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An excerpt from The Encyclopedia of Energy Medicine (Fairview Press)

The field of Energy Medicine is loaded with specialized terminology such as energy medicine, holistic medicine, complementary medicine, alternative medicine, integrative medicine, and so on. How does it all fit together?

All of these terms and many more come under the umbrella of holistic medicine, which is a philosophy of caregiving that actively looks at the whole person. It forms a system of health care catering to a cooperative relationship between the physical, emotional, mental, social, psychological, environmental, lifestyle and spiritual aspects of health and well-being. Holistic medicine includes all modalities of diagnosis and treatment, such as drugs and surgery, as well as natural and non-invasive procedures. It also emphasizes the responsibility of individuals to educate themselves and the importance of their personal efforts to maintain good health.

One of those specialized terms that has grown in popularity with the advent of holistic medicine is “modality.” Where it once referred mostly to a therapeutic method or agent used (especially in physical therapy), the term now has become a buzzword that reaches across all forms of medicine. Any one of the many different complementary medicine therapies, from chiropractic to aromatherapy to Healing Touch, is called a modality. I have even heard the word applied to various traditional medicine treatments, such as antibiotics.

Energy medicine is generally understood as a subset of holistic medicine that consists of two branches. One branch focuses on the use of electrical equipment to assess or stimulate a part of the body. One of the better-known examples of this is the Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation machine, or TENS, that encourages the body to produce pain-relieving chemicals by sending electrical impulses to the brain through a corresponding area of pain. The other branch of energy medicine refers to the therapeutic use of a practitioner’s or healer’s hands to assess and balance the human energy field and enable healing and wholeness.

Energy medicine is a complementary body of work that integrates other forms of medicine. It is not intended to be a substitute for any other form of medicine, nor do energy medicine practitioners consider it an “alternative” medicine. To illustrate, I like to use the example of a person who has the unfortunate experience of breaking his leg. It is a nasty break in which the skin is torn and the bone has snapped in half. On its own, the body can heal the leg – perhaps not with full functionality restored, but in such a way that at least the person will recover from this serious injury. If a surgeon sets the bone, however, the leg will heal faster and the patient most likely will be able to walk again. If the surgeon also stitches up the wound, the leg will heal with less scarring. If the wound is sterilized, the leg will heal with less chance of infection. If the patient is given antibiotics, he will have a chance to heal without complications such as a staph infection.

Similarly, energy healers believe that if they balance the disturbed field surrounding the injury, the leg will heal faster with fewer complications and less pain.

I began this work when I was offered a scholarship to the healing school of my choice. At the time I had no knowledge of energy work, and the reams of uncultivated information on the Internet did not help very much. I had heard of the Barbara Brennan School, but even with a scholarship it was more than I could afford at the time. I looked at Reiki, but I needed something with more science behind it.

My college major was nuclear engineering, and physics has always been of interest to me. Looking back, I think my interest in nuclear physics was really a search for God. Coming from a family of engineers, I needed science in order to study energy healing. Fortunately, someone I knew had taken Healing Touch. She put me in contact with the Healing Touch office and, to my delight, a class was scheduled in my neighborhood a few weeks later. I took the class and it changed my life completely. I had a lifetime of experience working with reason and logic, and I learned how to pair that with my natural intuition. Three years later, I was certified as a practitioner and two years after that I was certified as an instructor in Healing Touch.

One of the most important steps a person can take in the study of energy medicine is to discover how his or her body and mind recognize the energy field and the fluctuations within the field. Once you know how you personally recognize differences and similarities in the energy field, you can develop that ability with lots of practice. One reason there are so many energy healing models is because the founders of each modality have built a structure around their unique ability to detect differences and similarities in the field. Inquire into those that appeal to you, and remember to take care of your own physical and spiritual health. If you do not take care of yourself, you cannot take care of others.

The Encyclopedia of Energy Medicine features 65 different modalities in energy medicine, a detailed glossary and a section of contact information for legal issues concerning energy work. Each modality chapter discusses the history, a description of the modality and what makes it unique, and a discussion of what it is like to experience a session. For more information, visit


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