Touching by Therapists or Bodyworkers

In bodywork, the therapist at times touches the client for two broad purposes. First, the therapist might touch so that the client can achieve a position, movement or physical state that the client could not achieve alone. For instance, the therapist might apply pressure to a tight muscle to get it to 'let go.' Alternately, the therapist might provide a specific resistance which permits the client to develop a charge by using an underused movement, or 'meaning' a movement.

Second, the therapist may touch the client to provide support and grounding through physical contact with another energy system. In this it is understood that what is being provided could be provided by any sufficiently experienced person. In fact, in groups, another group member is often employed for this purpose. Touching is never considered to be transferring something 'special' like healing to the client.

Unfortunately, being a 'healer' is a common human fantasy, and any tradition that involves touch draws individuals who have the fantasy of giving 'healing touch'. Some concepts of therapy are organized around delivering healing touch, but this is not bodywork as defined here.

Also, unfortunately, the personalness of therapy has led to occasional sexual involvement to the inevitable detriment of the client. At some point in these relationships, touch became exploitative, perhaps from the first touch. If one studies the Practices section of this website it becomes clear that the touching involved in bodywork is in no way intrinsically seductive.

For both of the above reasons, touch has become suspect in some academic and regulatory communities. While much bodywork, perhaps most, can be done without touching, the way the non-touching work is done is sure to be influenced subtly by the knowledge that even judicious touch will never be used. The Reich and Lowen tradition, especially, developed some strong touching techniques just for those situations in which the client cannot make the breakthrough unaided.