The Touchy Subject of Touch in Therapy: A Best Practices Analysis Informed by a Literature Review
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The use of touch in psychotherapy is considered controversial. Through an exploration of the literature, the author identifies whether there are known benefits and risk of touch in therapy, and explores if it is possible to create a best practices guideline for the use of touch for therapists in British Columbia, Canada. The author analyses the literature, and concludes that the literature does not currently provide the empirical evidence or clinical research needed to support a best practices guideline. Through the review, it is identified that counsellors are often unaware of their intentions concerning their use of touch in therapy, and that this may have negative impacts for clients, and the therapeutic relationship. To address this, she formulates a 20 question reflection document to assist clinicians to recognize their beliefs, attitudes, and history, and how these factors may relate to their use of touch in therapy. The reflection document focuses on the effect of touch on the client, and the therapeutic relationship. Through the analysis of central themes in the touch literature, concerns and consensus are identified, as well as the gaps in the literature to encourage future research. The therapeutic relationship as an important element of psychotherapy change is a prime focus. The author predicts that forthcoming new neuroscience research on touch will stimulate more attention on this important area for counselling psychology.