I have found energy work to be very effective in treating many kinds of emotional issues, notably sexual abuse recovery. Combining energy work treatment with standard “talking” therapy is especially effective. Because most energy work clients and practitioners are women, I will refer to them in this article as “she.” I will refer to “talking” therapy practitioners as psychotherapists, but counselors, psychiatrists, and other types of therapists are included.

Energy Work in General

In its simplest form, energy healing is instinctive to all of us. What is the first thing you do when you feel pain? You hold the part of your body that hurts. Energy from our hands soothes pain. Professional hands-on energy work practitioners are trained to bring large amounts of healing energies into their hands. They learn techniques to pass these energies on to clients, and to perceive energy. Though their abilities may appear paranormal, they are no more unusual than those of a piano tuner who can hear when a key is vibrating a few times a second slower than it should, or a perfumer who can identify ten components in a fragrance by smell alone.

For an in-depth, scientific explanation of how energy work treatment brings physical healing, see “Energy Work: The Basics.”

Energy Work and Abuse Recovery

Besides bringing physical healing, energy work assists abuse recovery by helping the client release “body memory” of the trauma. The body has its own memory in addition to one’s mental memories. For example, have you ever found your body doing one thing while your mind wanted to do another? Perhaps you found yourself walking away from someone when you wanted to stay. Or you smelled a fragrance and your body responded to it before you recognized what it was or of what it reminded you. (You may never have consciously discovered what it was.) Or you watched a movie, and though you thought you were perfectly calm, your body was trembling. These are examples of body-memory.

When someone experiences trauma, her body stores its own experience which is separate from her thoughts. This is why memory can sometimes be unlocked by being touched in a certain way—the body-memory is triggered. Traumatic body-memory causes people to react to things that happen now with responses relating to the past trauma. Energy work can help release body memory so as to clear these inappropriate or harmful responses.

The release can take various forms. The energy worker perceives the change in the energy system or energy flow. Sometimes the client is fully aware of what is being released by her body. Sometimes she is aware of a release but doesn’t consciously know its content. Sometimes she does not know a release has occurred until she later notices that symptoms or behaviors have changed or pain has disappeared.

Another effect of energy work has to do with psychological defense systems. Emotional defenses impact the energy body and can usually be perceived by the energy work practitioner. She can help the client become aware of these, as appropriate. Depending on the impact of these defenses on her health and functioning, the client then has choices to make, which a psychotherapist can help her address. The energy work can enable her to become aware of the defenses much sooner than she otherwise would. And whether or not she can change her behavior, or wants to, energy work can release the energy tied up in these defenses so the client can be healthier. This is similar to a physical therapist moving a patient’s numb leg to keep the muscles healthy until the leg heals and the patient can move it herself.

Another benefit of energy work is stress management. Energy work brings complete relaxation, allowing the client an hour of deep rest and peace of mind. Stress hormones, such as adrenaline, return to normal levels, allowing body systems to stabilize.

Certain energy work techniques can be done by the client at the time stress occurs, to minimize its effects on her. With some simple energy work training, a client can control many of the symptoms of anxiety, including those of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This can give her enough stability to function, while addressing the underlying issues with a psychotherapist.

Case Notes

I use a variety of energy therapies, primarily hands-on techniques. The client, fully clothed, lies on a table or sits in a recliner. I place my hands above or very gently on various parts of her body. No pressure is applied and I do not move my hands or her body. The treatment lasts from an hour to an hour and a half.

Different types of energy, applied in various ways, feel different to the client. Ch’i or ki energy usually feels deeply loving and peaceful so I always use it with sexual abuse survivors. I also use Earth Energies, which are of the same rhythm and wave frequencies as our bodies. Abuse survivors frequently “withdraw” from certain parts of their bodies, in terms of their awareness, self-identification, and energy flow. Earth Energies are nourishing in these cases and help people reconnect.

The results may be quite simple. One client, after deeply relaxing, began to cry hard. She told me she hadn’t been able to cry, though she had wanted to. The need for emotional release was all that was blocking her at that point and one session was all that was required.

For sexual abuse survivors, body issues are a primary factor. Part of the emotional healing hands-on energy therapy brings is because of the healing nature of touch itself. Even without abuse, in our society many of us have issues about touch. Some of us weren’t touched enough as infants or children. Some of us are touched only when making love; some never by people of our own sex, and some never by people of the opposite sex. Some of us are touched only when the toucher wants something from us or only in confrontation. For many people there are a myriad of lacks, confusions, and fears in the simple act of touching or being touched.

One client found the energy work touch, which felt loving to her because of the ki energy, to be almost unbearable. She would clench her fists and grit her teeth and wait for it to be over. During the third session she began to accept that no abuse would follow this loving touch. She relaxed and began to look forward to it and enjoy it. Eventually she learned a simple technique and began to self-treat. In time she made friends with her body, loving and accepting it, learning to relax more and more, and eventually to trust being touched.

When touch is an obstructing issue, I suggest that the client begin with an energy worker of the opposite sex from the abuser. When healing has gone as far as it can, they then change to a therapist of the abuser’s sex. This brings up the deeper fears and helps them to be resolved.

Energy work can reach complex issues. A client I will call Joe had a sexually abusive father, and a mother who could not protect him and so pretended it was not happening. As an adult, Joe had trouble making friends with other men and had disabling fears in his relationships with women. Though quite skilled in many areas of living, he had little sense of self-worth. He discovered the sexual abuse in his late 40’s during psychotherapy. Interspersed with his work with me, Joe received short-term energy work from male practitioners.

First, energy work cleared some of the effects of the trauma from his energy body, which led to alleviation of several physical problems. By working with me, Joe learned that a woman’s touch can nourish and heal. When he felt the loving touch of energy work from a man, the void in his life from his father’s lack of love began to be filled. His fear of other men began to lessen, as did the resulting swings from belittling himself to aggrandizing himself in comparison to them. Joe had not yet finished his treatment when I relocated to another part of the country. Continuing goals were to clear the rest of the damage done to aspects of his energy body relating to emotions and, through increasing self-esteem, to see the end of feeling himself responsible as a child for his parents’ actions.

Going to any type of therapist is healing in part because one is listened to, respected, and cared for. This can be taken a step further when the client learns a technique and begins to self-treat. Helping oneself heal, and thus feeling more and more in control, is exciting and vastly empowering for an abuse survivor. It has a profound effect on self-image and on how she views her life. It helps her move from a “victim” belief system to one of optimism.

In Summary

Beneficial psychological effects of energy work come from the physical healing, from the revelation of emotional defense systems, from releasing body memory, from working intimately with men and women in a safe environment (the therapeutic relationship itself), and from the effects of energy work on self-esteem.

Psychotherapy and energy work go extremely well together to bring complete healing. Both modalities reveal underlying emotional issues. Energy work can clear the effects of trauma from all systems in the body and can teach new ways of handling stress. Psychotherapy brings insight and conscious understanding to enable people to reconcile the past and to find new ways of thinking and relating to others. Using both types of treatment greatly speeds the recovery process, because one is working on conscious, subconscious, and physical levels simultaneously.

It is best to work with a professional energy worker and a professional psychotherapist who are willing to consult together. The depth of training required in both fields makes it difficult for one person to have sufficient experience to fulfill both functions.

Suggested Reading

Heal With Your Hands, Barbara Clearbridge, 1995, rev. 2013. Available in some bookstores and from the author (address below). Principles of energy work and exercises to help you begin self-treatment, including a complete guide to First Degree Reiki.

Reach for the Rainbow/ Advanced Healing For Survivors of Sexual Abuse, Lynne D. Phinney, J.D., M.S.W., Perigee, 1990. Includes information about several types of energy work.

Recovery: Women’s Words About Healing After Trauma, Barbara Clearbridge. Available in some bookstores and from the author (address below). Quotes from women in all stages of the recovery process, and health care and self-help information.

The Holistic Nurses’ Association endorses Therapeutic Touch, a form of energy work developed by nurses for use in hospitals. For information: Holistic Nurses’ Association, 4101 Lake Boone Trail #201, Raleigh, NC 27607

© Barbara Clearbridge 1995, All rights reserved.

This article may be reprinted if the author’s name is clearly visible on each page.

Barbara Clearbridge

P. O. Box 1018

Middlebury, VT 05753 home