Professor Chris Roe, Dr. Elizabeth Roxburgh and Ms. Charmaine Sonnex at the University of Northampton conducted two meta-analyses of research studies on non-contact healing published in the journal Explore. This study is not new but is worth a new look. It adds to the small but growing body of research on distant healing. It recently came to our attention through the Confederation of Healing Organizations.

The theory

Distant or “noncontact” healing is an ancient form of healing that is garnering new attention in nontraditional circles. Noncontact healing includes approaches like intercessory prayer and Reiki. Researchers wondered if noncontact healing can have a positive effect on the recipient’s wellbeing. They also wanted to account for possible placebo or expectancy effects.

The study setup

Researchers performed two meta-analyses of published studies on distant healing. The first group of healing subjects were human, while the second consisted of non-human organisms like plants and cell cultures. Including non-human subjects is useful as they are not subject to placebo or expectancy effects. Researchers included 57 human and 49 non-human target studies in the analyses. They conducted Pearson r correlation analysis to study the effects of these interventions.

Study results

Subjects that received healing experienced significant improvement in wellbeing relative to control subjects. The combined effect size was a small but highly significant r=.193.

The 57 human studies yielded a small but significant effect size (r=.203). Of these, the 27 studies that met higher quality thresholds had slightly stronger effects (r=.224).

The 49 non-human studies (cell clusters, plants, etc.) achieved slightly higher effects (r=.258). Of these, the 22 studies that had higher quality standards had a lower but still significant effect size (r=.115).


Results suggest that subjects in the active treatment condition exhibit a significant improvement in wellbeing relative to control subjects under circumstances that do not seem to be susceptible to placebo and expectancy effects.

Why research on distant healing matters

Many people believe in the power of intercessory prayer, Reiki, and other forms of distant healing. Some do not believe it possible to study subtle phenomena such as healing with scientific methods. Simultaneously many professionals and researchers remain skeptical about distant healing. These meta-analyses add scientific credibility to the efficacy of these increasingly popular techniques.

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Sarah Murphy, LPC, ACP-EFT, is a counselor in private practice and specializes in working with people who have serious illnesses. A student of the Ageless Wisdom, she is dedicated to sharing the Great Invocation.

John Freedom, CEHP, serves as chairman of ACEP’s research committee. He is the author of Heal Yourself with Emotional Freedom Technique.