A considerable body of research shows that spiritual healing (as in Therapeutic Touch, Healing Touch, Reiki and Prayer healing) is an effective treatment. This article reports on how healing is finding applications in clinical practice.

Anecdotes abound on the benefits of spiritual healing in acute and chronic conditions of all sorts (Benor, 1993; Krieger, 1979). Healers find that most patients will relax very quickly with healing. Acute and chronic pains of all causes are relieved, often within minutes. Healing is particularly helpful for conditions in which conventional treatments have limited results. Arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome (ME), multiple sclerosis and cancer are only a few of the diseases in which healing may produce beneficial effects. Nearly every ailment known to man has been reported to respond in some instances to healing. Only occasionally is the response immediate and total, in effect a "miraculous" cure. Far more frequently the response is one of gradual relief of symptoms and improvement in psychological and spiritual attitudes (Benor, Volume III, in press).

There are more than 8,000 healers registered with the major healing organisations in the UK, practicing under a unified code of conduct. More than 30,000 nurses in the United States practice Therapeutic Touch healing (Krieger, 1979).

Most healers claim that approximately 80 percent of their healees respond in some fashion, though these claims are largely unsupported. Surveys of healees show a high rate of satisfaction with their treatment (Attevelt; Benor, 1993; Boucher; Cohen; Harvey; Riscalla). Such studies are generally dismissed by clinicians. Spiritual healing is often viewed as a treatment of last resort, probably no more than a placebo but beneficial at least in the human caring and touch which are tendered by healers.

Few are aware of the considerable body of research published on spiritual healing, including amore than a dozen doctoral dissertations, most of which were done by nurses. A review of 155 controlled studies of healing shows that healing can produce significant effects in humans, animals, plants, bacteria, yeasts, cells in vitro, enzymes and more (Benor, 1993). Since the clinical research was h, reviewed in an earlier issue of Nursing Times (Benor, Nursing Times, 1991), only a brief survey is presented here.

Healing has been shown to have significant effects on cardiovascular problems in hospitalised patients (Byrd, 1988), on wound healing (Wirth and Richardson, 1993; Wirth, 1990), blood pressure (Miller; Quinn, 1989), diabetes mellitus (Wirth, in press), pain (Keller; Wirth, Complementary, 1993), anxiety (Heidt; Quinn, 1982; Ferguson; Fedoruk; Braud, 1989), and haemoglobin levels (Krieger, 1975).

If healing were a medicine it would be available at the pharmacy.

Healing is safe and has no known deleterious side effects. Pain is occasionally increased temporarily in the initial healing treatments. This is actually a positive sign, usually indicating that a shift in the process underlying the pain is under way. With continued treatments the pain is usually diminished. A measure of the safety of spiritual healing is the cost of a healer's annual malpractice insurance, less than ?5.

The UK is a world leader in the integration of healing with conventional medicine. Healing is being recommended by a growing number of doctors as a useful complementary therapy. There are healers working in GP surgeries and in hospital pain, cancer and cardiac rehabilitation centers. Some of the healers are paid for their services by their local FHSA.

Nurses and doctors are learning to develop their own healing gifts. Doctors are receiving Postgraduate Education Allowance credits for these courses. In the courses and workshops I lead, about 90 percent of doctors and nurses find that they have a measure of healing abilities. Healing is like most other gifts, such as playing the piano. It can be developed with practice. The Doctor-Healer Network provides a forum for doctors, nurses and healers to explore these clinical integrations and the development of their own healing gifts (The Doctor-Healer Network Newsletter).

In my practice of psychotherapy combined with healing I find that each method potentiates the other. The two in combination are more effective than either alone. Spiritual healing may alleviate some of the stresses and anxieties associated with therapy. Psychotherapy may help healees to integrate emotions released during spiritual healing. Nurses, doctors and many complementary therapy practitioners find that healing is a helpful adjunct to their clinical work.

Despite the research evidence and strongly positive clinical experience, it has been difficult for many carers to accept that healing might be an effective intervention. In part this has been due to a self perpetuating vicious circle in publishing articles on healing. Because spiritual healing has been viewed as a "fringe" therapy, until the last few years professional journals have hesitated to publish articles on healing. This has limited the awareness of the efficacy of healing. In part this is due also to scepticism that a simple, gentle, laying-on of hands, combined with a mental healing focus, could produce benefits beyond placebo effects. Even with awareness of the strongly significant research evidence, carers generally remain sceptical until they have observed personally the clinical effects of healing -- either on their patients, their family members, or themselves.

Sceptics reject healing as unpredictable or unreliable. This is no more true than with many other forms of therapy in which the outcome is unpredictable in a given percent of cases. Perhaps as health care professionals observe the work of healers more closely, patterns of illness which are predictively responsive to healing will be identified.

Some of the hesitation to use spiritual healing is engendered by confusions of terminology. A commonly used term is "faith" healing, implying that faith is required for healing to occur. This is clearly not an absolute requirement, as evidenced by the responses of non-human subjects to healing. "Spiritual" healing is not to be confused with "spiritualist" healing. Some hold the view that healing is, or should be, provided exclusively under the auspices of the clergy. Some religious institutions, in fact, teach that if healing is not given under their exclusive auspices it may be the work of the devil. This ignores reports that healing is given in every known country and society around the world, under every known religion. Spiritual healing often opens people to personal awarenesses of spiritual aspects of their lives.3 In serious or terminal illnesses, especially in the palliative phases of treatment, this is a major contribution of healing to health care (The Doctor-Healer Network Newsletter, No. 4).

Spiritual healing is a multi-faceted treatment

The lack of a comprehensive and commonly acceptable theory to explain healing has also led clinicians to hesitate in accepting healing. After a decade and a half of study, my own view is that healing is a multi-faceted treatment. It has a definite component of suggestion. People come for healing with the expectation that something will improve. (Often there may be even exaggerated expectations, which may lead to disappointment if proper explanations are not given along with the healing treatments.) The controlled studies, including positive effects on non-human subjects, confirm that healing is more than suggestion.

There is a component of self healing involved. Evidence is growing from the literature on psychoneuroimmunology that people have a vast potential to enhance the functioning of their own immune (Solomon) and cardiovascular (Ornish) systems and more (Goleman). Spiritual healing may activate these self healing processes. There is also a component of biological energy medicine in spiritual healing. Albert Einstein proposed that matter and energy are interchangeable. Modern physics has amply confirmed this theory. Newtonian medicine has been slow to integrate that the body may be considered energy as well as matter. Healers have been saying all along that they are addressing the biological energies of the body. The considerable evidence from spiritual healing research and research on a broad range of complementary therapies supports this claim. You can find a summary of this research in my book, "Healing Research: Scientific Validation of a Healing Revolution."

A measure of the efficacy healing is emerging in cost effectiveness studies. Dr Michael Dixon, a GP in Devon, England demonstrated that having a healer in his practice reduced his medications bill and halved the numbers of visits of people with chronic problems which had not responded to conventional therapies/\.

On the basis of the published evidence, if healing were a medicine, it would be available at your pharmacy.

Author's Bio: 

My bio summarizes my ongoing search for ever more ways to peel the onion of life's resistances, to reach the knowing (with the inner knowing of truth which has the feel of rightness) that we are all cells in the body of the Infinite Source.

While my unique area of expertise is spiritual awareness and healing, my principal work is through wholistic healing – addressing spirit, relationships (with other people and the environment), mind, emotions and body. I am using WHEE, a potent self-healing method, with children and adults who are dealing with PTSD and other forms of stress, psychological and physical pain, low self-esteem, cravings and other issues.

Daniel J. Benor, MD, ABIHM, is a wholistic psychiatric psychotherapist who blends in his therapy elements from intuitive and spiritual awareness, spiritual healing (as in Reiki and Therapeutic Touch), WHEE - Wholistic Hybrid derived from Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), transactional analysis, gestalt therapy, hypnotherapy, meditation, imagery and relaxation (psychoneuroimmunology), dream analysis, and other approaches. Dr. Benor has taught this spectrum of methods internationally for 35 years to people involved in wholistic, intuitive, and spiritual approaches to caring, health and personal development.

Dr. Benor founded The Doctor-Healer Network in England and North America. He is the author of Healing Research, Volumes I-III and many articles on wholistic, spiritual healing. He is the editor and publisher of the peer-reviewed International Journal of Healing and Caring - Online and moderator of WholisticHealingResearch.com, a major informational website on spiritual awareness, healing and CAM research.

He appears internationally on radio and TV. He is a Founding Diplomate of the American Board of Holistic Medicine, Founder and Immediate Past Coordinator for the Council for Healing, a non-profit organization that promotes awareness of spiritual healing, and for many years on the advisory boards of the journals, Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, Subtle Energies (ISSSEEM), Frontier Sciences, the Advisory Council of the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychotherapy (ACEP), Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) and the Advisory Board of the Research Council for Complementary Medicine (UK), Core reviewer for BioMed Central, Complementary and Alternative Medicine Online.

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