"Healing Touch"
Posted: 31 July 2006 11:20 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I was horrified to learn on a Point of Inquiry podcast that over 40,000 nurses in the US are trained in "healing touch".  Apparently, they wave their hands over a patient’s abdomen to dispell any negative energy.  This is truly frightening to me…where are they trained? Even if this is not (I assume!!) in lieu of traditional medicine, this surely can not be considered real treatment????  Does anyone have any further info on this technique, its claims for effectiveness, and exactly how the nurses are "trained"??

Eileen

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Posted: 31 July 2006 11:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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"Healing Touch"

I was horrified to learn on a Point of Inquiry podcast that over 40,000 nurses in the US are trained in “healing touch”.  Apparently, they wave their hands over a patient’s abdomen to dispell any negative energy.  This is truly frightening to me…where are they trained? Even if this is not (I assume!!) in lieu of traditional medicine, this surely can not be considered real treatment????  Does anyone have any further info on this technique, its claims for effectiveness, and exactly how the nurses are “trained”??

Eileen

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Posted: 31 July 2006 11:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Hi Eileen,

For a quick primer, check out this webpage on the wonderful QuackWatch website:

Therapeutic Touch

“Therapeutic Touch” is another name for “Healing Touch”. I am sure there are other names as well.

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Posted: 01 August 2006 12:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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[quote author=“emw121199”]  I am surprised that hospitals would allow this potential public relations disaster to occur - surely, they seem to have seriously underestimated their patients level of intelligence and common sense.

I am equally appalled. But I don’t share your optimistic view of the general population. Indeed, the problem for many hospitals is that so many of their patients want access to non-traditional therapies, and want them to be paid for by health insurance (e.g., chiropractors, etc.)

I personally know many university-educated people who believe in such things as therapeutic touch, herbal medication, chiropractors, astrology, you name it. I even know two who sell the stuff! The unfortunate fact is that this stuff persists because it sells.

The problem is that we need hospital and insurance administrators with the spine to stand up to their clamoring patient population and say loudly that this stuff is a waste of time and money, and that none of it works. But as things stand, many hospitals are in competition, and fear losing patients ... or that’s what I have to assume. So they hire the chiropractor, or train the nurse in Therapeutic Touch, to make the patients happy.

It would be interesting to hear from someone “on the inside” here ...

[quote author=“emw121199”] Has Dr. Barrett ever been on Point of Inquiry?  What an amazing man…the website and the authors of the various articles are just great…I particularly liked the article written by a doctor who was a former adherent of chelation therapy for autism (his son was autistic).  Thanks again.

Sure! It’s a great idea to get Dr. Barrett on PoI, I’m sure he’d be a great guest. (You listening, DJ?) I’m a huge fan of his work; basically it’s thankless, unpaid drudgery, although he does take donations.

The problem with so much of this quack-busting is that it isn’t remunerative, you can’t get tenure by doing it, you can’t get grants from the NIH by doing it, you can’t get grants from Big Pharma by doing it, you can’t win professional prizes by doing it, if you do it you end up getting huge volumes of hate-mail from credulous kooks ... it takes a very strong ethical spine and stomach to persist as Dr. Barrett has done. Kudos to him.

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Posted: 27 June 2007 09:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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The therapeutic touch was fundamentally debunked in 1998 by Emily Rosa, who showed that those “therapeuts” couldn´t even feel the “energy” they were supposed to feel for diagnosis and handle for treatment (Linda Rosa; Emily Rosa; Larry Sarner; Stephen Barrett ‘‘A Close Look at Therapeutic Touch’’ JAMA, Apr 1998; 279: 1005 - 1010).

There is no evidence that this therapy has any effect above the expected by the natural history of the disease or the placebo effect (Astin JA; Harkness E; Ernst E. ‘‘The efficacy of “distant healing”: a systematic review of randomized trials.’’ Ann Intern Med. 2000; 132(11):903-10 and Shiflett SC; Nayak S; Bid C; Miles P; Agostinelli S. ‘‘Effect of Reiki treatments on functional recovery in patients in poststroke rehabilitation: a pilot study.’’ J Altern Complement Med. 2002; 8(6):755-63). Also, all published studies about it, even those with positive results, are not conclusive because of lack of control group (Pankhurst J Thirteen Case Studies to Investigate the Effects of Reiki on the Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis, Wardell DW, Engebretson J. Biological correlates of Reiki Touch(sm) healing. Journal of Advanced Nursing 2001 Feb;33(4):439-45, Aladydy P e Alandydy K Using Reiki to Support Surgical Patients. Journal of Nursing Care Quality , 1999 Apr;13(4): pp. 89-91, Olson K, Hanson J. Using Reiki to manage pain: a preliminary report. Cancer Prev Control 1997 Jun;1(2):108-13, Mansour, A.A.; et al. Experience of Reiki: Five Middle-Aged Women in the Midwest. Alternative and Complementary Therapies . 4(3): 211-217. June 1998), not being double-blinded, for appointing only annedotic evidence (Kennedy P. Working with survivors of torture in Sarajevo with Reiki. Complement Ther Nurs Midwifery2001 Feb;7(1):4-7, Bullock M. Reiki: a complementary therapy for life. Am J Hosp Palliat Care 1997 Jan-Feb;14(1):31-3) and/or for lack of peer-review (Adina Leah Goldman Shore The long-term effects of energetic healing on symptoms of psychological depression and self-perceived stress Institute of Transpersonal Psychology 2002 180 pp, Daniel Benor, M.D. Spiritual Healing, Scientific Validation of a Healing Revolution).

Also, in my experience, those therapeuts (at least those that are not plain charlatans) develop their self-steem based on the belief that they have special powers and that they are using it for the good of mankind. Any suggestion that they don´t have any special healing powers is answered with a rage only matched by religious fundamentalists against infidels.

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Posted: 27 June 2007 10:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Yes, one part of a seemingly endless chain of quack therapies that one would think medically trained peple wouldn’t fall for. But they do. Heck, there’s a doctor (vet) in my own practice who routinely refers people to a pet psychic for Odin’s sake! I was thrilled to hear Thomas Kida on POI recently since I think he does a great job of summarizing concisely and cogently the reaons why smart people fall for such BS. If only his book could be made required reading in hgh school or at least medical training programs. FWIW there are lots of nurses who do recognize this stuff is nonsense and try to fight its incursion into legitimate medicine.

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Posted: 28 June 2007 07:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I had never heard of Thomas Kida before, until I saw his book on Amazon last month. Did you read it ?

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Posted: 28 June 2007 11:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Yes, I read it and it’s excellent. Though I don’t think a skeptic will find anything revolutionary or surprising in it, is summarizes in a useful and organized fashion the kinds of errors in thinking we all make and which lead us to believe things that clearly aren’t true. I find the explanations and examples especially useful when trying to point out to colleagues why they have come to believe somehting that is likely false. As a critical thinking book it is perfect for an audience not interested in highly complex works about rhetoric or philosophy. I immediately donated copies to the local library and my daughter’s public school. It did also help me to remeber that people don’t have to be stupid to believe irrational things and that we all commit such thought errors. And while Kida doesn’t touch on this area, his ideas fit nicely with some of the work currently being done on human psychology and evolution. We are “designed” by naure to seek meaning in random data, to overemphasize the importance of anecdotes and individual events in establishing cause/effect relationships, etc. Irrational beliefs develop out of natural tendancies of the human brain, and it requires constant effort to deliberately apply more rational and scientific methods to establishing our beliefs.
Here’s an excerpt which gives you the main categories of error he talks about in greater detail in the book:

As you can tell from the title, Kida’s focus is on six of the most common mistakes in thinking which people make across a wide variety of fields and issues. He doesn’t claim that these are the only ones, but they are the mistakes which he sees the most often and which he thinks leads to the most problems.

Mistake #1: We prefer stories to statistics. Even a bad story is preferred over great statistics, and this shouldn’t be surprising. We’re social animals, so whatever seems to connect us to others will have a bigger impact than cold, impersonal numbers. This leads us to making decisions based upon a single story which may not be representative of larger trends while ignoring the statistics that tell us about those trends.

Mistake #2: We seek to confirm, not to question, our ideas. Everyone wants to be right and no one wants to be wrong. This may be the primary driving force behind the fact that when people look at neutral evidence before them, they almost invariably focus on what seems to confirm what they already believe while ignoring what might count against their beliefs.

Mistake #3: We rarely appreciate the role of chance and coincidence in shaping events. Odds are that any randomly chosen person has no idea how odds, chance, and randomness affect their lives. People think that unlikely events are very likely while likely events are very unlikely. For example, people forget how large the numbers around them are — an event with a million to one odds against it will happen given a million tries. In New York City alone, this means that several such events could happen every day.

Mistake #4: We sometimes misperceive the world around us. We simply don’t perceive things happening in our vicinity as accurately as we think or might like. We see things that aren’t really there and we fail to see things that are. Even worse, our level of confidence in what we have perceived is no indication of just how likely we are to be right.

Mistake #5: We tend to oversimplify our thinking. Reality is a whole lot more complicated than we realize. Indeed, it’s more complicated than we can deal with — every analysis we make of what goes on must eliminate lots of factors. If we don’t simplify, we’d never get anywhere in our thinking; unfortunately, we often simplify too much and thus miss things we need to take into account.

Mistake #6: Our memories are often inaccurate. To be fair, this isn’t a mistake because we can’t help the fact that our memories are unreliable. The real mistake is in not realizing this, not understanding the ways in which our memories can go wrong, and then failing to do what we can to make up for this fact.

Again, as Kida notes these are not the only mistakes people make; but if you can make a habit of noticing and avoiding these, you’ll be well ahead of most people and doing far better than you were before. You can’t focus on just these, though. Instead you must keep in mind that the point is to become more skeptical and critical in your thinking and thereby more consistently distinguish the things most likely to be true from those which just aren’t worth our time.

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Posted: 28 June 2007 11:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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*shakes head sadly*

It’s the success of things like this that makes me lose faith in the human race.

The other day, I was strolling through the halls of the college where I’m taking classes over the summer, and came across a display case that had a bulletin board in it that had a newspaper article on it. Somehow, I became curious and started reading it.

It was talking about how the college we share a campus with now offers a program where students can now get their Bachelor’s degree in Holistic medicine. At the point where it said that the program “combines hard science with holistic beliefs,” I had to stiffen my arms and pretend they weren’t there to keep me from hitting the display case. Half an hour later, I recovered without having caused harm to anything or anybody. Either way, the courses include chinese medicine, healing touch therapy, and all that jazz. Great, huh?

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Posted: 28 June 2007 11:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Yes, I see a fundamental conflict between believing the scinetific method is how we establish true understanding in medicine and believing that folk tradition and personal anecdote are the ways to establish this. But many doctors don’t see the conflict and consider me “extreme” and not sufficiently open-minded because I hold all therapies to the same standard of proof and don’t “try out” alternative therapies that have not been scientifically validated, or even that have been disproven but still have lots of anecdotes and testimonials supporting them. Wierd.

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