By Barbara Janelle M.A.

In Touch, Vol. XIII, No. 1, February, 2001

The practitioner focuses on the receiver’s needs in a Therapeutic Touch treatment. Clarity of intention helps the practitioner establish guidelines for treatment, so that it is a way of honouring the receiver.


For some time, TT Teacher Donna Logan Van Vliet has insisted on replacing the word “help” with the word “serve.” I did not fully understand why she did this until recently when I took a workshop on “The Physiology of Learning.” with Carla Hannaford, the leading author on Educational Kinesiology. (1)

Carla demonstrated through muscle testing the effects of “helping” versus “honouring.” When she said to a person, “I am going to help you,” the person gave a weak response to muscle testing. When she said, “I am going to honour you,” the muscle test showed the person was strengthened. I believe that the focus on helping weakens because it places the recipient in a submissive standing. “Honouring” strengthens because it recognizes the magnificence of the receiver. (2)


Within the TT treatment, the Practitioner is in service to the receiver. This means that the Practitioner:

    1. Focuses on honouring the receiver, not on helping, nor on assuming responsibility for the person, nor on telling the person how to live
    2. leaves his/her own stuff at the door
    3. truly hears the receiver
    4. respects the receiver’s privacy
    5. supports the receiver and does not draw attention to self
    6. recognizes the wholeness of the receiver
    7. does not diagnose
    8. allows the receiver to rest after the treatment
    9. possibly offers homework but does not dictate it
    10. allows the receiver to change and heal


To recognize the great honour it is to work with the receiver brings respect into the TT interaction. Both receiver and practitioner are magnificent spiritual beings doing their best to walk the path of life and the TT interaction can support that walk for both in very profound ways.

Respect for the receiver can prevent the Practitioner from being drawn into the trap of assuming responsibility for this person’s life and health, and the corollary of dictating to the person what to think and how to live life.

A friend told me recently that she wanted TT treatments while undergoing chemotherapy. The TT Practitioner she went to see immediately started to tell her how to live her life and only proceeded to the treatment when my friend insisted that she had come for that, and not counseling. My friend did not return to this person for treatment.

Even if the TT Practitioner is a trained counselor, the receiver must be asked if counseling is wanted in addition to TT. Most TT Practitioners are not trained in counseling. We have a hard enough time understanding and leading our own lives. We do not have the right to tell others how to live.


The TT treatment is the receiver’s time. The practitioner must leave his/her own issues out of it. For example, this is not the time for the practitioner to describe his/her day’s experiences, feelings, current problems, past illnesses, etc. In addition, doubts and issues that the treatment brings up for the practitioner do not concern the receiver and should not be brought to attention.


Receivers need to be heard, so the practitioner’s listening skill is critical to the TT interaction. When someone with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome says “I feel unable to do things and so dependent on others. This undermines my confidence in myself,” a quiet nod is far better than leaping in and telling the person that she is not helpless.

Listening offers the practitioner important insights. Recently, I was working with a highly creative woman who has Raynaud’s Disease and whose family has a history of severe arthritis in the extremities. The tissue in her fingers felt very soft and almost without definition to me. Instead of asking her what she thought about it, I said that I was talking to the field and fingers about alive functionality. She thought for a moment and said, “I’ve always regarded the softness of my hands as giving me the great sensitivity that I need in my work.” I suddenly understood that she had given me important information that enabled me to see her hands differently and shift my visualization to honouring their sensitivity.


Any information given to the Practitioner during a treatment is to be held in privacy. As a teacher, I refer to treatment experiences but guard the name and other identifying information about the recipient very carefully.

In addition, I do not refer to anything the receiver has told me in subsequent treatments or conversations, unless that person brings it up in discussion. For example, a person may tell me that he was abused as a youngster, I would never mention that unless he brought it up again. It is too easy to use this information to label or attempt to control a person.


Too often, I have encountered practitioners whose primary intention seems to be giving psychic readings with the hope of gaining attention for themselves by impressing the recipient. Information received during a treatment is to support the treatment and the recipient.

For example, the practitioner may intuit that the receiver of the TT treatment had been in an auto accident. However, there is a difference between saying, “I sense that you have been injured in an auto accident!” and “Have you ever been injured in an accident?” In the first case, the response usually is “Wow, how did you get that? You must have very special abilities!” This has the effect of focusing on the practitioner, indeed directing and even drawing energy to the practitioner. In the second instance, information is requested of the receiver, and the opportunity to examine that experience (not necessarily in conversation with the practitioner) is offered.


While Therapeutic Touch is based on assessment, too often attention is put on discovering what is wrong with the field rather than on what is right with the field. It is useful to have an image of a healthy field – bright, vibrant, happy, integrated, beautiful. Entering the treatment with this in mind, rather than “I hope I pick up all the problem sites!” leads to ease and fluidity in the treatment, as well as enabling the practitioner to see the person, not as a problem, but as a beautiful being.


TT is a complementary health discipline; i.e. that it works with the current allopathic system and does not replace medical treatment. I ask that anyone coming to me for treatments for a medical disorder be under a doctor’s care and that they inform their doctor they are receiving TT.

The pressure from others and one’s own desire to diagnose can be very strong. However, we are not only prevented from doing this by the current medical and veterinary rules, but by the truth that physical organization and function is so complex, it is almost impossible for anyone (doctors and veterinarians included, I believe) to give an accurate and complete diagnosis. When we also recognize that health is an integration of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects, complete diagnosis is impossible.

Many TT Practitioners have had the experience that TT Teacher Ellen Baker described to me several years ago – that of working with two or more people with the same severe medical diagnosis but whose fields were dramatically different. I have found fields of people medically diagnosed with cancer, to feel disordered, hollow/vacant, cool and damp, hot and raging, etc. Many of these characteristics can also be found in infections and chronic disorders.

If pressed by a recipient asking what I found during the treatment, I respond with general statements that focus on the energetic character and response to my work, e.g., “The field responded well to the treatment.” And then use TT teacher Jitka Malec’s approach of returning the question by asking, “Do you sense any changes as a result of the TT? Are you sleeping better, etc.” If I find something that seems significantly off in the field and does not respond, I suggest that the person speak to their doctor.



Many years ago after giving me a treatment Cathleen Fanslow-Brunjes told me that if I began talking immediately, I would give much of the treatment benefits away. Talking takes energy that is better spent by the field processing the treatment.

TT Practitioner Diane Lindsay was the first to bring to my attention the perceptible shift that occurs in the field about twenty minutes after the end of the treatment. It is a shift that can be felt as a wash of energy through the field.

Part of the Practitioner’s duty is to encourage the receiver to rest for twenty minutes or more after the treatment. Sometimes I will sit and meditate in the room as the receiver dozes. Other times I will tuck the person into bed and quietly leave. Even after the rest period, I discourage discussion by recommending that we wait until the next session to give the person a chance to discover the full impact of the treatment (often they find they sleep well, pain diminishes for several days and energy levels increase).


I like to empower the TT recipient by offering things that they can do for themselves to support their energetic well being. The focus here is on offering, not dictating. I present ideas with explanations and choose things that fit within the person’s capabilities.

Root Chakra function is supported by walking, connection with nature (seeing beauty in flowers, noticing trees, etc.) and creative activities (as simple as bringing something pretty like a flower or a new pillow into one’s immediate surroundings). Drinking water and movement (walking, swimming, etc.) help the digestive system. The Heart Chakra and the immune system are supported by laughter and feelings kindness for self and others. Visualizing energy from the sea around us entering through the Crown Chakra and moving down through the field brightening and healing as it goes, can very easily be done in the shower, or while walking, lying or sitting. I offer these simple things but do not insist that the person do them; nor do I ask at our next meeting if the recipient is doing them.

Often, I will show the receiver how to unruffle and support the flow of energy through an area, e.g., over the abdomen to support elimination, over swellings to reduce pain, through a broken bone to support healing, etc. Again I do not impose this nor insist than the person does it. These ideas are simply offered without conditions attached. (3)

I may recommend that the person see a chiropractor or look into Feldenkrais, Alexander, Yoga or Tai Chi classes to support proper movement and flexibility. I do not prescribe things to be taken internally but may recommend a good human naturopath or for animals, a veterinary trained in homeopathy. I do not sell health products nor do I try to convince people to take more treatments from me.


Seventeen years ago, I was very ill and hospitalized with a major immune disorder. I recovered and my health has remained good since then. A friend who calls once a year always starts the conversation by asking in very sympathetic tones how my health is. I try to explain that my health is good, but in her eyes I am ill and always will be!

In giving TT treatments to others, I aim toward a time when sessions are needed infrequently or not at all. For most serious or chronic conditions, I ask that the receiver see me for three sessions closely spaced (within 7 to 10 days) to get the field responding easily and quickly to treatment. Then we look at increasing the time between sessions until, eventually, TT may no longer needed.

I am careful of the language I use and find that the generic “How are you?” is better than “How is your pain?” which implies that the pain is a permanent condition. In pre-treatment discussions, I focus more and more on improvement and well being.


The focus on service to, honouring and respect for, and seeing the wholeness of the receiver is the essence of Therapeutic Touch. This means maintaining center during discussion and treatment, developing good listening skills, and being quiet and receptive during the entire session.

Things that I’ve not spoken of here that are also important for the Practitioner to do are:

    1. examine the lessons brought by the receiver, and
    2. walk the talk of holistic health by supporting his/her own health through receiving regular body or energy work, eating reasonably, exercising daily and laughing hourly!


1. Carla Hannaford is the author of Smart Moves, Great Ocean Publishers, Arlington, VA: 1995, and The Dominance Factor, Great Ocean Publishers, Arlington, VA: 1997, and she has a new book coming out shortly.

2. Among other things, this demonstration highlighted my ongoing quest for appropriate vocabulary for the TT interaction. The term “patient” puts the receiver in a subservient role rather than recognizing that each individual is ultimately in charge of their own life and health. I also dislike the word “client” that speaks of TT as a monetary interaction. I’ve used “receiver” because I could not think of another term, but I find this also infers submission rather than responsibly. I would like to have a better term if anyone knows one.

3. See “Tools to Empower Therapeutic Touch Recipients,” In_Touch, The Therapeutic Touch Network (Ontario), Vol. VI, No. 2, June, 1994