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Title: Clinical psychologists' views and experiences of touch in therapy
Author: Sheret, Laura
ISNI:       0000 0004 5351 7548
Awarding Body: Cardiff University
Current Institution: Cardiff University
Date of Award: 2015
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The importance and function of touch has been of interest to philosophers and scientists over many centuries. Research has uncovered remarkable neurobiological processes linking touch to enhanced physical, cognitive and social development. Conversely, the devastating effect of touch deprivation has been demonstrated through controversial animal experiments (Harlow & Zimmerman, 1959) and implicated in the failure to thrive of neglected orphan children (Blackwell, 2000). Psychological theory has promoted the importance of touch (Bowlby, 1975). However, the use of touch in therapy is notoriously controversial and historically defined by the contrasting positions of traditional Psychoanalytic and Gestalt orientated therapists, who perceive touch as something to be rigidly avoided or embraced respectively. The evidence base examining therapists’ views is limited in terms of both quantity and quality of empirical research. This study employs a qualitative methodology to explore the views and experiences of eleven Clinical Psychologists in South Wales regarding touch in therapy. Classic grounded theory methodology identified that Clinical Psychologists perceive clear areas of acceptable and unacceptable touch, however difficulty arises in decision-making regarding more ambiguous areas. The process used to resolve this involves ‘Cost-Benefit Analysis’, whereby key categories of ‘Individual Characteristics’, ‘Meaning of Touch’ and ‘Influence of Context’ are weighed up with respect to the risk and reward of touch behaviour. A grounded theory was produced outlining the developmental process by which information is consolidated; allowing increased tolerance of ambiguity and confidence in this decision-making process to evolve. The findings of this study support previous research identifying the complexity of touch behaviour, the importance of a critical approach to touch in therapy, and the sense of ‘taboo’ generated by the topic’s predominant omission from professional training and policy. The clinical, training and service implications of these findings are discussed, along with recommendations for future research.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Clin.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: BF Psychology