I am about to enter into a nursing program and so have been taking an introductory course on it.  For this course we had to attend presentations made by senior nursing majors that were essentially designs for research projects based on peer-reviewed articles but not actually carrying the research out in the real world.  This is the senior project and it places an emphasis on "evidence-based practice," which has been important in elevating nursing as a profession.

While looking at these presentations, I decided to go over to the one that talked about Therapeutic Touch (TT).  I thought at first that it was talking about the effects of a hands on approach to nursing that was examining the effects of touch on patients.

Nope.  It was actually about TT as a way to manipulate some sort of energy field that somehow extends beyond the human body yet isn't one of the fundamental physical forces or anything else that is recognized by science.  I held my tongue since his evaluator was listening at the time and the presenter noted that the evaluator knew all about it.  I was staring at them because it was so odd to see an open display of belief in something with, as far as I know, no evidence to support it (apart from religion).

I remember watching an episode of Penn & Teller Bullshit that dealt with new age medicine and such.  In the episode, they have a girl on who has/had the Guiness world record as the youngest person to have research published in a medical journal.  At age 9 she showed that 21 practitioners of TT did worse than chance at being able to blindly guess whether her hand was over their right or left hand.  They only guessed correctly 4.1/10 times on average.  That happened in '98.  Yet studies continue to be done on the effects of TT while still making the claim that practitioners can sense a universal human energy field or something and then make a patient better by manipulating it.

This seems like a horribly unscientific thing to do for a profession that is trying to back up its practices with evidence-based research.  It's false and gives patients false hope.  If the benefit of it is the placebo effect, then it should be taught in such a way that practitioners know this and understand how to use it without teaching a lie to a patient.  However, it appears that proponents of it are still making miracle claims.

So I suppose I'm nervous that I'm going to have to fight against bullshit like this while learning and while practicing.  I want to be able to call "bullshit" when I see something like this, but I think that it would ruffle to many feathers.

Does anyone here work in nursing (or medicine) and see anything like this?  What are your thoughts on TT or other "alternative" or "new age" "medicines"?  Have you ever dealt with nurses or doctors who insist on wasting your time with these things?

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As soon as you hear phrases like "universal human energy field" you can bet your bottom dollar it's absolute nonsense. This whole new-age crap seems to stem from three things in my view: confusion of cause and effect (the post-hoc fallacy), the placebo effect, and plain old credulous wishful thinking. As long as it gives the illusion of efficacy, this kind of hooey will continue to exist. 

yeah, I think that for this one the placebo effect is important.  I could understand maybe teaching it as a placebo affect and that is the reason why it should continue in existence for so long, but it appears that those who use it really do believe in it.  Add on top of that belief, but there's supposedly a "meditative state" that the practitioner enters to do it.

I should have pulled up Tim Minchin and James Randi in that moment and blasted it out loud haha.

I highly recommend Bad Science by Ben Goldacre for heavy artillery on this topic.

As one who has been a patient of TT, and who has a sister who is a nurse and utilizes TT, I can say that it does work.  Now, I am not saying that I buy into the human energy mysticism idea - I think a lot of the science behind TT is still unexplored territory, but there is something to it whatever that something is. 

TT has been shown to help in patients with depression, anxiety, PTSD in that it alleviates symptoms of the disorders.  It also can help in physical illness.  I was actually encouraged by medical staff at Johns Hopkins University Hospital to use such treatment if I could afford it or my health insurance could cover it, and it did help.  Whether that was placebo effect or not, I don't care.  I just know that it worked.  As for the "mysticism" behind it - isn't that just a word we use for something we have yet to understand?

Oh, and as for my sister, she does not see anything "mystical" about it.  She sees it as simply a compassionate form of care designed to help patients relax and give comfort, which can therefore aid in the treatment and/or healing process.

One day, I am sure science will figure it out, but I think it premature to write it off as "hooey" if there is a benefit.

It's clear that there practitioners of this "therapy" cannot actually feel a "human energy field."  To claim that mysticism is a word that we use when there is something that we don't yet understand is to ignore the fact that this "therapy" was made up in the 70s and wasn't based on scientific evidence but rather spiritual feelings of a nursing educator.

I have a problem with the fact that this "therapy" costs money when, in reality, nothing more than passing one's hands over someone else is being done.  I have been hearing claims made (just look up youtube videos about TT specifically, leaving the other stuff alone) about its effect on cancers like leukemia and other physical ailments.  If it's simply for comfort, fine, send them to a masseuse.  If it makes the claim that it can heal, then find another health care provider.

Actually, TT (such as Reiki), you would be wrong to say that it was "made up in the 70s - and it was hardly in western practice.  Most of these therapies are tied in some form or another to ancient "healing" practices from the eastern world, even though they may have started to gain a foothold in the west by the 70s, and most use eastern religious or spiritual explanations regarding the human body and its "energy levels and functions" or body "chakras."  So, yes, mysticism is the right word to use considering medical science is now recognizing that there is a mind and body connection when it comes to health, yet not enough information is yet known about how it all plays together - that is still something science, and in particular, medical science has yet to investigate fully.

I have a problem with the fact that this "therapy" costs money when, in reality, nothing more than passing one's hands over someone else is being done.  I have been hearing claims made (just look up youtube videos about TT specifically, leaving the other stuff alone) about its effect on cancers like leukemia and other physical ailments.  If it's simply for comfort, fine, send them to a masseuse.  If it makes the claim that it can heal, then find another health care provider.

I have a problem with this part of your response because you seem less concerned about patient well-being and more concerned about being right in your skepticism.  The therapy that is involved causes some sort of impact on patients with certain diseases and disorders.  This is not to say that it cures them, or entirely is the source of healing, but it does create a positive effect in the healing process - even if this effect is one merely produced by a placebo of sorts. 

However, I do think it is quite alright in having healthy skepticism towards claims that are made by practitioners of this therapy - most of which I would agree are false claims.  I only see such therapies as supplemental aides for the patient, but not the total end all and be all cure. 

After all, to make such a claim is like making the claim a supposed martial arts master who practiced an "energy form" of martial art (Kiai). Here is what happened to him: http://youtu.be/gEDaCIDvj6I

I have a problem with this part of your response because you seem less concerned about patient well-being and more concerned about being right in your skepticism.  The therapy that is involved causes some sort of impact on patients with certain diseases and disorders.  This is not to say that it cures them, or entirely is the source of healing, but it does create a positive effect in the healing process - even if this effect is one merely produced by a placebo of sorts. 

I suppose that my resistance to this is not the positive effect that the practice could have.  I do, however, think that the beliefs attached to it are invalid.  That is why that test that the little girl did is important.  There seems to be no way to back up specific claims about it and it becomes a mere placebo effect.  If that's the case, then those practicing it must understand that the placebo effect is what they are achieving, not the manipulation of some field that seems to contradict known physical rules.

This goes to the point of believing something without evidence.  If I am going to provide health care, I'm going to get as much information as I can.  That includes tests and trials to assure that the practices are demonstrably effective and that the concepts are not only possible, but probable.

If therapies based on false claims are allowed as part of medical treatment, they could have harmful consequences.  Specifically, allowing untested/unsubstantiated therapy into the realm of treatment could allow for other such claims to be used and viewed as alternatives or supplements.  Also, people pay for these services and are falsely sold a claim that isn't supported.  I do not believe that "complementary and alternative medicines" are beneficial overall to the practice of medicine and health care.

Wow, the beginning of that video blew my mind. Are those people all just hypnotized to think that they are getting hit? How does that even work?

TT has been shown to help in patients with depression, anxiety, PTSD in that it alleviates symptoms of the disorders. 

I was actually encouraged by medical staff at Johns Hopkins University Hospital to use such treatment if I could afford it or my health insurance could cover it, and it did help. 

My wife is a medical doctor who went to Johns Hopkins University. She laughed out loud when I read her these comments about Therapeutic Touch. She asked me to ask you which staff member-- I presume you meant a physician?-- recommended it to you at Johns Hopkins.

There is no "aura" around the body that can be shaped and manipulated with the hands. It is absolute baseless quackery. 

It's worth noting that peer-reviewed medical research has found that a therapeutic massage by a licensed massage therapist-- where the practitioner actually touches the recipient-- does produce relaxation, provide pain relief, and temporarily reduce hypertension, heart rate, depression, and anxiety.

If you want results, get a massage. Therapeutic Touch? You might as well flush your money down the toilet and inhale the mist for all the good it'll do you. Call it Therapeutic Flush. Maybe you'll get a placebo effect from that.

You might as well flush your money down the toilet and inhale the mist

Interesting... does that really work?

Interesting... does that really work?

Only if you believe, Matt. Only if you believe and send me $80 for every $20 you send thundering in a circle down the pipes.

You also need a special toilet installed in your house. It must be used for that purpose alone. You must buy it from me, and from me alone. It must be installed by plumbers I send to your house, who act under my approval. The toilet is $900. The installation is another $12,000. Act now and I'll throw in a magical blue water toilet cake for only $400 extra.

I know what you're asking, Matt. You're asking yourself: can I afford that? Well, can you afford NOT to do it? Every day is another lost opportunity. Act now.

To clarify, none of my TT experiences involved hovering hands over the body.  Actual touch was involved. I did go to a Reiki practitioner a couple of times and a massage therapist.  Both used actual physical touch - thus the Therapeutic Touch.  Both claimed energy field effects, but your statement proves my point:

It's worth noting that peer-reviewed medical research has found that a therapeutic massage by a licensed massage therapist-- where the practitioner actually touches the recipient-- does produce relaxation, provide pain relief, and temporarily reduce hypertension, heart rate, depression, and anxiety.

Your wife can laugh all she wants, maybe she'll laugh at you too.

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