Psychoanalytic Prohibition Of Touch In Therapy
In an interesting twist of logic, while professional literature, ethics classes and risk management principles advocate avoiding touch as much as possible, many surveys report that most therapists touch their clients in a non-sexual manner. Tirnauer, Smith and Foster (1996) report that 87% of therapists touch their clients. A total of 85% reported by Pope, Tabachnick, Keith-Spiegel (1987) hug their clients rarely or sometimes. Schultz (1975) found that 65% of therapists approve of touch as an adjunct to verbal psychotherapy. Holroyd and Brodsky (1977) found that approximately one third of psychologists reported using some form of touch with their clients.
Risk management, Prohibition Of Touch & Slippery slope Argument
In contrast, some autistic children have ahigh degree of factual defensiveness, so that it is difficult for them toovercome their initial aversion to touch; they will require moreencouragement.
The strong need for deep touch stimulation is suggested in Harlow andZimmerman's classic experiment (1959): baby monkeys would cling to andpress against a soft cloth mother surrogate which provided contactcomfort, over a wire surrogate that provided milk.
Pertaining to the sense of touch.
Wilhelm Reich, a student of Freud, is often referred to as the grandfather of body-oriented psychotherapy, however, a long history of body-oriented approaches to healing, predate his work. One of Reich's most significant contributions has been his effort to dismantle the barriers and restrictions to touch that had been imposed by the domineering influences of psychoanalysis (Hunter, Struve, 1998). Reichs' view that modern society functions as a repressive force that results in the basis for all illness (Reich, 1986) contrasted with Freuds' concept of libido, a form of unsocialized energy, which must be controlled (Freud, 1960). Reich also added the dimension of the body to Freud's model of ego and internal conflict, in that he saw the ego as controlling impulses and emotions through physiological patterns, e.g. a holding jaw, a tight belly etc. (Eiden, 2002). His development of character analysis correlated psychological and physical patterns. In this context, "character" is seen as a defense against strong emotions and has the function to bind anxiety in the form of muscular tension, e.g. the "fight or flight" response which is a specific reaction to stress, an instinctive reflex which, if unexpressed, stays in the body in the form of a postural holding pattern. Such holding patterns or "blocking" served to protect the individual against painful and threatening emotional experiences (Reich, 1972). Reich's basic technique was to reduce body armor by palpating or pressing certain muscle groups to dissolve muscle tension to free inhibited energy. This represented a radical departure from the rigid tenants of traditional psychoanalysis by initiating direct physical contact with his clients, for which he was censured and eventually excommunicated from the psychoanalytic community (Older, 1982).
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Part of the problem with differentiating sexual and non-sexual touch in therapy stems from the lack of differentiation between sexual feeling and sexual activity. While about 90% of therapists report being sexually attracted to their clients at some time (Pope & Vasquez, 1998), less than 10% have ever violated their clients sexually. Lazarus and Zur (2002), Smith et al, (1998), like many other writers, emphasize that the problem of such lack of differentiation is rooted in insufficient professional education. Part of the problem with differentiating sexual and non-sexual touch in therapy stems from the lack of differentiation between sexual feeling and sexual activity. They view the problem as starting with graduate schools, which focus on rigid, restrictive ethical education and the teaching of risk management practices rather than providing a focus which will assist students in recognizing and processing their sexual feeling towards clients; something, which most would agree, is a common element in the therapist/client dynamic (Pope, Sonne, & Holroyd, 1993). Such lack of education undoubtedly exacerbates the problem, resulting in untrained therapists who tend to deny difficult or unacceptable feelings in a process, which is likely to increase their vulnerability to violate their clients.
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Formative psychology gives a philosophy and method of how to work with our life. We learn to regenerate our emotional and instinctual vitality, to inhabit our body, and to incorporate our excitement and emotional aliveness. The goal of formative practice is to use daily life to practice being present and to create an adult self and reality. I proceed from the premise that we are each conceived as an adult and that we grow the adults we are meant to be.