Healing Touch can help reduce pain in cancer patients and others

Peaceful man getting a head massage poolside

When a traumatic cycling accident left Michael Haubert with a broken femur, he turned to a form of healing many might not be aware of - Healing Touch.

The light touch energy therapy affects people differently, but it almost always leaves a person in a deeper state of relaxation - exactly what the body needs to heal.

Haubert has experienced multiple sessions of the therapy over the last 18 months.

"I would say that many people will find positive benefits but in different ways," he said, "some physical, others mental and/or spiritually. It put my mind and body at ease from my injury and all the stress and demands that come with trying to balance major injury recovery with integration to normal life and work."

Brenda Disparti is a former oncology nurse and certified HT practitioner who worked at Memorial Hospital. She practiced HT on cancer patients for three years.

"The most common response from patients was it gave them a sense of well- being," she said. "It empowered them to keep doing their treatment and helped alleviate some of their side effects, like pain and fatigue. Healing Touch helps bodies regenerate a little bit and give them that time the body needs to get some homeostasis."

The therapy is the baby of Janet Mentgen, an emergency room and home health care nurse who felt called to deepen the connection between her and her patients.

"She was tired of giving drugs all the time," said Carmel O'Sullivan, a local certified HT practitioner who also worked on cancer patients at Memorial, "and thought there has to be something better."

Mentgen felt called to explore energy healing and spent many years of her life delving into energetic healing techniques and modalities from around the world, including reiki and Native American approaches. She began to use what she'd found in 1980 and experienced firsthand the healing power of touch and working within energy fields. At first the work was used only by nurses, but in time they wanted to expand it into the general public.

She was awarded the Holistic Nurse of the Year Award from the American Holistic Nurses Association in 1988 and went on to found her HT energy medicine program in 1989.

"Her goal was that Healing Touch should be used in every home to teach people to work energetically to help family members," O'Sullivan said.


The HT curriculum provides training in a variety of techniques to clear, align and restore balance to the client's energy system through touch. It is said to help influence the body's self-healing.

A session will look different for every individual, depending on what she needs help with.

Before a client arrives, the practitioner will meditate and get centered, said O'Sullivan, and then spend time gathering information from the client about her physical, emotional and mental states.

Unlike a massage, clothing stays on, though shoes can come off. The work can be done seated or standing.

To begin a session O'Sullivan likes to use a pendulum over the client's chakras, or the large energy fields up and down the midline of the body, to see how the energy is moving. Sometimes it's flowing well but other times it can be compromised.

"When they receive cancer treatment the energy flow is blocked and the field has blockage," O'Sullivan said. "We do a full magnetic clearing. We use that when someone is emotionally upset or having cancer treatment or when I know there's something there that feels yucky. I'll work until I find it."

A certified HT practitioner will have several methods to help with any specific pain in the body, including migraines, stomach issues and fibromyalgia. They range from light touch to arm and hand gestures through the energy field directly above the body.

"It's not to replace any form of medical treatment," said O'Sullivan. "Healing Touch works hand in hand with Eastern and Western medicine."


Stephanie Mason, a local certified Pilates instructor, has had four HT sessions for low energy and arthritis in her knees. She was admittedly skeptical before her first session.

"I'm such a nuts and bolts person," she said. "I'm all about the muscles and the tissue and I wanted to see how someone works energy in the body. I was amazed I felt so good."

Studies suggest HT can help shorten wound healing time and lead to decreased stays in the hospital if a patient receives a treatment both pre and post operation. The therapy can also be used for anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances and to mitigate emotional distress and help create greater spiritual connection.

"I didn't understand how it worked, but it kept me coming back to see what would happen next," said Mason. "I have noticed relief in my knees. I'm 45 - my energy goes in waves throughout they day. It's helped balance that out."


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