Therapy Review #3 : Healing Hands
Alison Grunwald, a student at the Highgate Healing centre, examines new evidence that spiritual healing works…
In an unassuming building in Pond Square, Highgate, London, a dedicated group of ordinary people are doing some truly remarkable things. They are all healers, using the harnessed energy which flows through their hands to bring relief from pain and anxiety to whoever walks through the door. All members of The Healing Trust, formerly known as the NFSH, these gifted men and women volunteer each Tuesday evening to ease conditions as diverse as arthritis, migraine, cancer, ME, depression and insomnia. They do not replace vital medical care but work alongside the treatments allopathic doctors provide. Energy or spiritual healing is experiencing something of a revival at a time when family doctors are sometimes treated as the ‘new clergy’ and need to know what to do when patients come to them lacking meaning and purpose in life. Often with only a few minutes to offer each patient, doctors face mounting pressures.
Retired Radlett GP Alan Byers thinks healing is a tool worth using. He explains, ‘It’s a good idea to employ lots of different resources, like healing, because the body’s defence mechanisms and immune system may work better when these are used.’ For the sceptical – and this includes many of those trying healing for the first time – a new book by Dorset healer, Sandy Edwards, provides fascinating reading. Healing in a Hospital is the result of a painstaking study of NHS patients attending a clinic for longstanding, painful bowel disorders. Given five healing sessions and asked to fill out self-assessment questionnaires over a number of weeks, the results were then collated by university researchers and showed clearly that the quality of the patients’ lives had improved substantially and remained good months later. This controlled medical trial of healing took place over two years and involved 200 hospital patients.
What to Expect
Whatever troubles visitors bring through the door of the Highgate centre, they are met with a smiling welcome, an empathic listening ear and the offer of help. Appointments are not required and most clients choose to come for several weekly 20-minute healing sessions as their health and mood improve. It’s not only humans that feel the benefits: one of the centre’s recent success stories is Thomas, a leonine 18-year-old Maine Coon cat, brought in at the end of last year by his owner, Jane, herself a regular visitor. She explains, ‘I brought Thomas in for pain in his stomach which is caused by an inflammatory condition. He also suffers from thyroid and kidney disease. There is an experienced animal healer at the centre and I felt I needed extra help because Thomas had lost a lot of weight.’ Jane had been taking Thomas to the vet but was delighted to see how much he improved once the healing had commenced. ‘Since receiving healing his weight has stabilised, he’s in less pain and he bathes in the calmness and friendliness at the centre,’ she said. Thomas was not the only one to be introduced to healing by Jane. Her friend and fellow Hornsey resident, Nora, says she has felt tangible benefits. ‘Jane brought me because I was suffering from vertigo and I had gout. These conditions were being treated by the GP, but I also had terrible pain in my feet. Since coming to the centre I hardly ever have to take my anti-inflammatory tablets at all. It has benefitted me immensely. ‘For me, it’s a time when I can totally switch off and my whole body relaxes from head to toe. After my first healing,
I realised I never really relaxed.’
Healing has been taking place at the United Reformed church, built in 1859, for over 25 years. Centre chair, Jo Pethybridge, a ceramicist and artist, feels the peaceful church is highly conducive to healing. ‘It is a lovely space with strong, beautiful energy. A great advantage is that it has a reception area outside of the healing space so we can meet and greet, and talk to clients, and offer a cup of tea without disturbing the healing.’ Although healing is free to anyone in financial need, a small donation of £6 is otherwise requested, in order to offset rental and running costs. Anything over and above this is gratefully received. Jo says, ‘We have some regular clients and some who will suddenly reappear six months or a year later. We also have a distant-healing book, which we keep in the centre of our healing circle with a candle and crystals. We usually finish the evening with a short distant healing session. Unfortunately, people don’t know we are here and are often surprised. Our challenge is letting people know.’
Spreading the Word
Nora, 59, believes the centre could be busier than it is, and has her own theory as to why this is not the case. With around eight healers on hand (some students, but most fully accredited by The Healing Trust), there is certainly space available for more clients to reap the benefits on offer. She explains, ‘People are sceptical about healing. My husband said, “It’s not a cult, is it?” People think healing is voodoo; they are scared and it can be unnerving to think you are dabbling in the unknown.’ Jane, an artist and poet, tells me, ‘I heard about the centre from a friend who is also a healer. For me, the healing is helpful because it helps me cope with pain. It balances me and calms me down at all levels. It stops me being overwhelmed. ‘I find the centre incredibly calm. The healers are exceptional; they are gently supportive and they take you as you are. I feel fully recognised and acknowledged.’ But what about people who just don’t believe healing works? Jane feels that the word ‘healing’ might be off-putting if it is taken to mean a quick fix. She says, ‘Healing is totally complementary and supportive of other traditions. At some level, the healers can pick up on where your problems are. You don’t have to believe in it but something is going on. ‘When I started coming for healing sessions things started to stabilise.
Subtle improvements started to occur.
It’s like being cocooned in a warm bubble of love for half an hour, where you feel totally safe.’