Research Articles

Summarized by Barbara Litchfield, MA, HTCP

Research on the effectiveness of Healing Touch Energy Therapy on many types of chronic illnesses is ongoing. One recent pilot study completed by Michelle M. Gottschlich, PhD., RD, Richard J. Kagan, MD, FACS, Sue Saylors, RN, HTCP and Lois C. Cone, RT. ® (ARRT), HTCP, M. AmSAT, of Shriners Hospital in Cincinnati, OH, is quite promising. The following is a summary of the study.


Healing Touch (HT) is a non-invasive therapeutic procedure use to facilitate healing and restoration by bringing the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of the individual into balance. The technique utilizes the practitioner’s hands to clear, energize and poise the human and environment fields for conditions conducive to health and healing. Even though HT has been used for nearly two decades there still remains much to discover about its properties and effects.


The purpose of the study was to assess if the research documented benefits of Healing Touch (HT) could improve the quantity and quality of nocturnal sleep in children in the rehabilitative phrase of burn recovery.


Following informed consent and HIPAA release, a sleep history questionnaire was completed by each study participant to determine if the subject demonstrated evidence of any pre-existing sleep disorder. Subjects were randomized to determine the order of HT versus no HT treatment (whereby patients served as their own control) utilizing a two period crossover design.

Polysomnographic (PSG) recordings were obtained during the two nocturnal eight hour study periods to assess sleep. Healing Touch was provided by two certified practitioners who used the same HT techniques. The procedure involved a gentle use of the practitioner’s hands either directly on the clothed body or several inches above the person. Identical soft background music played for 45 minutes after the initiation of PSG on both nights. Using paired signed rank test, total sleep time, REM periods and the amount of time that patients spent in each stage of sleep were compared between HT and non-HT nights. In addition sleep activity was examined to determine the percent of time asleep during each of the first four hours on both nights; a paired t-test was used to compare HT and non-HT nights.


Eight burn patients undergoing treatment reconstructive care consented to the study. The mean age during the time of the HT procedure was 15.9 plus or minus 1.9 years. Patients were studied an average of 9.3 + 2.3 years post burn. All patients reported that they felt relaxed during the HT intervention.

Data analysis showed that HT had a significant effect on the quality and quantity of sleep. Total sleep time (TST) was enhanced (median 391 vs. 330 minutes, p= 0.05). Furthermore, the period of time asleep increased during the first 4 hours. The number of REM periods was also increased in the HT group (median 5 v 3.5, p=0.05).

The findings during HT indicating a reduction in sleep N1 and N2 and increases in the deeper N3 stages of sleep, while not significant, are encouraging. On HT nights, no effect was observed on number of awakenings or sequencing of HT intervention.

It is interesting that when the creators/implementers of the study compared their findings to age and gender specific norms their results corroborate prior findings of excessive N1 and deficient N3 restorative sleep in their sample.


Achieving adequate sleep remains a problem post burn. Based on their pilot data of eight patients, HT is associated with significant improvement in total sleep time (HT patients slept an extra hour). The percent of time asleep increased incrementally during the first four hours and more of REM sleep was observed. Furthermore sleep latency and REM latency were reduced with clinical improvements in N1, N2 and N3 sleep stages, however statistical significance was not achieved. HT appears to benefit the quantity and quality of restorative sleep in pediatric burn patients during the rehabilitative phase of recovery.


This preliminary and ongoing HT study forms the basis for encouraging greater attention to energy medicine in the treatment of sleep disorders including post burn dyssomnia.

Reprinted with permission from the authors of the study.

Barbara Litchfield is a wife, mother to two wonderful sons, grandmother, a Healing Touch Certified Practitioner and former Director of Faith Formation. She is also a Level 2 Reiki practitioner with the Usui tradition and a student of aromatherapy through ISHA.

After earning a Master’s Degree in Pastoral Ministry at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Cincinnati, Barbara combined her skills of reflective listening, intuitive guidance and Healing Touch to focus her practice on people with pain:  physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

After eleven years volunteering in church ministry and eight years as a volunteer at Hospice of Cincinnati she began a private practice.  Barbara brings a strong sense of pastoral communication and care to those she serves.  Her website is: and