Biofield therapies are defined as approaches which work directly with the subtle energy field that surround the body. The subtle energy system is made up of three components: meridians, chakras, and the biofield or aura. Meridians are lines of energy that run throughout the body and they are the part of the energy system that acupuncture and Emotional Freedom Techniques work with. Chakras are spinning wheels of energy located along the center of the body from the bottom to the top.
The biofield is a large field of energy that surrounds and extends out from the body about 8 feet. No part of the energy system is visible to the human eye but the biofield can be felt with the hands, often through either pressure or temperature changes. Some practitioners can see colors or shapes, but that is not the most common way that healers work with the biofield. In biofield therapy, most practitioners approach the process with an intention to serve the highest good of the client. Clients lay on a massage table and the practitioner will assess the health of the energy field with their hands. They will then use their hands to send energy to the client, in some cases putting their hands directly on the client and in some cases, just putting their hands near their client without touching. Biofield therapies are often used for stress reduction, and overall physical, mental, and emotional health improvement. Some individuals encounter biofield therapies who value wellness and desire to prevent problems before they can begin. Others encounter biofield therapies after they have had a health problem as an adjunctive form of treatment. Some people value and use biofield therapies as forms of health improvement, as treatment for physical challenges, as mental health supports, as a part of spiritual practice, or all of the above. Biofield therapies are dynamic and not linear in nature so they are accessible to a wide variety of individuals and their values and wellness needs.
The most common forms of biofield healing are Reiki, Healing Touch, and Therapeutic Touch. There are other forms, such as Pranic Healing, that are far less common. The biofield therapies share certain elements in common: there are little to no side effects and they are not invasive, they are economical, they are effective, and they don’t require that the client “believe in it” for it to be effective. Historically, these therapies have been less researched but the research has been growing in recent years and many therapies have begun to be used in hospitals and other health care settings to support conventional medical treatment.
Reiki is the most common form of biofield therapy and has become widespread in the past 10 years in the US. It was founded by Mikao Usui in the early 1900s in Japan. Reiki is a gentle healing experience where practitioners open themselves and the client up to universal life force energy with the intention to help the client heal for their highest good. The universal life force energy completes the healing, not the individuals involved. Practitioners use about 13 hand positions on the body, often corresponding to chakra positions. It has no agenda and is not tied to any specific religion, but is considered to be a spiritual practice, along with a healing one. Reiki training is offered at three levels: Reiki I, II, and Reiki Master training. Training is offered through lineages, much like indigenous healing practices, and is not overseen by one specific body. However, Reiki does have a strong professional association that is an important resource for education and ethics, the International Association of Reiki Professionals. Reiki has become an integral part of hospital care around the country, often used for recovery from procedures or to manage stress around health issues. Reiki has been shown to help with recovery after hospital procedures, stress reduction and prevention, anxiety, depression, pain reduction, improve resilience and boost immune supports, and for physical and mental health support for cancer patients.
Healing Touch is another common form of biofield healing offered in the US. It was founded by Janet Mentgen, a nurse, in 1989. Healing Touch also begins with an intention to serve the highest good of the client but it also has a lot more structure to it than Reiki. It differs from Reiki in that the assumption of healing is that the practitioner and the client complete the healing using the hand positions and clearing the energy: it is not specifically a spiritual process, although many practitioners approach it that way. Healing is understood to occur through shifts in the energy and through the process of touch itself. It is a supervised training program that uses manuals for specific hands-on healing positions. These positions vary depending on what the client presents with so practitioners make decisions and use the manual to guide the treatment, at least initially. Healing Touch requires 5 levels (courses or phases) before a practitioner can receive certification. It requires extensive case practice and supervision before a practitioner is certified. Healing Touch Program is the home of training and oversight of the HT practitioners. Healing Touch has been shown to assist with anxiety, depression, trauma, pain reduction, and cancer, among others.
Other forms of biofield healing exist such as Therapeutic Touch, which is a precursor to Healing Touch and Pranic Healing. It was founded by nursing professor Dolores Krieger and healer Dora Kunz in the 1970s in New York City and was the first program to directly connect biofield healing to healthcare. Currently, most people interested in biofield healing seek out Reiki and Healing Touch more than Therapeutic Touch but TT established an important foundation for biofield healing training and practice in the US.
Pranic Healing is a comprehensive healing program established by Grandmaster Choa Kok Sui in the late 20th century. It works with the biofield and the chakras, but it also uses colors and crystals in the healing process. It consists of a minimum of 6 levels of training and uses even more extensive manuals than Healing Touch. It is a very intensive detoxifying type of biofield healing and the training is highly supervised with a strong oversight process. It also follows the lineage system, similar to Reiki, and currently there are very few students of Grandmaster Choa who oversee the training which is likely why it is less well-known at this time.
As research progresses on the various biofield therapies, it would benefit counselors to become aware of how they can support mental health treatment. Increasing numbers of clients are seeking these approaches out and counselors have also become more curious about how they can support their work as well. Biofield therapies are a gentle but powerful form of healing that can be an asset to integrative health and wellness.
Dr. Christine Berger is an assistant professor of counseling and is licensed as a professional counselor in Maryland and Virginia. She received her Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision from Loyola University Maryland in 2009. Her research interests focus on the mental health applications of complementary and integrative therapies such as Emotional Freedom Techniques, energy healing, yoga, meditation, and mindfulness and she has published nationally on these topics. She is also a member of the executive board of the American Counseling Association division, the Association of Creativity in Counseling, and has been the Secretary of the Virginia Association of Counselor Education and Supervision. As a joint endeavor with Old Dominion University and the Integrative Therapies Institute, she offers training in complementary and integrative therapies to licensed professional counselors.
Suzan K. Thompson, Ph.D. is a licensed professional counselor in Virginia with over 30 years’ experience. She helps adults learn practical tools and strategies to manage anxiety, depression and trauma. Dr. Thompson also offers training in supervision as well as complementary and integrative therapies to professional counselors. Please visit: www.IntegrativeCounselingWellness.com