John Lane, a little boy suffering from autism, eases into the swimming pool with his two therapists: Marcia Mahon and a sleek, blue-gray bottlenose dolphin. John’s mother, Debra, standing nearby, reflects, “He seems right at home with the dolphins in the water. He likes to put his ear in the water and hear the clicking. And there’s something about that with the autism that he seems to connect, and it brings out so much in him that he’ll do things that he won’t ordinarily do at home.”
John is one of thousands of Americans who have benefited from new and sometimes surprising therapies that connect mind, body and spirit. He’s also one of the many patients who appear on “Healing Quest,” a series that airs weekly on over 100 PBS stations around the country. The audience is huge: the Trends Research Institute has identified the desire for holistic health as one of the top ten trends of the 21st century while the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that visits to alternative practitioners in the U.S. now exceed total visits to primary care physicians.
Shot on locations across the US and around the world, the series explores therapies that range from now-familiar techniques, such as chiropractic and acupuncture, to the unusual and arcane: the use of flashing lights sewn into a mask to treat premenstrual syndrome, therapeutic massage for premature infants, a piano wire bed that is used to treat arthritis and relieve chronic pain. Explorative but grounded in science, Healing Quest has received rave reviews not only from viewers who already have an interest in alternative and integrative medicine, but also those who are curious or even skeptical.
The series has been endorsed by the Campaign for Better Health, a national public advocacy alliance based in Washington, D.C. “The show is a crucial public service, spotlighting emerging innovative health discoveries and helping consumer understand all their health care options,” said Ana Micka, President and CEO for the Campaign. The Campaign’s partners include Citizens for Health, the National Foundation for Alternative Medicine, Dr. Andrew Weil Enterprises, the Natural Health Research Institute, Friends of Health, the Chopra Foundation, Tai Sophia Institute, the Policy Institute for Integrative Medicine and the International Commission for Natural Medicine and Ecology.
The visually stunning series is hosted by Olivia-Newton John, an internationally-known actress, songwriter and holistic health advocate, as well as Judy Brooks and Roy Walkenhorst, the show’s executive producers. Healing Quest grew out of Brook’s 20-year interest and experience in alternative and integrative therapies and benefits from Walkenhorst’s strong reportorial and investigative skills.
The idea for series came to Brooks nearly six years ago. “It was sparked when I realized that we aren’t just a physical body that’s 90 percent water. We are fundamentally energy. Energy animates body,” says Brooks. “and healing always involves energy.” Brooks, who trained in Reiki, an alternative therapy that uses touch to focus energy, recalls, ” It made perfect sense to me that touch could focus energy and that energy was needed for healing. Touch is healing. That’s why we touch our children and sick people. We all have the power to use that. We all have the ability to heal ourselves and others. It’s innate. Though some of us choose it as a career, we all have it. The reason to explore all these different approaches to healing – the reason to do the series – is that we’re all different and no one approach works for everyone. It’s all about choices, so we all need to take responsibility for our own healing.”
Walkenhorst, who has been married to Brooks for 20 years, was more skeptical. A former television news reporter and anchorman, he approached the topic cautiously. “That cynical, reportorial part of my brain still operates,” he says. “It’s useful. It gets answers; it demands data and research. Every once in awhile it doesn’t get the answers it demands, so we don’t do that story.”
The over 250 stories that have been produced for the series since 2001 have been painstakingly reviewed by the Institute of Healing at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. “Our goal in this series was to approach each story and topic through science, but always with an open mind, and that’s what we hope our viewers will do as well,” says Walkenhorst.
The gracious pacing of the episodes are in marked contrast to usual television fare and each episode ends with a “healing moment” that features stunning nature photography and music by Emmy Award-winning composer Gary Malkin and/or music by Olivia Newton-John from her latest release, Grace and Gratitude.
Viewer Rebecca Kellock of Columbus Ohio wrote to WOSU-TV, “I had tears in my eyes when I first experienced your show. It’s great. I really enjoyed the Healing Moment at the end and the tone of the show – love mixed with professionalism.”
“The signs ahead are extraordinary,” says Walkenhorst. “I’m predicting this will turn out to be healthy and robust, as it deserves to be. In producing this, I learned how much impact this can have on individual lives. And I learned that this field of medicine is enormous and growing all directions. I think we’re on the brink of a transformation of health attitudes and practices in this country.”
Brooks laughs and nudges him, just as she does in the series. “I have been telling you that for 20 years!” she says.