Aline LaPierre has taught the use of touch from a psychotherapy scope for several years, integrating the key elements of developmental theory and somatic psychotherapy. By highlighting the importance of the body and emphasizing its relations with the mind, the skillful use of touch can address developmental deficits and resolve traumas that cannot be reached by verbal means alone.
Psychotherapists trained in the use of touch can become a new kind of partner in the therapeutic relationship. By directly connecting with our clients, the skillful use of touch aims to:
- Nurture developmental deficits
- Encourage new neurological connections
- Elicit dormant impulses
- Reduce hyper-activation
- Calm vigilance
- Release dysfunctional somatic patterns
- Renegotiate family trauma
Because language is not yet “online” in the brain of an infant, physical contact addresses the effects of the earliest breaches in nurturing, attunement and safety that cannot be reached by language alone. Loving, respectful touch is essential to healthy growth and development, whereas lack of touch is so damaging it can even impair the desire to live. Touch is at the foundation of our relational experience; it is a fundamental mode of infant-caregiver interaction. What happens during our early development establishes the template for our capacity for connection with ourselves, our loved ones and particularly our intimate adult relationships.
The Skillful use of Touch in Psychotherapy
Integrating touch helps practitioners develop solid skills for somatic interventions in clinical practice. Six to ten million sensory receptors form an intricate network that connects the entire body to the brain via the nervous system. When a clinician skillfully uses touch they engage these receptors to guide a client’s attention inward to their interoceptive experience—chronic bracing and collapse patterns, organ vibrations and energetic sensitivities—and help bring awareness to these internal experiences. The skillful use of touch engages the felt-sense in a dialogue that leads to a felt-self emotional integration. In the work of the repair of the self, which spans all developmental stages, it directly addresses dissociation, dysregulation and states of self-fragmentation that interfere with the capacity for self-awareness and self-regulation.