Spiritual healing (as in Therapeutic Touch, Healing Touch, Reiki, Prayer and related approaches) has been reported anecdotally to be of benefit for most of the ills of mankind. Research in the past few decades amply confirms this assertion. This paper discusses the applications of healing for infertility, pregnancy, labor and delivery. Though healers in the UK are forbidden by law to give healing around the time of birth without the supervision of a midwife or other medical personnel, healers are increasingly working alongside conventional caregivers in doctors' offices and hospitals. There is a definite place for healers to participate in bringing life into the world.
Healers and grateful parents report that labor and delivery are eased when healing is given and that babies born after receiving healing seem more alert and "connected" to those around them.
Healing is the oldest and most widely practiced complementary therapy. It is mentioned in ancient Egyptian, Sumerian and Chinese writings and is well known in the Old and New Testaments. Healing is practiced today in every known culture around the world.
There are many names for healing, testifying to a diversity of opinions about its nature. It is commonly called faith healing, implying that faith is necessary in either the healer, the healee, or both, in order for healing to occur. Spiritual healing attests to spiritual awareness which accompanies the giving and receiving of healing, and again suggests a religious basis for this ancient practice. This is the most common generic term used in the UK. In the US this term is often used for healings offered in a sports arena or circus tent by preachers who whip the audience into religious frenzies with cries of "Praise the Lord." The passing of the plate at these events, with questionable use of funds by the preachers, has somewhat tarnished the name of healing. Spiritual healing is used by some healers to indicate their awareness that spirits of departed souls or guardian angels participate in the healing process. Mental healing is the heading under which reports and studies of healing are commonly listed in the Index Medicus, reflecting Western society's suspicions that healing may be all in the mind. Psychic or psi healing acknowledges that intuitive awareness (clairsentience and telepathy) and intentional influence of a person over material aspects of the outside world (?mind over matter') may contribute to this ancient medical art. In Western Europe paranormal healing testifies to the difficulties Western science has in dealing with a treatment which does not fit within its theoretical models. In Eastern Europe bio?energy therapy is both an acknowledgement of a theoretical base for explaining healing and a legacy of the Communist period when anything spiritual was proscribed.
Approaches to Healing
Healing is given in one of two ways. In both instances healers begin by quieting their minds, or centering. This is imagery taken from the potter's wheel, where the clay can be worked as long as it is centered, but flies like haphazard thoughts in all directions when it is off-center. In touch healing, the healer gently touches the healee, while focusing mentally on conveying healing. Many variations on the theme of giving healing exist, such as the transfer of biological energies from healer to healee; joining with the healee to catalyze a change; channeling energies from nature, Christ, or God; and inviting Christ, healing spirits, guides, or God to bring about healing.
Depending upon their school or tradition of healing, healers may move their hands around a healee's body in set patterns, or may let their intuition guide their placement. In many cases healing may be given with the hands near to, but not touching the body. It is presumed that a biological energy field surrounds the body and that the energy field of the healer interacts with the energy field of the healee. Therapeutic Touch, developed by Dolores Krieger, Professor of Nursing at New York University, is an example of this approach (Krieger 1979).
The second approach is through absent or distant healing, in which the healer focuses mentally upon conveying healing, through either simple mental intent, meditation, or prayer. It appears that healing can be effective from any distance ? from a few feet to continents away. Reiki healing, developed from Japanese methods, provides both touch and absent heating (Rand 1991).
Healing is a gift that can be developed. Like any other gift, such as playing the piano, some come to it naturally, some learn quickly, and others have to apply themselves diligently to achieve even modest results. Others may be better off not engaging in these practices.
Healing for Infertility, Pregnancy, Labor and Delivery
Research demonstrates that healing is effective for postoperative pain, back pain, arthritis, AIDS, cardiovascular problems in people hospitalized in the Intensive Care Unit, headaches, hypertension, anxiety and depression (Benor, 2001a; 2001b).
Anecdotal reports indicate that healing can be a useful complement in the treatment of almost every known ailment. It is particularly useful in pains of all sorts, often effective within minutes. Arthritis, including the swelling and functional disabilities, responds well to healing. Other disorders which respond well to healing include neurological problems such as Multiple Sclerosis, cancers, and other chronic illnesses.
Infertility is a problem with many causes, some known and some as yet unknown. Common causes in women include prior infections of the genitourinary tract, and hormonal abnormalities. Abnormal sperm in the man may contribute to this, and this problem is growing, possibly due to toxins in the food chain and environment. Significant numbers of couples remain unsuccessful in conceiving despite the fact that no physical abnormalities are identified. It is presumed that a major portion of the latter are due to stress and emotional tension, particularly in the woman. It is not uncommon for women who have adopted children to conceive, presumably due to a more relaxed attitude towards conception when there is less pressure surrounding this issue.
Healers report that infertility of all causes may respond to healing, but especially when there is no known physical cause. Instances of conception following healing, where medical opinion stated there was little or no hope for conception, are also reported.
Pregnancy may be punctuated by nausea, vomiting, tiredness, backache plus all the symptoms of stress. Healers report that all of these problems may be helped by healing.
Labor and delivery are also fraught with anxieties and punctuated by pain. Difficulties may arise in the passage of the baby through the birth canal.
It is generally accepted that self-healing, in the form of relaxation and breathing exercises, can be helpful in labor and delivery. Midwives, nurses and doctors who are healers, and healers working under the supervision of medical personnel, report that spiritual healing can be very helpful ? in addition to self-healing approaches ? in facilitating smooth births, in reducing pain and for other problems.
Emotional problems may arise during pregnancy, around the time of labor, and after birth. This may be simply an overload of stress, where readjustments to pregnancy and altered relationships between mother and father themselves, as well as with their families, are the last straws to an overload of stresses from other sources. Pregnancy may raise all sorts of issues around sexuality, especially when there may have been sexual abuse earlier in the mother's life.
Sometimes the emotional problems are expressed through physical symptoms, such as backaches, headaches or severe nausea and vomiting. Healing may be enormously helpful in alleviating some of the emotional stresses during this period, and in alleviating postpartum depressions. Healing may also provide the extra energy and the safety nets required to bring to the surface old emotional hurts which may have been buried beneath conscious awareness. In such instances, counseling or psychotherapy in addition to healing may be helpful to the parents in sorting out their emotional lives. Continued healing, in parallel with this therapy, may enormously facilitate the depth, rate and completeness of the healing of emotional traumas. (Benor 1994; 1996/2001a)
In the US, anecdotal reports from many nurses indicate that their offers to provide healing in these situations are usually very well received and enormously helpful.
The UK Midwifery laws prohibit healers from giving healing during labor and delivery and in the 10 days after delivery. This has often been interpreted by healers to mean that healing is prohibited during this period. That is not the case. Healing IS permitted during labor and delivery.
A Composite Clinical Example
"Donna," a 23 year old nurse, suffered severe nausea and vomiting early in her first pregnancy, and severe backaches later on. While her GP was able to provide reassurance that these symptoms were likely to be temporary, there was little more he had to offer because Donna was adamant that she would have no medications during her pregnancy. Aromatherapy brought some relief with the backache, but this lasted only a day or two before the symptoms worsened again.
Healing brought modest relief in the first session. In the second session, a week later, Donna began sobbing uncontrollably. She did not understand why. Encouraged by the understanding healer, she simply allowed the emotions to release through her tears. That night she had a dream in which she recalled repeated sexual abuse at the hands of one of her uncles when she was a little girl. The healer referred her to a psychotherapist, who was able to help Donna begin to release the old, long-buried hurt, anger and overwhelming sense of betrayal, and to work through the emotional trauma of her abuse. The therapy helped Donna to understand her anxieties over sex and her excessive anger (which earlier she did not understand) with people of domineering personalities, and in certain situations that resonated with the buried memories of her abuse.
Evidence that Healing is Effective
Western science remains skeptical that healing could entail anything more than suggestion or placebo effects. The concept of biological energies or mental action from a distance is so alien to Western materialistic and reductionistic orientations that many health care professionals will not even stop to consider whether healing could be an effective therapy.
I experienced this skepticism myself when I was first introduced to healing. Being trained in psychology, medicine, psychiatric psychotherapy, and research, I knew all the ways people could produce psychosomatic reactions and all the ways these could be ameliorated or cleared away with suggestion, placebos, reassurance, emotional releases, relaxation, and affirmations. It was only in 1980, when I observed a healer bringing about a physical change in the course of half an hour, that I was startled into studying this phenomenon more seriously.
Surprisingly, there is more research on healing than on most of the other complementary therapies. I have found more than 191 controlled studies of healing on humans, animals, plants, bacteria, yeasts, cells in laboratory cultures, enzymes and more. Close to two thirds of these studies demonstrate significant effects (Benor 2001a; 2001b). I believe that this body of evidence convincingly supports a belief in the potency of healing as a therapy. If healing were a medicine, on the basis of this evidence, I believe it would be on the market.
The controlled studies lay to rest the skeptics' assertions that healing is no more than some variation of suggestion. The fact that nonhuman subjects respond to healing contradicts the common belief that faith is required in order for healing to occur.
A Theory to Explain Healing
Some medical skeptics claim that they would not recommend a modality which has no theoretical base to explain it. I believe that there is such a theory. Einstein's observation that matter and energy are interconvertible, E = mc2, has been amply confirmed by quantum physics. The body, like any other matter, may be addressed as matter or as energy (Benor, 1990). Newtonian medicine has been a little slow in appreciating this. Healers have been saying for centuries that they are addressing the energy aspect of illness.
Integrating Spiritual Healing with Conventional Medical Practice
In the US, there are numerous healing schools and organizations that teach healing. Training may involve a few weekend sessions (Reiki) or may require several months to four years of training (Brennan healing). Certification courses are offered by Therapeutic Touch and Healing Touch.
In the 1980s, UK healers joined to form the Confederation of Healing Organizations, with a unified Code of Conduct which received the approval of the Royal Colleges of Medicine, Surgery, Nursing and Midwifery. Healers have been allowed into National Health Service (NIIS) hospitals at the request of healees or doctors since the mid-1970s. Initially it was the healees who invited the healers to visit. Now there are hospital cancer, pain, arthritis, and cardiac rehabilitation units where doctors have invited the healers to work.
Physicians in the US and UK are increasingly referring patients to healers. Some family practitioners have healers working in their offices, and in the UK, several of these healers are paid by the NHS. Doctors and nurses in the UK have had Post-Graduate Education Accreditation approved courses to develop their own healing gifts.
Healing is cost-effective. Dr Michael Dixon, a GP in Devon, demonstrated significant savings in an audit of 25 patients treated by a healer in his practice. Over a period of 6 months, Gill White, the healer, treated these people, who had chronic problems for which Dr Dixon had little more to offer with allopathic approaches. She saved Dr. Dixon's practice over $1000 in medication costs and reduced by one third the numbers of visits of these patients to his office (Dixon 1994).
There is a Doctor-Healer Network in the UK with groups that hold meetings in cities around the UK. Doctors, nurses, and other health care practitioners meet with spiritual healers and other complementary therapists to seminar on how to work together.
Finding a Healer
The chemistry between healee and healer is very important and rather similar to the relationship between client and counselor or psychotherapist. It is best if one can have a personal recommendation from someone who has had a positive experience with a healer. When this is not possible, one can obtain the names of local healers from the resources listed on the WholisticHealingResearch.com site, and in the UK by contacting the National Federation of Spiritual Healers. If healing from one healer does not prove helpful, it is quite possible that healing from another healer could produce results.
It is worthwhile asking a little about the healer before visiting, to find out if he or she has had experience or, better yet. success with the problem which you wish to address. However, healing is very variable and unpredictable in its results. People often report that the problem which brought them to a healer did not respond, but any of several other problems were markedly improved even when these were not consciously addressed by the healer.
Healing treatments may anywhere between 5 minutes and an hour's duration or more, although most take around 30-60 minutes. Weekly visits over several months may be needed for maximal benefit. Some healers work without fees, some for donations, and some charge a modest fee.
Spiritual Dimensions of Healing in Pregnancy and Childbirth
Beyond treating problems is the introduction of a healing atmosphere in the miracle of bringing life into the world. The birthing process is a time when parents and child are particularly open to exploring new ways of being in the world. Healing and counseling can be enormously helpful to parents in adjusting to the roles of being mother and father. It is commonly assumed that bonding between parents and babies occurs primarily at birth. It is also assumed that the fetus is minimally responsive to the environment outside the womb. Both of these assumptions are being revised in the light of recent findings.
Parents can learn to communicate with their babies in the womb. At the level of sensory interactions, touch and sounds have been shown to influence the fetus. For instance, babies in hospital nurseries were quieter when theme music was played from soap operas which their mothers had watched regularly during pregnancy. At deeper levels of communication, intuitive perceptions can be developed between parents and children. In some instances, spiritual awarenesses of the meanings of the relationships between the child and their family come to light.
Hopefully, greater awareness of the benefits of healing, among healers and conventional health caregivers alike, will make these therapeutic benefits available to more people.
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Benor, Daniel J, Healing Research: Volume I, (Professional Supplement) Spiritual Healing: Scientific Validation of a Healing Revolution, Southfield, MI: Vision Publications, 2001(b).
Benor, Daniel J. Healing Research, Volume II: (Professional edition) Consciousness, Bioenergy and Healing, Medford, NJ: Wholistic Healing Press, 2004.
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An earlier version of this article was published as Benor, Daniel J. Spiritual healing for infertility, pregnancy, labour and delivery, Complementary Therapies in Nursing and Midwifery 1996, 2, 106-109.
Resources on spiritual healing
Benor, Daniel J, Healing Research: Volume I, (Popular edition)
Spiritual Healing: Scientific Validation of a Healing Revolution, Bellmawr, NJ: Wholistic Healing Publications 2007 (Orig. 2001)
Healers describe their work, research in parapsychology as a context for understanding healing, brief summaries of 191 randomized controlled studies, pilot studies. (FREE postage in the US)
Benor, Daniel J, Healing Research: Volume I, (Professional Supplement)
Spiritual Healing: Scientific Validation of a Healing Revolution,
Southfield, MI: Vision Publications, 2001.
Only the annotated, critiqued 191 randomized controlled studies and the pilot studies - described in much greater detail, including statistical information. (FREE postage in the US)
Resources for exploring messages from your body
WHEE: Whole Health - Easily and Effectively®
Wholistic Hybrid derived from EMDR and EFT
Potent self-healing method for releasing emotional and physical stress, pains, residues of traumas
Workbook Paperback - WHEE for pain Articles Workshops
Resources for explaining the mind-body connection
Benor, Daniel J. Healing Research, Volume II: (Professional edition)
Consciousness, Bioenergy and Healing, Bellmawr, NJ: Wholistic Healing Publications 2004.
Thorough review of research validating the efficacy of self-healing, wholistic complementary/ alternative medicine (CAM), biological energies, and environmental interactions with bioenergies.
“Book of the Year” award - The Scientific and Medical Network, UK
Paperback, CD-ROM or e-Book of Consciousness, Bioenergy and Healing
(15% author’s discount on V2. Professional edition paperback and CD-ROM worldwide, and free postage in the US)
Benor, Daniel J. Healing Research, Volume II: (Popular edition)
How Can I Heal What Hurts? Wholistic Healing and Bioenergies,Bellmawr, NJ: Wholistic Healing Publications 2005
Popular edition Explains self-healing, wholistic complementary/ alternative medicine (CAM) and bioenergies, and discusses ways in which
you can heal yourself.
(15% author’s discount on V2. Popular edition paperback worldwide, and free postage in the US )
Develop and deepen your intuition and personal spirituality
Healing Research, V. 3
Personal Spirituality: Science, Spirit and the Eternal Soul, Bellmawr, NJ: Wholistic Healing Publications (November 2006)
Reaching Higher and Deeper
Workbook for Healing Research, Volume 3: Personal Spirituality:
Bellmawr, NJ: Wholistic Healing Publications 2007
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