Study looks at Japanese form of relaxation
Three UA departments are uniting to study how a traditional Japanese relaxation therapy uses spiritual energy to relieve stress.
The University of Arizona Program in Integrative Medicine, in partnership with the department of psychology and Campus Health Services, is conducting a study to determine the effectiveness of Johrei - a spiritual healing method - in relieving stress, said program coordinator Lynn Ferro.
Johrei is an old Japanese practice involving no human touch. The patient is instead healed by spiritual energy from another person.
"The healer channels universal energy through their hand to key points on the body," said Ferro.
Positive healing points, such as the top of the head and the throat, are "scanned" by the healer.
"There are five points on the front along the midline, and seven points along the spine," Ferro said.
Since the 1930s, the Japanese have used Johrei as a stress reduction mechanism.
"The purpose of Johrei is to allow the body to naturally heal itself," she said.
Ferro said the body has an innate healing mechanism that could be suppressed by stress.
"There are toxins in our food and the air which the body takes in," she said.
With increased stress, releasing these toxins naturally becomes more difficult, she said.
Johrei promotes relaxation, which in turn allows the body to function properly, Ferro added.
About 120 people will be involved with the study for six weeks and will be placed into six possible groups.
Some participants will be given conventional therapy only, which could include support groups or prescription medicine.
Others will do mindful meditation, a practice that attempts to create greater awareness, relaxation, and understanding. Participants will perform yoga or breathing exercises.
The third possibility involves using Johrei treatments exclusively. The remaining groups will be a combination of the three methods, or have no additional treatment at all.
The participants will be drawn from patients at Campus Health Services and respondents to an advertisement for the study. Ferro said that participants not currently working with Campus Health Services for stress reduction will not be given conventional therapy.
"We are looking for the common student with stresses. The only exclusionary measure is that they can't be a harm to themselves or other people," said Campus Health Service's Jill Grassman, who will interview possible candidates.
"This study is an approach to healing that bridges spiritual methods and medicine," said Gary Schwartz, psychology professor and principal investigator for the project.
"What is great is that (Johrei) can be performed by anyone, not just psychologists or psychiatrists," he added. "Johrei is based on love and compassion, which plays a major role in stress reduction."
Ferro said another perk in using Johrei to reduce stress is that there is little cost involved.
The field of medicine has been slow to accept alternative forms of treatment for health problems, Schwartz said.
"For years, science and spiritual healing have been seen on opposite sides of the fence," he said.
The point of the study is not to find treatments to replace conventional therapy, but to accompany it, Schwartz added.
"When you add carrots to tomato stew, your purpose is not to replace to tomatoes, but rather to make the stew better," he said.