Amanda Coakley, RN, PhD, demonstrates therapeutic touch on a nursing colleague
Amanda Coakley, RN, PhD, demonstrates therapeutic touch on a nursing colleague

Amanda Bulette Coakley RN, PhD, is a Staff Specialist and Nurse Scientist in the Department of Nursing. Her research focuses on complementary and integrative therapies and their effect on patients and staff. She has authored numerous articles on Therapeutic Touch and Pet Therapy.

Her most recent study, "Exploring the Experience and Impact of Therapeutic Touch Treatments to Nurse Colleagues," was funded by the National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health.


What is Therapeutic Touch?

Therapeutic Touch (TT) is a complementary healing modality used primarily by nurses to help people with discomfort and anxiety. It works with the individual’s energy field (located a couple of inches away from their skin) to move energy and help people be more comfortable.

What got you interested in the practice? Was it something you saw as a nurse?

I learned about it from a professor when I was a doctoral student at Boston College twenty years ago. I thought it was a wonderful, non-invasive, non-pharmacologic way to help people decrease their anxiety and discomfort, and it can often help people sleep better as well.

What are the challenges of quantifying the effects of therapeutic touch from a research standpoint?

There are many studies that have documented that TT decreases anxiety and discomfort, but it is difficult to explain how it works. Many patients do not necessarily care how it works. They are just happy to have an intervention that helps them to sleep better, decreases their anxiety and discomfort without the need for medication. However, there are clinicians who feel as if they need to understand how an intervention like TT works [before they will endorse its use].

Where do you hope the research will go?

I hope that additional research can demonstrate how TT works by conducting quantitative research studies that focus on biomarkers, as well as additional qualitative research that focuses on the experiences of patients and nurses.

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