Compassionate Touch Therapy for Patients

January 16, 2011
School of Medicine, Kochi

Can a compassionate touch enhance the physical and psychological well being of a patient?

“Absolutely,” says Shawnee Isaac Smith, founder of the Heart Touch Project, California, USA. “We try to increase the awareness of healthcare providers so that they may connect with the suffering through touch therapy.”

Touch Therapy

“A mere touch may not be a compassionate touch. It is the quality of the touch that matters. Because of so much emphasis on charting and paperwork, often healthcare practitioners forget to make a deep connection with the patient. It is necessary to develop that deep connection to aid proper and quick healing.”

Ms. Smith and her team were recently at Amrita’s Health Sciences campus for a one-day program on compassionate touch therapy.

In a way, their sessions reinforced what health practitioners at the campus already know and do.

“A physical contact made in a compassionate touch session should be informed, focused, conscious, unconditional, non-intrusive and therapeutic,” stated Ms. Smith.

Touch Therapy

Explaining the benefits, Ms. Smith pointed out that gentle strokes and pats help reduce patient anxiety and muscular tension. They also alleviate discomfort and improve circulation. The immune systems is boosted and minor aches and pains are relieved.

Elaborating on various touch therapy strokes, Ms. Smith spoke about resting strokes, effleurage and nerve strokes.

“A resting stroke involves no movement but it requires that you touch your patient with a therapeutic intent. When you stop moving and lightly rest your relaxed hands, fingers or arms on the patient for several seconds, that is considered to be a resting stroke. It is a good stroke to use when beginning touch therapy.”

Touch Therapy

“Effleurage is an elongated, slow stroke that helps decrease muscle tension and relieves pain. When this stroke is directed towards the heart, it assists circulatory enhancement. Superficial effleurage strokes can be directed to the face and small areas of the body.”

“Nerve strokes are very light, feathery effleurage strokes applied in long, sweeping motions that are slow or fast. They are directed from head to toe via top of the head, shoulders, elbows, hands, from hands to the patient’s legs, knees and feet.

Ms. Smith and her team then demonstrated these various touch therapy strokes to the participants.

Participants found the practical sessions rejuvenating; and they noted that the American team was only reiterating what they already knew.

Touch Therapy

The session was organized by the Department of Pain and Palliation at the Amrita School of Medicine.

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