Janet Quinn is an “Associate Professor, Adjunct,” (a bit unclear what that means) at the University of Colorado School of Nursing, and a true crackpot. Though she does have a PhD in Nursing Research and Theory Development from NYU, her thesis was on therapeutic touch (TT) (Quinn is a former student of Dolores Krieger) and an excellent example of what is accurately known as tooth fairy science: Quinn ostensibly showed that therapeutic touch need not use physical contact in order to produce results similar to the version that used actual touch. Of course, that result is not very surprising since TT has no (non-placebo) health benefits either way – TT is perhaps most famous for being falsified (e.g.) in an elementary school science project (Rosa et al., published in the Journal of the American Medical Association) – but that was not how Quinn or subsequent TT fans interpreted the findings (the dissertation, we emphasize, did not try to show that TT had any effect, just that actual touch made no difference).
According to her website, Quinn has additional training in “Transpersonal Psychology [no less], Holotropic Breathwork™ (certified) [being certified in a trademarked technique is not something that should bolster confidence], Hakomi Body-Centered Psychotherapy (individuals and couples), Spiritual Direction (certified) [again, nothing to be proud of]”. She has also been a “practitioner
of Centering Prayer and Meditation for 20 years” and “[t]eaching, researching and practicing Holistic/Integrative Nursing for over 30 years.” But she is also affiliated with the University of Colorado, some might point out, and indeed she is. Despite the fact that TT is bullshit and Quinn’s other qualifications are steeped in pseudoscienc, her classes and teaching materials are expensive and popular. Ironically, that the perceived benefits of TT are merely reflecting the fact that patients respond positively to extended, caring, interpersonal contact with their nurse was actually demonstrated in a 1989 study by Quinn herself, though she didn’t manage to realize that this was the conclusion.
According to Quinn, TT involves “centering” within your head in order to assess which areas of the energy field feel “out of balance” with the rest of the field; then you clear and mobilize the energy field before, finally, “directing” energy to facilitate healing. Quinn admits, though, that “we don’t have empirical data to demonstrate the existence of a personal energy field,” but “it’s a working hypothesis. In science, you’re allowed to do that.” Well, no; not after it has been shown, as conclusively as tests come, that the technique doesn’t work; it would be a legitimate to entertain such a hypothesis if the technique worked and we hadn’t figured out why it did. Quinn, of course, is not talking about “science” when she says “In science”. (Of course, one may also point out that her “working hypothesis” is a collection of vague metaphors, a half-baked attempt at poetry, and not a working hypothesis at all)
Quinn has also been involved in NCCAM-funded (i.e. taxpayer money) research on Distant Healing Efforts for AIDS by Nurses and ‘Healers’with Elisabeth Targ (daughter of Russell Targ). Targ herself explained the difficulty of doing such research given skepticism in the mainstream medical community; as she put it, she must guard against showing a negative result, because the mainstream will take those negative results and attempt to discredit what she is trying to show. We’ll just leave that admission up there as it is.
Diagnosis: Pseudoscientific nonsense from a New Age crackpot. Her ideas, though, have actually – and despite being New Age mumbo-jumbo with (demonstrably) no health benefits – had a lot of influence on nursing practices and cost taxpayers substantial amounts of money for useless tooth-fairy research. A waste of money, and a waste of a life. Sad.