Book highlights benefits of holistic therapy on terminally ill

A new book which explores the use of complementary therapy on terminally ill patients has been launched by a Professor from the University of Bedfordshire.

Dr Chris Johns, Professor of Nursing at the University, visited patients at a hospice as a volunteer holistic therapist over a two-year period, to help ease physical and emotional suffering and enhance their quality of life.

His book Engaging Reflection in Practice: A Narrative Approach,  includes moving stories of patients facing death. It also features Dr John’s reflections about the comfort they receive from complementary or holistic therapies, and his understanding of what they and their family are going through.

“The use of complementary therapies in modern-day healthcare is controversial because their effectiveness has not been proved,” confessed the academic, “but many people use them and they are becoming more widely available on the NHS. My research uses reflective practice to learn about the everyday experiences of the patients and to explore the effectiveness of holisitc therapies.”

Therapies include massage; reflexology, which uses massage to reflex areas found in the feet and the hands; acupuncture, the use of needles to rebalance the body's energy; and aromatherapy, which uses essential oils to promote wellbeing.

Dr Johns continued: “The holistic treatments are used alongside the use of conventional drugs and the patients receive a lot of comfort from the therapy. Every story in the book reveals the emergence of the treatment’s ‘healing’ ability in the holistic sense.

“I deeply appreciated the opportunity to practice palliative care with people experiencing terminal care and the families who support them. The stories prove that such therapies have a positive experience on the lives of these patients, some of whom have sadly passed away before my book was published.
“Some of the narratives are deeply moving and chart what it feels like for the terminally ill patients in a hospice environment, and the effect it has on their families.”

The case studies track the progress of more than 20 patients, whose names have been changed to protect their identity.  These include a 39-year-old woman suffering from motor neurone disease; a 57-year-old man with liver and lung metastases from his primary bowel cancer; and a 46-year-old woman who has breast cancer with liver and bone metastases.

At the heart of Dr John’s work is the consideration of spirituality within himself and the patients he treats. He is certain that reading the stories will trigger reflection of people’s own experiences.

He added: “Through reflection we can share our stories and learn from each other, towards creating a more caring world where suffering is eased.”

Dr Johns is an internationally-recognised pioneer of reflective practice within nursing and health care. He has spoken and published widely on the subject and leads reflective practice and palliative care courses at the University.

The book is published by Blackwell Publishing. To order a copy visit To find out more about studying nursing at the University visit or call 01582 489286.


Note to editors
1. The name of the hospice can not be revealed to protect the identities of the patients.
2. Dr Chris Johns’s other books include:
* Becoming A Reflective Practitioner
* Transforming Nursing Through Reflective Practice – with Dawn Freshwater
* Guided Reflection: Advancing Practice

For further media information please contact Helen Eldred in the Press Office on 01234 793403 or email

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