Therapeutic Touch


Category: Complementary and Alternative Therapies

What is it?

Therapeutic touch (TT) is a non invasive method of healing that is derived from an ancient technique of laying hands on a patient. In TT, the practitioner alters the patient's energy field through an energy transfer that moves from the hands of the practitioner to the patient.

How does it work?

It is based on the theory that the healing force of the therapist can affect the patient's recovery by promoting healing through the body's energy systems and thereby correcting any imbalances. TT practitioners work by placing their hands on or near the patient and then manipulate the patient's energy fields to correct imbalances in flow.

Is it effective?

The effectiveness of therapeutic touch has previously been studied in osteoarthritic, cardiovascular and burns patients as well as on specific presentations such as puncture wounds and headaches. Variable results have been noted. These include no effect compared to controls to decrease wound healing times and reduced anxiety in surgery patients. Therapeutic touch has shown some effectiveness in pain syndromes such as treating fibromyalgia patients in improving quality of life and decreasing pain states. However the use of therapeutic touch for PTSD has not been research adequately to measure its effectiveness

Are there any disadvantages?

Some patients may feel uncomfortable during the technique with the therapist’s touch but generally it is a safe non invasive technique.

Where do you get it?

The Australian College Of Therapeutic Touch has a website with a directory of professionals trained in the technique in your area. While these strategies are pursued, it is also important that the person with PTSD is under the care of a certified health professional.

What are the evidence limitations?

There is currently no explicit evidence to support TT as an independent intervention for PTSD. Much of the evidence base is derived from lower levels of evidence such as expert opinion and clinical experiences. Therefore interpreting this evidence should be undertaken with caution.


Based on the current lack of high quality evidence, the use of therapeutic touch for PTSD cannot be recommended based on the current research evidence. More research is required. It may be considered as an adjunct to other PTSD interventions, such as psychological and pharmacological interventions.

Key References

Astin, JA, Harkness, E & Ernst, E 2000, ‘The Efficacy of "Distance Healing": A Systematic Review of Randomized Trials’, Annals of Internal Medicine, vol. 132, no. 11, pp. 903–910.

Denison, B 2004, ‘Touch the Pain Away: New Research on Therapeutic Touch and Persons with Fibromyalgia Syndrome’, Holistic nursing practice, vol. 18, no. 3, pp. 142-151.

Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health 2007, ‘Australian guidelines for the treatment of adults with Acute Stress Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.

Practitioner Guide’ National Health and Medical research Council, viewed 11 December 2008,

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