The Havening Technique is an alternative therapy that uses touch, eye movements, and other sensory inputs to reduce stress, anxiety, and discomfort.

Its developers originally called it amygdala repotentiation therapy because they believed it changed how the amygdala of the brain processes emotions. They claimed the technique creates an internal safe haven, allowing a person to reprocess and eventually escape emotional and physical pain.

However, Havening is a new alternative therapy, and there is very little research testing its effectiveness. While some studies suggest it may help with pain and anxiety, well-designed placebo-controlled trials have not proven that it works.

A person can self-Haven, which means they perform the technique on themselves, or seek Havening therapy from a trained practitioner.

Read more to learn about the Havening Technique, how it works, how to perform it, and more.

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The Havening Technique uses a range of touches on the upper body and involves counting, visualization, and eye movements. The approach aims to help a person cope with stress, trauma, anxiety, and physical pain.

The practice focuses heavily on self-compassion, kindness, and self-care.

Practitioners of the Havening Technique believe that painful emotions and harmful behaviors occur because of the way the brain encodes memories. Havening attempts to change this encoding. Its developers say that the practice views behavior as a consequence of encoding and that it seeks to uncover the event that led to the symptoms.

However, it is important to note that this claim is neither new nor revolutionary. Psychologists use the term cognitive appraisal to describe how behaviors derive from the way people perceive life events.

The founders of Havening also claim that the technique works through delta brain waves. However, research has not shown whether or not these claims are accurate. Previous research suggests that delta waves have links to decreased or absent consciousness, such as when a person is under anesthesia or in a coma. They may also be more active when an individual is dreaming or under the influence of psychedelic drugs. However, research has not found that the Havening Technique causes delta waves.

While there is no scientific proof the Havening Technique works, there is little risk from trying it. People interested in Havening can find a practitioner to perform the therapy with them or teach them self-Havening techniques from the Havening website.

It is important to note that this practice has no scientific evidence supporting its alleged effectiveness. Because of this, medical insurance will not pay for Havening sessions, so people should be wary of purchasing treatments that claim to “heal” conditions. This technique is not the same as medication and therapy, and a person should not use it as a replacement for them.

During a Havening session, a practitioner usually instructs the person to clear their mind and visualize a calm or safe place. Next, they will begin tapping on a portion of the upper area of the body and give instructions on what to do during this process. The individual might count, breathe, or visualize certain images.

The practitioner may tell a person to hum or sing while they continue the tapping and touching. This method aims to train the brain to process distress differently and encode memories in a healthier, more positive way. This is similar to mindfulness and meditation that people can practice at home.

The developers of Havening recommend that individuals with underlying mental health diagnoses seek treatment from a licensed professional. While the technique may be a beneficial addition to therapy for some people, it should not serve as a replacement for professional treatment.

A person can also self-Haven, meaning they perform the technique on themselves. The basic technique involves crossing the arms over the chest, so it appears as if people are hugging themselves. They should then rub the arms in a downward motion, shoulders to elbows.

To self-Haven, try one or more of the following:

  1. While using the basic Haven arm rub, breathe calmly and say aloud, “calm and relax,” for 1–2 minutes.
  2. Begin with the basic Haven arm rub and envision a peaceful scene. Stroke the top of the forehead, then move the hands down to either side of the face in slow, gentle strokes.
  3. Do a basic Havening arm rub while breathing deeply. Eliminate the pause between inhaling and exhaling while paying close attention to the breath.
  4. Incorporate hand rubs. Start with downward arm rubs, then gently stroke the palm of one hand with the other in an alternating back and forth motion.
  5. Envision self-compassion and loving kindness as a color. Perform the basic arm rub technique while picturing this color covering the body. Continue with downward forehead and face rubs, then continue to stroke the palms of the hands, cycling through these three motions while picturing the color of loving kindness.

Learn more about different types of home mindfulness meditations.

Havening has gained attention from celebrities and influencers. Justin Bieber promoted the practice in his Seasons YouTube documentary, and influencers have talked about the technique on social media.

Practitioners say that Havening promotes relaxation, reduces stress, and improves well-being. However, because the practice has no scientific background, researchers have not tested its efficacy. Most positive outcomes are likely a result of the placebo effect.

Preliminary data has achieved mixed results.

A 2018 study of people experiencing pain after total joint arthroplasty compared 19 people who used the Havening Technique with 22 controls. Researchers found that Havening did not decrease pain medication use, complications, hospital readmissions, or emergency department visits, suggesting it was not effective.

In a small 2022 study of 24 people, researchers found that Havening did decrease participants’ subjective assessment of their distress levels following a stressful event. However, this was a small study, and the results came from self-reports.

A 2020 study looked at “help-seeking” people with type D personalities, meaning they are more likely to experience physical and psychological distress. The individuals who received Havening treatment had decreased distress scores, and their blood pressure and cortisol levels fell. However, because the participants were seeking help, their positive results were likely due to the placebo effect.

The Havening Technique is an alternative relaxation and healing practice. It is not a medical therapy or proven psychological treatment, but some people use it for general relaxation and wellness.

Havening may or may not work, but there is no evidence that it is harmful. People interested in trying Havening may use it as part of a treatment plan or to promote general relaxation and calm.