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Exploring the psychological processes underlying touch: lessons from the Alexander Technique

Jones, T.; Glover, Lesley


T. Jones


The experience of touch is significant; both in its positive implications and in how it attracts caution and controversy. Accordingly, physical contact within psychological therapy has been shown to improve well-being and the therapeutic relationship, yet the majority of therapists never or rarely use touch. This research aimed to explore psychological processes underlying touch through the Alexander Technique, a psycho-physical technique taught one to one using touch. Six individuals who had received the Alexander Technique were interviewed, and 111 completed surveys. Interview data suggested an incompatibility between touch and the spoken word, which was understood through the way touch lacks verbal discourses in our society. The largely simplistic and dichotomous verbal understanding we have (either only very positive or very negative) could help understand some of the societal-level caution surrounding touch. Touch was seen also as a nurturing experience by interviewees, which influenced inter-personal and intra-personal relational processes. Developmental models were used to frame the way touch strengthened the pupil-teacher relationship and the way pupils' intra-personal psychological change seemed linked to this relational experience. The surveys largely supported these findings, and discussion is made around the notable way pupils negatively interpreted the intention of the survey. Implications for the use of touch in psychological therapies are discussed, as are limitations and ideas for future research. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2014-03
Journal Clinical psychology & psychotherapy
Print ISSN 1063-3995
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 21
Issue 2
Pages 140-153
APA6 Citation Jones, T., & Glover, L. (2014). Exploring the psychological processes underlying touch: lessons from the Alexander Technique. Clinical psychology and psychotherapy : an international journal of theory & practice, 21(2), 140-153.
Keywords Clinical Psychology
Publisher URL