Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Psychotherapist and patient, Body language, Nonverbal communication, Psychotherapy, Clinical social work, Body-oriented psychotherapy


This mixed-method study explores the role and relevance of nonverbal communication in the clinical encounter as perceived by clinical social workers. A survey of 54 clinical social workers currently practicing with an MSW was used to assess the perceived value, frequency, and presumed usefulness of attending to nonverbal communication between oneself and one's client. The survey also inquired into the depth and breadth of training participants had received in incorporating nonverbal communication into a therapeutic practice. Participants evaluated the quantity and quality of training they received in both MSW and other professional programs, and reflected upon the impact extracurricular, personal experiences had contributed to their sense of nonverbal communication. The study found that clinical social workers strongly endorse the value and relevance of nonverbal communication in clinical social work. Accordingly, the participants also spoke highly of the value of systematic training in recognizing and interpreting body language in a clinical practice, and reflected positively on the opportunities they had had to develop a body-oriented sensitivity. In contrast, the participants reported that the level of attention their MSW programs placed on nonverbal communication was often peripheral and partial, which mirrors the field's lack of literature on body language. The study found participants' confidence levels in their own ability to assess and utilize nonverbal communication varied widely with a lukewarm average, and that higher confidence levels correlated to outside training with a body-oriented component.




iv, 75 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2012. Includes bibliographical references (p. 63-67)

Limited Access until August 2017