Touch in psychotherapy is still a sensitive subject for many reasons.
Sexuality and pain are the two main themes that concern therapists, but there are other issues.
Who to touch and who not to touch?
It is believed that clients with autism and physical and sexual abuse histories cannot be touched. But as one therapist who specialises in therapy with autistic children noted, “They want to be touched. It is a matter of how to touch them”, which brings up the questions how to touch different clients at different times in the therapy process.
There are many other themes to pursue, for example, to touch is to be touched.
What does the therapist do with her own sensations, feeling or emotions that may arise in touching the client?
There is also touch as treatment with intention.
Are we clear and comfortable with our intention in touching?
What are we trying to do with our touch: to make something happen in the client, to do it to them or with them or for them? What is best, to work with a forceful technique or the minimal stimulus concept of touch?
Touch also involves the theme of energetics. For example the piezoelectric effect and, as recent fascial research has shown, the neural activation of not only nociception in fascial tissue, but also interoceptive activation in those tissues being touched, resulting in interpretative, individual differences in subjective experiences to the same treatment modality.
The “message” we are attempting to send through our touch, caring, rejuvenating, containing, corrective, healing etc.…is the same as what is being received by the client? Considering the 100% interpretative nature of all sensory input, the client will be interpreting our touch through their own personal history both psychic and physical.
In addition, energy is information, instructions to the organism. But how touch becomes information? Interestingly, the physicist Popp said that “information is the specific distribution of energy over matter”. A neurofascial model helps to explain that phenomena. There is also the question, are we adding energy to the organism by our touch or merely activating an innate regenerative source, a “biological need” to heal?
Research has begun to show the important role touch plays in early development and on into adulthood. It is being considered by some the first developmental stage: we experience touch even in the womb. Yet, despite all the research we do not know much about the subjective experiences of being touched. Most studies focus on observable physiological changes which has its own implicit value, but it leaves out the equally important personal response and how to integrate that personal response with the physiological reactions.