Does Touch Have a Culture?

Posted by: Priya Senroy on November 14, 2012 3:44 pm

I  thought I made  an error of judgment  when I consoled a grieving, inconsolable client by touching her on her knees…..I had an urge to give her a hug —–knowing full well that I was feeling strong transference….but I caught on  when my right brain kicked in….and offered tissues   instead….Coming from a culture where it is okay to show how you feel by touching-appropriately off course, is not a taboo … being told by my child’s  kindergarten teacher about the policy of no touch is taking a lot of shifting of gears in my head both personally and professionally—-personally won’t my children grow up all warped and unsure about when  it is okay( and who)  and when  it is not okay to touch…….professionally , having to constantly telling myself and reminding my clients why they cannot give me a hug when they are happy or why I can’t hold their hand when they are crying, is, I think is acting as a barrier  for me from making genuine connections with the clients when it is needed….I know the boundaries and the  ethics and all in between, what’s  acceptable and what’s not…but the  conflict always remains, I always feel that something is missing, something just did not ’hit the spot’ and I am wondering if I am feeling like that what about my clients….I am sure there are many studies, articles and ethics which suggest the pros and cons of touching and having have read a number of those, I would like to recommend reading-To Touch Or Not To Touch: Exploring the Myth of Prohibition On Touch In Psychotherapy And Counseling-Clinical, Ethical & Legal Considerations By Ofer Zur, Ph.D. & Nola Nordmarken, MFT .The article can be found on The purpose of this blog s not to dispute why should or shouldn’t touch be used in counseling or therapy but more as a discussion question being posed to other practitioners who find themselves in similar conflict as I do and ask the question: Does Touch have a culture?

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

2 comments on “Does Touch Have a Culture?”

  1. Jane says:

    I will not return to a cold non-touch therapist! Touch says to me I am not dirty, and I am a real person. Back in the 1980s, my therapists were not afraid to sit right beside me with a hand on my forearm. They were able to break down the walls and let me know emotions were okay – even if I could not shed tears. I was touchable and it was a part of healing hidden wounds . Now as I struggle 30-40 years later with a 72-year-old unresponsive spouse of 50 years in the final stage of Alzheimers and fear I am losing my resistance to common addictions. I am again dealing with untouchable feelings and severe depression. A wonderful twice a month support group has kept me alive for the past 4 years. Yes, there are the 10 second hugs from friends – but I now realize that my “wall” was slowly taken down as I felt the care of one who did not treat me as a leper. I am not going to share my feelings in 10 seconds. Back then there was no table between us – there was a couch and a hand on my arm while I was shared my real unmasked feelings. How can I even find a counselor or am I needing to look for massage(?) therapists rather than Behavioral Care in Western Minneapolis?

  2. Linda Thompson says:

    Good afternoon Priya – after much thought and reflection and your expressed concerns and comments concerning helping the bereaved who are in acute grief; I offer other thoughts concerning ‘touch’ and the work of persuative healing, scripts for healing…

    A counsellors voice can become a massage of words, to ease tension…words can touch mouners deeply…they can simply glide over us like soothing water…reflecting on the power of touch…to heal, comfort brings up all kinds of memories…babies wrapped snugly…touch is important and the metaphors of touch are all around us…the vocabulary of feeling is deeply textured…we can feel our way out of conflict and grief…therapeutic touch…healing metaphors are not bound by time, space nor connection with the physical (heavy vessel) body.

    Does touch have a culture? Touch and touch deprivation is an area of scientific inquiry, evaluated by the dominat values and norms rooted in culture, however, I believe that acts of lovingkindness that touch us deelpy, remains ancient and universal. Regards Linda

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