‘There are some pubs where any topic of conversation is allowed except for politics. The combination of alcohol and political discourse usually ends up with fists. In these pubs you may speak and fight over football, rugby, or the royal family; naturally, you can talk about the weather. But politics? This is too hot. There are some topics in the psychotherapeutic “pubs” (discussions, conferences, workshops, and trainings) which hold a promise for elevating the energy in the room, requiring the mature and responsible eye of a bartender, to observe the atmosphere and, if necessary, keep the place from falling apart: sex, money, and touch are the holy trinity.
For the majority of clinicians who encounter body psychotherapy for the first time, the issue of touch is the one to draw interest and cause apprehension, to attract and repel. The body psychotherapist is often perceived as a priori threatening, as if she carries some infectious curse by her mere clinical orientation. Alongside this demonisation, body psychotherapy has also been idealised, particularly concerning the use of touch: the body psychotherapist apparently manages to “touch the core of the issues”, or meet the client “where nobody ever managed to meet her before” and other such sweeping declarations.
Today there is a general societal consensus, not least in psychology research, concerning the developmental need for touch, both in our infancy and in our adulthood. Considering this consensus, the taboo against touch in psychotherapy is more bewildering still. On the one hand, we emphatically declare the importance of tactile communication for establishing security and attachment, for supporting socialisation processes, and for identity formation. As psychotherapists, we offer a secure relationship, an opportunity to form an attachment which would foster self-regulation and self-organisation. On the other hand, our actions and avoidance of touch present touch as holding uncontainable and unmanageable danger; we declare our distrust in the very same human connection which we hail as crucial. The vote of distrust in touch, opposed with the recogntion of our human need for contact, nonverbal validation, and physical connection creates a dissociating and confusing experience for our clients; possibly for us as well.”
Excerpt From: Asaf Rolef Ben-Shahar. “Touching the Relational Edge: Body Psychotherapy.” Karnac Books Ltd
Really interesting book on some of the key questions in the therapeutic landscape.
Palace Gate Counselling Service