Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Study Type



School for Social Work


Play therapy, Nurturing behavior, Touch-Therapeutic use, Child psychotherapy, Adolescent psychotherapy, Ethics, Psychotherapy-Moral and ethical aspects, Nurturing touch, Boundaries


Play therapy has become a popular treatment model for children that addresses a spectrum of disorders and behaviors. While utilizing play techniques, the use of touch between client and therapist often introduces itself into the therapeutic relationship. Whether incidental, intentional, or initiated by the client or therapist, nurturing touch has become a topic of discussion in regards to its appropriateness, purpose and efficacy. While there has been extensive research into the use of touch with adults in psychotherapy, there is limited information in regards to its use with children. The lack of research and literature leaves therapists, with limited information and guidance on how to effectively offer treatment to children who seek services in a manner that both meets the client’s needs as well as allows the therapist to engage confidently in nurturing touch interventions. This study sought to explore the use of nurturing touch in play therapy with children and identify challenges therapists face when choosing to use touch in their practice. Findings showed that the majority of therapists that participated utilize some form of nurturing touch in their practices. However, within this group there was also a high level of concern regarding how the use of touch may be interpreted by others and often therapists may not utilize nurturing touch even though they feel it is therapeutically appropriate. For social workers in the field this friction and uncertainty may cause unneeded stress and anxiety which may inhibit their ability to fully be present and engage in practices that best serve the needs of the their clients. It is important that future research continues to explore the specific nurturing touch practices of therapists and this research allows for the development of more defined guidelines and evidenced based practices that provide therapists with the knowledge and confidence to meet their client’s emotional needs.




v, 63 pages. M.S.W., Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Ma., 2016. Includes bibliographical references (pages 46-49)

Included in

Social Work Commons