A member asks: What Complementary Therapies are considered “legal”?

May 28, 2009 | Holistic Nursing


I received an email asking the following: ” are therapeutic touch and reiki the only holistic modalities that RNs can specialize in legally for alternative therapies!” There are many aspects to the response to this question. I am sure others are also interested soI am answering it on our blog. I am going to treat each aspect separately so I am numbering them for easier reading.

  1. There is a fundamental philosophical difference between the terms “complementary” and “alternative”.  Many people get these confused.  CHNA only focuses on complementary therapies.  Remember that alternative does mean “instead of”.   As nurses, we only advocate and use Complementary Therapies that would be considered to augment any treatments or therapies already prescribed by the Physician or Nurse Practitioner.
  2. Complementry Therapies are tools or techniques that can be used in the holistic care of an individual.  I suggest rereading theStandards of Practice of holistic nursing to get a better understanding of how the energy modalities would be incorporated into the holistic care of a client.  The modalities used are only a part of the healing process.
  3. What is considered “legal” is what is included within the nursing scope of practice for Registered Nurses as set out by the College of Nurses of each province or territory.   Unfortunately, each jurisdiction regards Complementary Therapies in different ways.  To find out what is allowed within the scope of practice for nurses where you live, I suggest that you contact the College of Nurses where you reside and practice.
  4. Currently the following are used within the Specialization Program.  CHNA asks ony for a beginning level and respects the practice requirements set by each therapy organization.  Within the program we use: Therapeutic Touch, Meditation, Progressive Relaxation, Reiki, Healing Touch, Sound & Music, Colour & Light.   It is expected that the holistic nurse will use whatever energy modality is best for the particular situation and makes the decision in collaboration with the client.

Thank you for this question.  I know that when one person asks a question, likely at least 10 others have the question but did not ask.  I appreciate the opportunity to respond in this way.

Marie Knapp

CHNA outgoing president

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