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Sharp Health News

Reducing anxiety with a healing touch

April 12, 2016

Reducing anxiety with a healing touch

Members of the Integrative Therapy Volunteer Program at Sharp HospiceCare.

Imagine this: warmth radiates from your knees and ankles as Nan gently rests her palms on them. Her palms remain there for a few minutes before she lifts and places them down again on another part of your body. This is Healing Touch — an integrative therapy offered at Sharp HospiceCare. Nan is one of approximately 17 hospice volunteers and 30 hospice aides trained in integrative therapies like Healing Touch.

Sharp HospiceCare has offered integrative therapies for more than 10 years, according to Lisa Goodman, who never imagined that a weekend training course on Healing Touch would lead to a job as integrative healing coordinator at Sharp Grossmont Hospital.

Goodman previously led the integrative therapies program for Sharp HospiceCare, and now oversees the services at Sharp Grossmont Hospital. She is often asked about the difference between Healing Touch and reiki therapy, which is also offered to patients and caregivers. Healing Touch, a program developed by a nurse named Janet Mentgen, involves a practitioner placing their hands on a patient in various prescribed techniques to address specific physical, mental and emotional health issues. Reiki is a Japanese energy healing therapy where practitioners use their hands on or above the patient’s body to promote a multisystem relaxation response involving the body, mind and spirit.

“Compared to Healing Touch, reiki is a bit more intuitive,” says Goodman. “Also, there are sacred symbols associated with reiki that we use in the hospice setting to assist with symptoms related to the dying process. In conjunction with traditional comfort measures, reiki can help lessen pain and anxiety, and promote restful sleep.”

Sharp HospiceCare patients may receive a weekly combination of integrated therapies, which include Healing Touch, reiki, comfort massage, guided imagery and aromatherapy, as part of their care from hospice aides. In addition, volunteers provide Healing Touch to caregivers to ease the stress of caring for loved ones.

“During a recent caregiving session, I included reiki and the caregiver saw great explosions of bright colors — colors she hasn’t experienced in a long time,” says Linda Husar, integrative therapies volunteer. “She actually cried. She said that she’s been so numb she has been unable to cry. Feeling cut off from her emotions, she told me that she would not have been able to be there for her patients without this work.”

Learn more about integrative and complementary medicine at Sharp.

For the media: To speak with someone about reiki, Healing Touch and other integrative therapies at Sharp, contact Senior Public Relations Specialist Erica Carlson at

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