Therapeutic Touch: An Interim Summary

By Barbara Janelle M.A.

The following article summarizes many observations and understandings about Therapeutic Touch and is based on my twenty-two years of experience of using this work. That experience encompasses a wide range of situations fom teaching in university and hospital settings to leading a volunteer hospital team, and seeing a large and varied private treatment group. The experience also includes working with both domestic animals (large and small) and animals in wildlife rehabilitation centers. Most of what is contained in this article has appeared in my articles and books. (1)

The Steps of Therapeutic Touch

Therapeutic Touch is an energetic treatment approach based on centering, assessment, and support and increase of energy flow down through the field. TT affects all aspects of the receiver – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual, and supports a shift toward greater wholeness. Therapeutic Touch also affects all aspects of the practitioner too.


Centering is quieting one’s self and moving into a profound state of peace. In TT, it is wedded with a compassionate awareness of both self and the receiver and the acknowledgement that we exist in a universe of compassion and order.

Centering sets the stage for sensing the field and is the primary treatment step as well, even more effective and more important than unruffling and energy modulation. Centering establishes a resonance effect which both relaxes the receiver and supports the field’s move toward better function. Deepening center is the most effective step a practitioner can do to support a shift in field function. (2) Centering is ongoing throughout the treatment, and when it lightens or becomes difficult to maintain, that is the signal to finish the treatment.

Heart Support. Merlin Homer’s approach of deepening center while focusing on the Heart Chakra takes both receiver and practitioner into a profound healing state. (3) Centering with compassion is the essence of TT and indeed many contend that we can do TT by simply centering with compassion for another. (4)


Therapeutic Touch is based largely on assessment, although it may also be done without the assessment component. Observation, using the hands to sense for energetic clues, and intuitive awareness all give information about the state of the field and its response to treatment. Assessment plays an important role in treatment approach. (5)

Observation of body proportions, movement, skin colour (indicative of blood circulation and nerve function), tone, resiliency, condition of eyes, facial expression, and so on can give information about the state of health. One example of information obtained through observation and its relationship with the energy field is the condition of san-paku eyes (6). When a person is under stress and feeling powerless, one or both eyes have white showing beneath the iris. The person’s energy field usually shows a strong deficit of energy which may be sensed even in the first seconds of assessment through the strong pulling of energy from the practitioner’s hands.

Energetic assessment using the hands checks for energy flow and rhythm, energy pulling and congestion. In a well-functioning state, a lot of energy moves through the field continuously. The field feels fairly uniform, pleasant and rhythmic. Where there is a problem, energy flow is disrupted. Energy intake and flow slow down as congestion builds in the field. The field’s attempt to draw energy in through congestion can make the area feel warm or even slightly painful to the practitioner’s hands in assessment. Areas that feel cool and empty seem to be closed down and even bypassed by normal energy flow.

Intuitive assessment is done by attending to images, sounds, colours, and other forms of internal information received from the field. In addition, mirrored physical and emotional feelings in the practitioner can provide information too. (7) An important part of intuitive assessment is checking the grounding aspect of the field. A field that functions well has a strong connection with the Earth; among the ways this may be sensed is through images of deep and widespread roots from the feet and root chakra into the Earth.

Assessment is ongoing. The initial hand sensing assessment is best done after a light unruffling of the field to get beneath the quiet energetic cap. (8) The initial assessment usually gives a general picture but more information comes as the treatment progresses: areas of energy congestion, deficit and imbalance that were not apparent earlier may be revealed (this can occur over several sessions too). Information about the field’s response to treatment comes with ongoing assessment. The field can change just in response to assessment. Growing uniformity, energy flow and connection (integration) through the field can indicate that the treatment is finishing.

Unruffling and Grounding

Unruffling and grounding go together. To simply move energy from one place to another means that it will begin to build up where it settles. Grounding or some visualization that effectively removes unusable energy from the field is necessary to prevent build-up in the field. (9)

Unruffling describes hand movements and intention to support energy flow. Unruffling always occurs within a framework of intention and visualisation; hand movements alone do very little. It is important to recognize that unruffling movements affect the entire field not just the space between the practitioner’s hand and the receiver’s skin.

Unruffling supports:

      – the flow of energy downward through the field


      – helps to loosen and dissipate congestion in the field


      – increases the amount of energy flowing through the field


      – facilitates energy absorption in the field


      – addresses balance, symmetry and wholeness in the field


      – prepares the field for initial assessment


      – prevents build-up during energy modulation


      – gives information about the response of the field to treatment


      – relaxes the receiver. (10)

Direction. Unruffling, usually done with gentle, downward strokes, relaxes the receiver while it supports a normal energy flow. Horizontal, perpendicularly outward, and slight up and out movements over localized areas may be used to break-up congestion. (11)

A form of unruffling that is very effective for dissipating heat/congestion involves hand on-hand off i.e. putting the hand on a sore/congested area, letting the heat of the area come into the hand and then taking the hand away and shaking it off (12). After a minute or more of this, downward unruffling and grounding supports normal energy flow through the area. This is very effective for reducing localized swelling.

Speed. Unruffling is done gently with a speed that supports flow and is comfortable to the receiver. Too fast can agitate the receiver and too slow can add too much energy to the field from the practitioner’s hands; both can make the receiver uncomfortable. Pauses help the field to process the work.

Distance from Skin. The most effective distances for unruffling is either at the “edge” of congestion (13), or at the even greater distance found as the practitioner deepens centers and imagines that “There is no physical body, only energy.” (14) In some cases, e.g., frightened and potentially dangerous animals, it is useful to unruffle at the very apparent “edge” that exists between four and eight feet from the physical body. (15) Hands-on unruffling is very acceptable to many animals, and in some localized cases with humans, e.g., a sore back. No matter the unruffling distance, the practitioner always holds an awareness of the unruffling motion acting like a wave of light moving down through the entire body/field.

Energy Modulation

A lot of energy moves through the field normally; when there is a problem, there is a lack of energy either locally or throughout the entire field. Energy modulation refers to ways of increasing energy flow, as well as bringing greater order to rhythm and balance within the field.

The field makes the greatest shift in response to the practitioner’s centering and deepening centering. Every other action by the practitioner is secondary to this in its effect.

In any effort to energize the field (16), it is important to strengthen the grounding and to support connection/integration through the field first. This is followed by monitoring the field’s intake of energy, pausing periodically to unruffle (supporting energy movement through the field) and to ground to reduce any chance of building congestion in the field.

Gentle directing of energy, modulated by visualizations of colour (vibration) and intensity, into an area is coupled with unruffling and grounding. Brief pulses of energy can be effectively directed into the field to support healing, e.g., through broken bones. This approach can also be used to break-up congestion in the field, as well. As in all cases of energizing, this is followed by unruffling and grounding.

In many instances, “directing” energy into the field can be replaced by finding areas that draw energy and “offering” energy there, or supporting the field’s normal ability to draw from the universe of energy within which it exists. The field knows where energy is needed and how to direct and use energy far better than the TT practitioner. Directing energy too strongly into the field or into an area that is not of the field’s choosing can cause stress and create congestion. The field may even reach a point where it will begin to block energy that is inappropriately directed into it. (17)

Two effective approaches for offering energy to the field are:

      a) talking to the field and saying, “Take what you need from my hands and direct it to wherever it is needed” This is useful to do whether the hands are doing unruffling movements or remaining stationary e.g., over the adrenals


      b) offering a “ball of light” (18) at the site that is drawing energy or at the site of the closest chakra

Chakras are energy transforming centers as well as centers of consciousness. Offering energy to the Sacral, Splenic, Solar Plexus and the back of the Heart Chakra if one or more of these is significantly drawing energy, can be very effective in shifting the field. (19) Energy coming out of the hands is at the vibration of the Heart Chakra; this is light enough for the lower chakras to accept but generally too strong for the throat and head chakras.

In addition, every joint has a small chakra associated with it. So for example, in the case of a sore elbow, both the shoulder and elbow joints may be attempting to draw more energy and it is appropriate to offer energy at either of these sites if this is the case.

Another way of energizing the field is to remind the field through the major and minor chakras that it exists in an infinite “sea of energy,” and that it can take what it needs from that sea. (20)

In all cases, it is important that the TT practitioner continue to monitor (assess) the field’s response and follow its directions.

Ending the Treatment

The ending of treatment is determined by the field and the instruction to do so is given to the practitioner through a reduction in centering. (21) In addition, many practitioners also get visualization information from the field, for example, a closing gate. NHPAI/TTNO Teacher Diane May says, “If you are wondering if you should end the treatment, you should.”

The signal to end may come at any time, even if the field has not yet achieved greater uniformity. The practitioner must recognize that the treatment starts a process that the field will continue to deal with for some time after the session ends.

If the practitioner continues to work when the field is calling for an ending, the field will begin to block these efforts. The effect of the treatment will start to decrease and may result in stressing the field. A simple guideline is to be content will doing less rather than more and to trust the field to take the work and use it well.

Therapeutic Touch treatments may last anywhere from a few seconds to about 15 minutes. In some situations, it is appropriate to give brief treatments (1 to 5 minutes) every 30 to 60 minutes over a period of several hours, as for example, in the cases of critical stage pneumonia in humans, or impaction colic in horses.

Rest after a TT treatment is standard practice. TTNO Practitioner Diane Lindsay was the first to comment on the wave of energy that moves through the field at just about the 20 minute point in the rest period. (22) This has led many practitioners to incorporate a minimum 20 minute rest period into their treatment sessions.

Partnership in the TT Treatment

The Therapeutic Touch treatment is a complex partnership involving the practitioner, the receiver, the force of compassion and order, and a range of other intelligences. (23) Dora Kunz directed practitioners to recognize that we exist in a universe of compassion and order. In the TT treatment, through centering and compassion, the practitioner becomes a conduit for that force.

The field largely directs the treatment through affecting the practitioner’s centering and by way of information revealed to assessment and through visualizations.

The Earth is a conscious living being and all life forms are a part of her. Life is maintained through grounding and death is accompanied with the complete loss of grounding. Grounding may be supported either by visualizing roots from the feet and root chakra (and other areas) into the ground, or by asking the Earth to deepen her holding of the receiver.

Many TT practitioners and healers in other energetic disciplines recognize that there are often other loving presences involved in the treatment. (24) These beings may work by directing, giving suggestions, or simply infusing the whole treatment with love. Their presence takes the treatment to an extraordinary level of effect.

Existence on Earth is a cooperative effort and it is possible to invite nature intelligences to play a role in the TT treatment. Plants are very effective at supporting grounding. Animal spirits, traditionally used by First Nations healers, can be invited in to play a role.

In the case of illness caused by disease organisms, it is possible to request their cooperation and enter into agreements to support the well-being of all (viruses and other organisms can mutate fairly quickly into innocuous forms.) (25)

Therapeutic Touch: A Frontier

With every treatment, the Therapeutic Touch practitioner walks a frontier. This is a whole new universe of understanding and it is critical that experiences be examined, shared and discussed in an atmosphere of honesty, respect and curiosity. This discipline is one of many that offer opportunities for human beings to expand in understanding and partnership with the whole of existence. Courage, commitment, and a willingness to examine motivation, meaning and metaphor are necessary to this growth. The adventure continues!


1. Barbara Janelle,
– Our Healing Power: Therapeutic Touch for Humans and Animals, self-published, London, ON: 1999, 2nd Edition 2004, ISBN#0-9746421-1-8
= Embodiment of Spirit: Learning Through Therapeutic Touch and Interspecies Communication, self-published, 2004, ISBN#09746421-0-X
Please note that all articles by Barbara Janelle are available on the website:

2. Barbara Janelle, “On Wholeness,” In Touch, Vol. X, No. 1, February 1998; also in Our Healing Power

3. Janelle, “Heart Support,” In Touch, Vol. XII, No. 3, August 2000; also in Embodiment of Spirit

4. Merlin Homer was the first to make this statement and many teachers and students now follow suit.

5. Janelle, “On Energy Assessment in the Therapeutic Touch Treatment,” also in Embodiment of Spirit.

6. John Diamond, Your Body Doesn’t Lie, New York: Warner Books, 1979

7. TTNO Recognized Teacher Mary Simpson teaches very important exercises that require the practitioner to be aware of how and what they feel physically and emotionally before they attend to the receiver and note if any of their feelings change.

8. Janelle, “Preparing the Field for Assessment,” In Touch, Vol. VIII, No. 3, September 1996; also in Our Healing Power

9. Janelle, “On Grounding Visualizations,” In Touch, Vol. IX, No. 4, November 1997; also in Our Healing Power

10. Janelle, “The Effects of Unruffling,” In Touch, Volume XII, No. 2. May 2000; also in Embodiment of Spirit

11. Janelle, “Unruffling Action,” In Touch, Vol. XIII, No. 3, Autumn 2001; also in Embodiment of Spirit

12. Janelle, “Unruffling Action, In Touch, Vol. XIII, No.3, Autumn 2001; also in Embodiment of Spirit. This is very helpful for a wide range of things from back pain to charley-horses.

13. Janelle, “Working with the Edge: Scanning and Unruffling,” In Touch, Vol. XIII, No. 2, June 1996; also in Our Healing Power

14. Janelle, “On Wholeness,” In Touch, Vol. X, No. 1, February 1998; also in Our Healing Power

15. Janelle,
– “Finding Edges within the Emotional Field,” Our Healing Power
– “Thoughts on Working with the Emotional Field,” Embodiment of Spirit
– “Observations on Unruffling Animals,” Vision & Reality Conference Papers, November 1997; also in Our Healing Power.
Please note that I no longer refer to distant edges as emotional field edges. The second article gives my reasons for this.

16. Janelle,
– “Energizing the Field,” Our Healing Power
– “The Field Leads the Dance,” In Touch, Vol. 10, No. 4, November 1998; also in Our Healing Power

17. Janelle, “Guidelines for Therapeutic Touch,” Paper for the Ontario Therapeutic Touch Gathering 2006, previously unpublished

18. Offering a “Ball of light” was developed by the Cypriot healer Spiro Sathi: see Kyriacos C. Markides,
– The Magus of Strovolos: The Extraordinary World of a Spiritual Healer, New York, Arkana/Penguin: 1985
– Homage to the Sun: The Wisdom of the Magus of Strovolos, New York, Arkana/Penguin: 1987
– Fire in the Heart: Healers, Sages and Mystic, New York, Arkana/Penguin: 1990
A ball of light is also mentioned by Choa Kok Sui, Pranic Healing, York Beach, ME, Samuel Weiser: 1990

19. Janelle, “Attention to the Major Chakras in the Therapeutic Touch Treatment,” British Columbia Therapeutic Touch Network Newsletter, June 2005

20. Janelle, “Energizing the Field,” Our Healing Power

21. Janelle, “The Therapeutic Touch Treatment: A two-Way Conversation,” Embodiment of Spirit

22. Janelle, “Honouring the Receiver,” In Touch, Vol. XIII, No. 1, February 2001; also in Embodiment of Spirit

23. Janelle, “The Therapeutic Touch Partnership,” Embodiment of Spirit

24. Barbara Ann Brennan includes illustrations of Beings of Light in treatments in her book Hands of Light: A Guide to Healing Through the Human Energy Field, Bantam Books, New York: 1987

25. Janelle, “Let’s Make a Deal,” Embodiment of Spirit

BJ/April 2006