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To touch or not to touch: Rethinking the prohibition on touch on psychotherapy and counselling

Type: Website

Article or website name: To touch or not to touch: Rethinking the prohibition on touch on psychotherapy and counselling

Author: Zur, Ofer

Institution: Zur Institute, Online Continuing Education

Country: USA

Type: Education

URL: www.drzur.com/touchintherapy.html


Introduction: Touch is one of the most essential elements of human development, a profound method of communication, a critical component of the health and growth of infants, and a powerful healing force (Bowlby, 1952; Harlow, 1971, 1986). Ample research has demonstrated that tactile stimulation is extremely important for development and maintenance of physiological and psychological regulation in infants, children and adults (Field, 1998; Montagu, 1971, 1952). Touch has been an essential part of ancient healing practices. Touch has roots in shamanic and religious practices, and is reported to have been an integral part of health care practices and medicine since their emergence from the realms of religion and magic (Levitan & Johnson, 1986; Smith, Clance & Imes, 1998).

In his seminal work, Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin, Ashley Montagu (1971) brings together a vast array of studies shedding light on the role of skin and physical touch in human development. He goes on to illuminate how the sensory system, the skin, is the most important organ system of the body, because unlike other senses, a human being cannot survive without the physical and behavioral functions performed by the skin. "Among all the senses," Montagu states, "touch stands paramount" (1986, p. 17). Before Montague published his classic book in 1971, Harlow (1958) set the stage for our understanding of the importance of touch for emotional, physiological and interpersonal development in human and non-human infants. In line with Harlow, Montagu concludes: "When the need for touch remains unsatisfied, abnormal behavior will result" (1986, p. 46). Primarily Euro-American cultures in general, particularly that of North American white-Anglos, have developed a set of unspoken taboos in regard to touch. Based on Cohen (1987) and Hunter and Struve's, (1998) work, following are short descriptions of these cultural, mostly unspoken, taboos: .....


Author's institution: Zur Institute
Contact: drzur@drzur.com
Language: English
Country origin: USA

Entry number: 3292
English version:

Entry source: Courtenay Young
Entered by: Courtenay Young
Entry date: 15 November 2005

Key Phrases: Touch - Psychotherapy - Body Psychotherapy - Ethics - Taboos - Prohibitions
References: 193 refs
Other information: