Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Psychotherapist and patient, Attachment behavior, Touch-Therapeutic use, Touch, Physical contact, Attachment, Therapists' behavior


This study seeks to answer the question: In what ways is the current adult attachment style of experienced mental health professionals associated with their use of touch in practice with adult clients? The hypotheses were that therapist with fearful and dismissive attachment styles would be less likely to engage in touch with clients, while those with a preoccupied style would engage in touch more often, and those with a secure attachment would show no particular pattern in their use of touch. This study was undertaken in order to further understandings of the factors involved in therapists decisions to and not to use touch in therapy, allowing for more therapist self-awareness and intentionality in the use of touch in therapy. This was studied through a quantitative, cross-sectional, relational project involving an Internet survey of experienced mental health professionals. The sample was 63 full time, masters' level, adult therapists with five or more years of experience. The sample was predominantly white, female, psychoanalytically oriented, social workers. 45 therapists displayed secure adult attachment, 8 fearful/disorganized, 5 preoccupied, and 3 dismissive. The results included many findings on therapists touch behaviors in therapy but no significant relationships were found between the therapists' touch behaviors and their attachment styles. Nevertheless, by examining touch behaviors in therapy this study furthers the field's knowledge on touch, specifically its near ubiquity, prompting further research, improved theory, and better practice.




v, 74 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2010. Includes bibliographical references (p. 52-57)