Positive Touch

Energy healing isn't 'magic.' It's becoming a tangible part of integrative medicine.


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Elaine Grohman in her healing studio

Photograph by Kristi Gnyp

One day in January as I walked from the parking garage to my office, I saw the color purple on the dark pavement. I thought it was an oil slick illuminated by the sun. But there was nothing there — just cold concrete and flashes of violet light.

I had just experienced an “energy healing” treatment in Farmington Hills in the office of Elaine M. Grohman, a “healing touch practitioner” who worked on my chakras, or “energy channels,” to help me become more emotionally grounded. During the treatment, with my eyes closed, the color purple emerged over and over — a sign that the highest chakra at the crown of the head, which is associated with peace and tranquility, was opening up.

A couple of weeks later I visited Beth Hoxie, a shaman who does her own form of energy healing out of her home in Birmingham. Using personal tools of her trade like feathers, crystals, and rocks, she too worked on my “energy” in an effort to help me become more “balanced, luminous, and clear.”

When our energy flow is positive, Grohman and Hoxie say, we open ourselves up to healing in all aspects of our lives.

Does this sound like magic or wishful thinking? Far from it, says Dr. Partha Nandi, a gastroenterologist affiliated with Beaumont Health System who believes that energy healing and other forms of “integrative medicine” are essential to a person’s overall well-being.

The word integrative has replaced “alternative” when it comes to these treatments, Nandi says, because the mainstream medical community is finally opening up to the idea that “integrating” such treatments into traditional medicine is part of the future of health care.

Grohman, in fact, is a regular lecturer at the University of Michigan and Wayne State University medical schools, where she instructs students on the concept of energy healing as a part of their introduction to clinical medicine.

“The paradigm is shifting in medicine,” Nandi says, noting that the medical students of today are more curious than past generations about how to enhance the overall care of their patients with an integrative approach. 

“It’s not a cure-all, to be sure,” Nandi says of integrative treatments. “But they can be a helpful adjunct to any kind of traditional medical treatment.”

When I first met Grohman I knew nothing about energy healing. To someone unfamiliar it can indeed seem inaccessible and hokey. What energy healing definitely is not, Grohman says, is the transference of the practitioner’s energy to the patient.

“If someone tells you they can do that, run,” cautions Grohman, who has a deep appreciation for traditional medical treatment in a clinical setting. Instead, Grohman explains, the work she does can help people become more grounded and connected to the earth and themselves, creating an environment in which healing — either emotionally or physically, in the case of someone suffering from disease — can more easily take place.

“We forget that we are on a living, breathing planet that creates energy, but most of the time we’re so far inside our own heads that we get disconnected,” Grohman says. “When we get disconnected, it affects us physiologically. Our ‘battery’ runs down. We stop being able to think clearly. Our emotions are all over the place. And that blocks the body’s ability to heal.”

Rita Benn, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who led the effort to create the Integrative Medicine Program at U-M, where Grohman and other health practitioners are now welcome to offer different perspectives. This is essential, Benn says, because as the health care system has become good at treating acute problems (like unblocking an artery during a heart attack), it’s lagged at effectively treating conditions that can affect a person’s quality of life over decades.

“People are living longer with chronic illnesses,” Benn says. “That often necessitates a different approach to care. Some people want a quick fix [in the form of pharmaceuticals]. But others can benefit from integrative treatments that don’t involve pills.”

I don’t suffer from chronic disease or other physical issues. But like most, I experience stress and other negative emotional factors in my daily life.  After treatments from Grohman and Hoxie, I did feel a palpable difference in mood and, perhaps because of my personal circumstances, a chance for new possibilities.

Whatever tethers us, energy healing can help us loosen the grip and move on, Hoxie says. “It’s about dealing with ourselves first, getting rid of the negative ‘hooks’ in our lives, and creating a way to manifest something more positive.”

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