Psychoanalytic Prohibition Of Touch In Therapy
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SOURCES OF THE PROHIBITION OF TOUCH IN THERAPY
Massage therapy has been shown to reduce aversion to touch and to decrease anxiety, depression and cortisol levels in women who have been sexually or physically abused (Field, et. al., 1997). It decreases diastolic blood pressure, anxiety and cortisol (stress hormone) levels (Hernandez-Reif, et. al., 2000). One study examined the effects of massage therapy on anxiety and depression levels and on immune function. The subjects received a 45-minute massage five times weekly for a 1-month period. The findings were that: 1) anxiety, stress and cortisol levels were significantly reduced; 2) natural killer cells and natural killer cell activity increased, suggesting positive effects on the immune system (Ironson, et. al., 1996). Bulimic adolescent girls received massage therapy 2 times a week for 5 weeks. Effects included an improved body image, decreased depression and anxiety symptoms, decreased cortisol levels and increased dopamine and serotonin levels. In a study of children with ADHD, touch sensitivity, attention to sounds and off-task classroom behavior decreased and relatedness to teachers increased after massage therapy (Field, et. al., 1997). Following five 30-minute massages, children/adolescents had better sleep patterns, lower level of depression and anxiety and lower stress hormone levels (Field, et. al., 1992). Massage therapy also decreased the anxiety, depression and stress hormone levels of children diagnosed with PTSD, who survived Hurricane Andrew. In addition, their drawings reflected less depression (Field, et. al., 1996).
ETHICAL CONSIDERATION OF NON-SEXUAL TOUCH IN THERAPY
Recent research on pregnancy and infant massage documents benefits of touch that might allow us to consider this form of touch to be labeled as psychotherapy at the earliest stages of human development. Massaged babies show improved emotionality, sociability, soothability, temperament dimensions, and better face-to-face interaction behaviors (Field, et al., 1996). Many hospitals are now implementing Tender Touch parent education programs that promote the philosophy of developmental care in order to individualize infant care to maximize each baby's developmental potential. Other similar programs teach Tender Touch volunteers how to work with drug-exposed newborns. These programs were developed for at-risk infants and can be conceptualized as infant psychotherapy.
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