Therapeautic touch is a healing modality where practitioners use their hands to support physical, emotional, and mental health.  Therapeautic touch uses touch to influence the energy system, and the energy centers that control the flow from the energy field to the physical body.  Touch has a large impact on helping to clear and balance energy fields to support physical health. Therapeautic touch can take place through massages where practitioners come together in the goal of self-healing.  The therapy promotes a relaxation response, which shows up as a drop in blood pressure and heart and respiratory rate, along with a reduction in the production of stress hormones, all of which can contribute to a sense of wellbeing.

Psychotherapeutic Touch

When you touch someone you are bringing additional energy into this person's system and are stimulating a particular response in his/her body. You are inviting this person unconsciously to allow the delicate equilibrium s/he has established in his/her energy system to change and to respond to the environment in a way that may appear to him/her to be life threatening. Remember, the equilibrium s/he established is for survival. To change that equilibrium, by responding to your touch may be asking the person to experience the anxiety that was, at one time, life threatening.
When his/her life force was originally open, the environment could not
support it. Thus, s/he will be wondering if you really know what you are doing by asking him/her to trust you in a way in which s/he has always been disappointed. You also need to ask yourself if you are ready for the response that may come as a result of your touch.  Touching the client adds warmth to the frozen and contracted area of his/her body. This may help to bring him/her back to life but it will also revive the pain connected with why s/he had to contract in the beginning. Thus, touching, as it changes the equilibrium in the body, brings back the rage, sorrow, love and fear that have lain buried in frozenness. Touching at times, appears to be cruel because it revives a hope that cannot be fulfilled and yet, not to touch may leave a person lost in his own frozen wasteland. The original frozenness in our bodies came because of early childhood issues. The melting of that frozenness invites the person to once again experience the blocked sensation in his/her body and to express the repressed feeling. This expression always has a regressive quality to it since it is unfinished business from the past. With our touch we are asking the child within the patient to respond once more to the world. Thus, the patient in a transferential relationship with you may interpret your touch quite differently from what you meant it to be. All touching has to be understood in light of the transference and frame of reference of the client.


Transference and Touch

Understanding the impact of the transference, the therapist must accept responsibility for the response s/he elicits when s/he touches the client. When I {Dr. Hilton} choose to touch a client who is very desperate for contact or who sees me as a love object, I know I am inviting a relationship that will produce pain. Recently, I chose to make contact with a client that I knew was in a desperate situation and saw me as a life line. Later, when she felt better and was angry at me that I could not fulfill her expectations, she said, 'You made me fuse with you and now you tell me you are unavailable.' It would be easy to say to her, 'I didn't make you fuse with me, I simply touched you when you were desperate. Don't blame me that you interpreted my touch the wrong way or put implications on it that I didn't mean. I'm innocent.' With knowledge of character and the nature of transference, I must accept her feeling and accept the responsibility of eliciting it even though I did not create it, nor can I fulfill it. But I can convey to her that it was done so that we might successfully live through her disappointment. Of course, touching does not always elicit fusion. Sometimes it will produce rage, fear or other basic feeling reactions which were denied, misused, or discouraged in the client's family. We, as therapists, need to beaware of the client's history in order to relate our touch therapeutically to the situation.

Congruence and Touch

Another important issue around touch is congruence. It is important to have a direct relationship between touch and the feeling that is communicated with touch. We often touch our clients and children with only the awareness of what we intend to communicate and do not actually pay attention to what communication is coming back to us as a result of our touching.
Al Lowen (Founder of Bioenergetic Analysis) has often said that it is not enough that we touch our clients but that they also be able to touch us. To be able to make appropriate physical contact with the therapist today is to help them complete the cycle that was interrupted. Since our primary ego was a body ego, at times only physical contact can give the client the experience of our presence that allows him/her to move from his/her infantile hysteria to a state of energetic equilibrium.
We, as therapists, need to provide a safe enough environment to allow the blocked movement in the client to once again be expressed with appropriate contact. I may be touched and loved by my therapist, but I must take the risk of opening and letting my own energy out to her, facing all of the risks that go with that. Reaching to touch from a deeply regressed place may be terrifying, but it is necessary in order for the energy to be released from the armoring of the childhood defenses and integrated into the adult self. Otherwise, it stays stuck in the transference.

Countertransference and Touch 

Countertransference reactions are stimulated in many ways and can be used very productively in the therapeutic relationship. As a therapist, I am aware of the difference between insight and the powerful life and death forces in the body. Many therapists, denying or disregarding the power of their own feelings, have been trapped in acting out against their clients. The problem is that prohibition does not stop acting out, even when your reputation and career are at stake. The powerful life forces in the body must be recognized and integrated into the personality. Otherwise, they wait like the soldiers in the Trojan horse ready to overwhelm the unsuspecting citadel of the ego. The greatest safeguard against the misuse of touch is to know your own responses and boundaries in regard to touching and being touched. 
Therapists are called upon to deal with the intensity of peoples' passions and yet we have had very little training on how to recognize and deal with our own. When we have been taught simply to control these feelings with our wills, we are subject to great anxiety and failure in the presence of their power. This is especially true when we open ourselves and our clients to physical contact. And yet, touching is part of being human and the way the child in us learns to integrate and trust our feelings.


Science of Romance: Hugs, Hormones, and Heart Health 

Written by Gil Blander, Chief Scientific Officer at Inside Tracker


February 14th is around the corner and whether it means a box of chocolates or just another Sunday, science has long proven that love is good for your body. While a romantic dinner on Valentine’s Day may add a temporary spark to a relationship, it turns out that living every day with the right partner can both extend your lifespan and improve your health.

How is your health affected by the quality of your relationship? Does that feel-good feeling you get when a partner embraces you also boost your biomarkers? As usual, science has the answers. 


Better chemistry for a longer life

Men and women respond differently to relationships, but the sexes have a lot in common when it comes to stress. Stress, after all, is an equal opportunity offender that’s hard to escape in our modern world. A study from UCLA on cortisol, one of the stress hormones we analyze at InsideTracker, reveals that a hard day in the office can be soothed by coming home to a loving spouse. Similarly, the stress of a bad day can be left to simmer and take a negative toll on the body when an unsupportive partner is involved.

Normal amounts of stress are part of life, and in fact, cortisol is a critical hormone that’s required at just the right dosage and time. But when an individual’s stress levels are chronically elevated and excessive, stress becomes a “silent killer.”  One 10-year-long study on married couples that tracked cortisol levels and the connection between partners demonstrated that indeed, it is healthier to be with the right person. The data concluded that "chemistry" is not just a Hollywood cliché or a nice to have — it’s a real part of the happy marriage equation and thus, key to a happy body.


Hugs for heart health


Plenty of songs have proclaimed that love is a drug. While the emotion cannot be bottled by a pharmaceutical company, the metaphor is accurate. Love has a very powerful physiological effect on our bodies. In fact, measuring the oxytocin (a "feel good" hormone that plays a role in bonding and love) released in a person’s brain when experiencing moments of loving connection in a relationship has shown researchers that a good marriage literally heals the body.

In the Psychoneuroendocrinology Journal, researchers found that wounds actually healed better in a positive marriage than a negative one. One possible reason why better healing occurs in the context of healthy marriages is thanks to the physical effect of something quite simple: hugs! Fascinating research on premenopausal women has concluded that women receiving hugs from their spouse or partner have better indices of heart health, such as blood pressure and heart rate. The simple act of touch, whether receiving or providing it, is a healthy part of our lives that makes us feel better and actually improves our immune systems.

If you’re not in a romantic relationship, that doesn’t mean you can’t reap the health rewards of physical contact. Even man’s best friend can help and benefits from a brief, loving stroke — research suggests that both cortisol and oxytocin are positively influenced by human/dog contact. That loving gaze or little snuggle your pup gives you actually has a significant biochemical effect — on both of you.

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