The meaning of touch in therapy : exploring clinical psychologists' professional views toward the use of touch in therapy : how, and on what basis, do they decide to touch, or not to touch?
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- Institutt for psykologi 
There is a lack of research exploring clinical psychologists’ use of touch in therapy. The present qualitative study explored clinical psychologists’ professional views and experiences with using, or abstaining from, touch. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with ten therapists working with adult clients, and the transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis. The analysis supported earlier findings showing that the decision to touch or not is complex, involving a network of several different considerations regarding the possible meaning of touch in therapy. The following six themes were identified: 1) Potential benefits of touch, 2) Concerns and perceived risks, 3) Therapist factors, 4) Individual clients and contexts, 5) The presence or absence of touch in therapy, 6) Professional discussions about touch. The results show that all therapists engage in formalized touch with their clients (i.e. handshaking at the beginning and/or end of therapy), whereas more than two thirds also have engaged in other types of physical touch (i.e. hugging during therapy, patting the back/shoulder/arm). Touch is rarely verbally negotiated with the clients. The results further indicate that uncertainty about the consequences of touch, fear for misunderstandings, in addition to the omission of the topic in education, leads to a general avoidance of touch as a topic in professional discussions about therapeutic practices. The research findings are discussed, highlighting the importance of challenging the taboo status of touch, implications for clinical education and supervision, as well as recommendations for future research.
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