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Diane Gagnon: Healing through therapeutic touch
by Kris Svela
Healing through energy has had its supporters and detractors over the centuries it has been practiced.
There are those who dismiss healing people by simply running a hand over their bodies as akin to “voodooism,” while others faithfully believe in the merits of what has become known as “therapeutic touch (TT).”
Hospice Wellington volunteers Diane Gagnon and Lilly Tsujita are therapeutic touch practitioners and through their experience have seen the merits of the service offered to patients being treated for cancer at Groves Memorial Community Hospital’s oncology department.
The intent, according to them, is not to heal patients of the cancer they have, but to diminish the side effects associated with chemotherapy treatment.
“[Therapeutic touch] is considered a complementary modality or vehicle in that it is meant to complement traditional treatments and therapies and have a positive impact on how you are feeling,” states an information brochure from Hospice Wellington.
“Practitioners use their hands as the instrument of their treatments, usually working four to six inches above your body.”
According to Hospice Wellington, the procedure promotes relaxation, reduces feelings of anxiety, increases the effectiveness of traditional pain and symptom treatments, changes the perception of pain and certain symptoms, and facilitates the body’s natural restorative processes.
The service is extended only after the client has consented and can include cancer patients, their caregivers and family.
Gagnon has been practicing therapeutic touch for about seven years and is Reiki master, practicing another touch therapy that tends to be more hands-on than therapeutic touch. She is a retired teacher who was recognized for her volunteer work earlier this year by Wellington County.
Tsujita is a retired occupational health nurse who has practiced Reiki since it was first introduced at Groves.
“We started the therapeutic touch program three years ago in oncology when Hospice brought it in,” Tsujita said.
As volunteers for Hospice and for the hospital, they require ongoing training on procedures in place by both organizations, including patient confidentiality.
“Both Diane and I try to promote therapeutic touch,” Tsujita added.
“We’re working with your energy for yourself,” Gagnon explained about the service.
The procedure starts with the practitioner meditating so they can concentrate on the energy received from the client.
With her years of experience, Gagnon can feel what treatment is needed and what part of the body she has to concentrate on. It’s essential according to her not to transfer energy between the practitioner and client.
“It’s working your energy field and we do not send our energy to you,” she said. “I just know where the pain is. If I start to feel too much that’s not healthy.”
“We help you help yourself,” Tsujita added.
Hospice information states, “Therapeutic Touch is a process that is always individualized and usually does not exceed 20 minutes. You remain fully clothed. Treatments can be done without physical touching, and can be offered while sitting, lying or standing. With your permission, touching shoulders, arms, hands and feet may be included in the session. Your comfort is the most important aspect of the treatment.”
“The person who is receiving therapeutic treatment has to accept it,” Gagnon said of the consent needed. “If a client in oncology doesn’t want to receive it, we don’t.”
“We consider it complimentary,” Tsujita said of the service’s place in overall treatment.
“We do it here because we’re local,” Gagnon said of the reason for the service at Groves.
Gagnon lives in Elora and Tsujita lives in Fergus.
As a Hospice Wellington volunteer, Gagnon has also taken part in other programs offered by the organization and dealing with bereavement and end of life issues, including the “walk with a purpose” program that takes those affected by death on community walks where they can talk about their experience with a trained counselor.
She also runs a wellness program in a room supplied by the hospital that meets weekly for coffee and discussions led by those attending.
Therapeutic touch sessions are done, in most cases, without having to touch the recipients. Hands are passed over the client’s body always from head to toe to direct any negative energy out of the body.
What they are tracking is what they describe as “dis-ease.” It’s a negative energy that causes unease in the energy field that envelops all humans, proponents say.
“We each have an energy field which surrounds the physical body, made up of he same energy which supports all living matter,” information from Hospice Wellington information states. “Since man is an open system (that is, he affects and is affected by things and conditions outside him/her self), this energy field is caused to fluctuate in size, shape, climate and complexion.
“When there is illness or injury or disease within the body, there is a reflection of same in the energy field. Such reflections can be identified and assessed by the practitioner, change can be made in the energy flow of the field and balance can be restored. The client absorbs this offered energy at the appropriate rate, feels altered and re-establishes energy patterns in a more satisfactory manner. Thus, the client can be said to do his/her healing.”
In North America the practice has been around since the early 1970s when it was championed by Dolores Krieger, PhD, of New York University.
However, according to Gagnon, energy healing dates back to ancient cultures in China and other Asian countries.
Gagnon and Tsujita believe it is also gaining greater acceptance in this part of the county and among medical professionals and the public. Both have been invited by churches to speak on the topic.
It’s a view shared by oncology nurse Georgina McCulloch.
“Our patients have reported that the therapeutic touch treatment is calming, meditative, relaxing and it makes their chemotherapy treatment more pleasant,” McCulloch said.
Practitioners usually gather once a year to discuss therapy improvements and practice on each other.
“We sit and talk about things, like new ideas,” Tsujita said, referring to ongoing training practitioners need to hone their skills. “We do practice to make sure we won’t deviate from what the therapeutic touch is doing. We all do it the same way.”
Tsujita sees traditional and holistic medicine working in tandem.
“I knew when I retired holistic medicine was where I felt comfortable and I knew this worked,” she said of her decision to practice therapeutic touch.
“It’s not invasive, you can’t damage anything and it does promote healing.”
Both are enjoying their volunteer work and the work done by countless volunteers associated with Groves.
“The volunteers here are so dedicated to the hospital and it’s amazing,” Tsujita said.
Gagnon added, “The (clients) bring back so much. They’re appreciation is everything.”
Vol 46 Issue 51
December 20, 2013
The Wellington Advertiser
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