they all ascribe to the idea that Reiki healing involves a transfer of a universal energy or life force mediated by one sentient being to another (Glesner, 2002). This ancient Tibetan practice (VanderVaart, Gijsen, de Wildt, & Koren, 2009; Vitale, 2007), reintroduced by Mikao Usui in the 20th century and first expanded to the Western World by Hawayo Takata by the 1970s (Glesner, 2002), is currently classified by The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine as an energy medicine, and explicitly as a biofield therapy (Lee, Pittler, & Ernst, 2008).

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Sound Healing

Since its development as a therapy in Australia over 40,000 years ago, sound healing has been used in nearly every culture to aid in the treatment of both mental and physical illnesses and injuries, as well as to assist individuals in the dying process (Gaynor, 1999; Halstead & Roscoe, 2002). Though originally performed using only the yidaki, or didgeridoo, sound healing now involves a wide array of instruments (e.g., tuning forks, crystal bowls, drums, ultrasonic devices) as well as human and animal vocalizations.

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Spiritual/Psychic/Shamanic Healing

Spiritual and psychic healing can be defined as purposeful intervention by one or more people to help another living being/organism/system improve their condition in a direct way (Jonas & Crawford, 2003). Spiritual healing can also be understood as the personal experience of transcending suffering (Egnew, 2005; Yawar, 2001).

Shamanic healing is a group of techniques utilised by practitioners who access the help of spirits to heal members of their group (Krippner, 2000) and is less ‘direct’ than spiritual or psychic healing, despite homogenous aims or outcomes.

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Tapas Acupressure Technique

The Tapas Acupressure Technique (TAT), developed by acupuncturist Tapas Fleming in the late 20th century, is almost always self-administered and involves applying pressure to various points on one’s body while directing one’s thoughts to past physical, emotional, or ancestral traumas that require healing (Elder et al., 2012; Honda et al., 2012).

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Thought Field Therapy

Thought Field Therapy (TFT) is a form of self-administered psychotherapy that uses a combination of physical stimulation–usually a specifically ordered range of tapping movements– of acupuncture points in conjunction with a focused attunement to specific psychological symptoms and/or psychological trauma (i.e. traumatic memories) (Connolly, Sakai, & Oas, 2010). As a whole, TFT involves an integration of methods drawing on psychology, acupuncture and applied kinesiology (Schoninger, 2004).

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Vortex Healing

Vortex Healing (VH) can be described as a healing art and an awakening path that transcends the domain of ego through an integrative process (“Vortex Healing,” 2014). In VH, the term vortex refers to an energetic structure that functions as an interface between the physical world and a divine realm that contains pure healing energy.

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Background

Ancient traditions reference subtle energies (e.g. qi, chi, prana, etheric energy, mana, fohat, orgone, odic force, life force, homeopathic resonance) that are believed to underlie the workings of traditional healing modalities. The existence of such energies is not included in today's working scientific model, however, which explicitly accounts for just four fundamental forces (strong and weak nuclear, electromagnetic, and gravitational force) and neither includes an explanation for subjective consciousness, nor any direct mental or conscious influence on physical matter. Despite this disconnect, there is growing acceptance of traditional healing modalities within the field of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). While a large body of literature exists investigating subtle energies and their effects on health and well-being, integration of these findings into real-world application in areas such as health care and education is limited by a variable degree of scientific rigor in this work, leading to a variable degree of confidence with which the results can be trusted.

An important factor impacting the quality of research in this field is the scarcity of funding for research. The various agencies that fund health-related research dedicate relatively few research dollars for studies of CAM modalities compared to mainstream therapeutics. Moreover, studies of subtle energies and energy healing modalities receive little or none of the small portion of resources allotted for research on CAM modalities in favor of CAM modalities for which there is a plausible mechanism of action that could be attributed to energies described within the current working scientific model. A robust literature supports the efficacy of acupuncture, for example. Acupuncture originates from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and is based on a theory that needling can physically influence the flow of qi in the body. Despite this esoteric basis, acupuncture researchers enjoy a privileged status for potential research funding because of mainstream explanations such as the “endorphin hypothesis,” which has been espoused as one of the mechanisms of action of acupuncture. According to this hypothesis, needling affects cerebrospinal fluid levels of morphine-like substances originating from within the body. The modalities included in this web resource do not enjoy this privileged status regarding research funding. Thus, the variable degree of scientific rigor in this field must be considered in this light.

Physicians, educators, students, or patients who intend to investigate the scientific evidence supporting subtle energies and energy healing modalities are faced with an overwhelming task of searching and sorting through articles, often from obscure and hard-to-find journals. A few position papers do exist regarding these modalities but they tend to be limited to one researcher's individual work, written from a biased perspective, and even accompany the sales of subtle energies products. The goal of this web resource is to remedy the situation by providing a “lay of the land” from a neutral stance. A brief overview of each of the major subtle energies and energy healing modalities is provided, written from a critical outsider's perspective.

This web resource serves as a selective literature review, highlighting the subtle energies and energy healing modalities that have been evaluated experimentally. Each overview comprising the resource presents a brief description of a particular therapeutic modality or group of modalities, including background on the origins of the modalities for readers completely unfamiliar with them. The overviews also include a summary of the theories that have been put forth to explain the mechanism of action underlying the purported efficacy of each modality. Additionally, a description of the procedures that healers undergo when administering the treatments are presented in layperson’s language. Finally, results of published scientific reports on each modality are summarized such that readers can get a sense of the current state of the research. A bibliography is included for the reports summarized.

For more resources on energy medicine see:

It is intended that this resource will assist patients and health professionals to navigate the vast field of subtle energies and energy healing modalities for use in their personal and professional endeavors. Additionally, the hope is that the collection of overviews will stimulate organization and cooperation among investigators doing research in this field. As such, the resource aims to serve as a strategic tool for further research and hypothesis formation.

We would like to acknowledge Richard A. Krieger, MD, FACC for supporting this project.

We would like to acknowledge the following for supporting this project: 
Richard A. Krieger, MD, FACC, and the Social Relations of Knowledge Institute