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An extensive guide to Havening. Everything you need to know.

Updated: Dec 13, 2022

Havening is a technique to reduce stress, anxiety and pain. It is a form of psychosensory therapy that uses touch to create a sense of safety and security.

Havening is not new in the field of psychology. It was first developed in the 1960s by Dr. Ronald Ruden and Dr. David Berceli, who were looking for ways to help soldiers deal with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after returning from war zones.

The Havening technique has been proven to be effective in reducing stress, anxiety, and pain when used on adults as well as children.

What is Havening?

Havening is a therapeutic technique that uses touch to evoke positive memories and feelings. The goal of the method is to create a sense of safety and calm.

Here we will explore how Havening can be used to aid in management and as a intervention for many Mental Health issues such as

  • Anger

  • Anxiety

  • Stress

  • Phobias

  • Relationship problems such as divorce and separation

  • Grief

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

  • Panic disorder

  • Eating disorders

  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

  • Chronic pain

  • Situational depression

  • Manic episodes

Havening can also lead to a boost in overall well-being and performance at work or physical activities resulting in greater success with your goals.

Does Havening Work?

Most people are not aware of what "Havening" is. When they are told that havening is a technique that uses sensory input to reduce the emotional intensity of traumatic memories, they might be skeptical.

However, it has been shown in numerous studies that havening does work and does so by affecting the emotional intensity of traumatic memories. Havening can be done with either a physical or a virtual stimulus. The only difference is that physical stimuli are better for some people than others because of their preference for tactile sensations.

What to expect during a Havening session

A havening session with your practitioner may involve the following

  1. Your practitioner will ask you to rate your current level of emotional distress. (you may be asked to rate it on a sale of 10 or asked to describe your concern in one word. e.g. scared, sad, angry...)

  2. You’ll then be instructed to clear your mind or focus on something positive and calming.

  3. You’ll next be instructed to rub your arms up and down.

  4. While continuing this action, you’ll close your eyes and count down from 20. Your practitioner will ask you to imagine yourself doing some sort of visually oriented task, such as walking down stairs or removing items from a drawer. With each number counted, you’ll visualize taking one step or one item from the drawer.

  5. With open eyes, you’ll cross your arms and then perform a series of eye movements. You might, for example, be asked to look left, right, up, and down, then roll your eyes in a complete circle, first clockwise and then counterclockwise.

  6. Next, you’ll close your eyes again. Your practitioner will ask you to hum a simple song, such as “Happy Birthday” or “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” As you hum, they’ll use gentle touch to stroke your forehead or arms — or, if you prefer not to be touched, you can perform this action yourself.

  7. At this point, they’ll ask you to assess your level of distress a second time.

  8. The process then repeats, though your may be asked to use a different visualisation or song.

  9. You’ll relax your arms and perform another series of eye movements as your practitioner strokes your arms or forehead a few more times. They may use a phrase or mantra such as “release,” “let it go,” or “almost there,” or they might encourage you to take a few deep breaths.

  10. Your practitioner will ask how you feel. The aim is to repeat the process until your level of distress falls to 0 or 1, or remains stable after three repetitions of havening.

What are the Risks involved?

Havening is a therapeutic practice has a low risk of harm.

However, as havening involves in recollection and visulaisation or negative emotions or traumatic experiences this may result in emotional distress.

Also, Havening requires touch. If this makes you uncomfortable inform your practitioner before starting the session. You will be able to perform havening under guidance of your practitioner.

Sources and Further Reading

Hodgson, K. L., Clayton, D. A., Carmi, M. A., Carmi, L. H., Ruden, R. A., Fraser, W. D., & Cameron, D. (2020). A psychophysiological examination of the mutability of type D personality in a therapeutic trial. Journal of Psychophysiology.

Ruden, R. A. (2019). Harnessing electroceuticals to treat disorders arising from traumatic stress: Theoretical considerations using a psychosensory model. EXPLORE, 15(3), 222-229.

Cizmic, Z., Edusei, E., Anoushiravani, A. A., Zuckerman, J., Ruden, R., & Schwarzkopf, R. (2018). The Effect of Psychosensory Therapy on Short-term Outcomes of Total Joint Arthroplasty: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Orthopedics, 41(6), e848-e853.

Akter, S., Hasan, M. N., Rokeya, B., Akhter, H., Gazi, M. S., Sabrin, F., & Kim, S. S. (2021). Alternative Medicine: A Recent Overview.

Gursimran, T., Deborah, T., Matthew, G., Paul, M., & Neil, G. (2015). Impact of a single-session of Havening. Health Science Journal, 9(5), 1.

Sumich, A., Heym, N., Sarkar, M., Burgess, T., French, J., Hatch, L., & Hunter, K. (2022). The power of touch: The effects of havening touch on subjective distress, mood, brain function, and psychological health. Psychology & Neuroscience.

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