Therapeutic Touch Tidbits

Compiled by David Bloomberg from the May/June issue of the National Council Against Health Fraud Newsletter

Over the past couple years, we've mentioned Therapeutic Touch (TT) a few times in this newsletter. Essentially, practitioners of TT (which, contrary to its name, doesn't actually involve any touching) claim to be able to detect a human "energy field" that they can modify to help a person heal. TT has made inroads in the nursing field even though there is no good evidence that it does anything. For example, in a 1994 report, a University of Colorado Health Sciences Center scientific jury noted, "there is virtually no acceptable scientific evidence concerning the existence or nature of these energy fields. There is no ongoing research, nor even any ideas about how such research might be conducted."

In addition, the National Therapeutic Touch Study Group (NTTSG) has published a 180-page document Survey of Therapeutic Touch Research and has made it available for $20 (NTTSG, 711 W. 9th St., Loveland, CO 80537-4669, 970-667-7313). This survey documents everything from the claims made by TT practitioners (TTPs) to why TT is a pseudoscience.

While TTPs haven't been doing much to test themselves, the Philadelphia Association for Critical Thinking (PHACT - the Philadelphia local skeptics group) and the James Randi Educational Foundation have proposed a test that would reward a successful TTP with a million dollars. This test doesn't even require that the TTP heal somebody merely that they prove they can detect a human "energy field". The TTP must determine whether or not a subject's arms have been inserted into fiberglass sleeves (it's a blind test; the TTP cannot see whether or not there is a person there). Randi asks, "This is something they claim to be able to do every day in their practice, so why not come to Philadelphia and show us?" Indeed, why not? Well, as of May 21, the last of three interested TTPs "bailed out" after originally saying they would take on the challenge. One TTP did take a similar challenge (as reported in a recent issue of Skeptic magazine) and failed.

I recently found out that St. John's Hospital, in Springfield, offers TT. I plan to send a letter and a copy of Randi's test to the hospital and ask for their comments. If anybody is interested in helping out on this project, please let me know.

Anybody interested in joining the National Council Against Health Fraud may request an application from: Membership Chairman, P.O. Box 1276, Loma Linda, CA 92354-1276. Membership is $20/year ($10 for students). You may also check them out on their web page at

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