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What is Trauma Touch?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 31 October 2016
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Trauma touch is a special form of massage therapy which is geared towards clients who have experienced traumatic events, ranging from catastrophic physical injuries to intense emotional events. It integrates the principles of psychotherapy with the healing benefits of gentle, conscious touch. As a general rule, clients contract for at least 10 sessions of trauma touch with a massage therapist, and they may also be asked to see a psychotherapist separately to ensure that they get the emotional care and support they need.

Touch has long been recognized as a powerful form of therapy. Several studies have shown that touch can greatly improve mental health for all individuals, including people who are coping with trauma. Massage therapy can be a very emotionally intense experience for therapist and client, and often unexpected emotions are released during regular massage sessions. Trauma touch refines massage therapy, with the goal of bringing out those emotions in an environment where the client feels safe and supported.

Each trauma touch session is radically different, reflecting the fact that people respond differently to trauma. Some active massage is usually included, to release tension and stress, but the client and therapist may also talk, work together on various exercises, meditate, or sit in contemplation together. Each physical interaction between client and therapist is carefully negotiated to ensure that the client feels comfortable, and clients decide whether to sit, stand, or lie down for sessions, with the session in the control of the client.

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Many people become emotionally numb after trauma, and one of the major goals of trauma touch is to bring these repressed emotions out so that they can be examined and processed. Trauma touch may also be used to discourage self medication with drugs or dangerous behavior. The accompanying psychotherapy helps the client work through the trauma in a structured way, harnessing the released emotions to spark a productive conversation between psychotherapist and client.

People approach trauma touch from a variety of fields. Some people are massage therapists who would like to be able to offer more emotional support the clients. Others are nurses and healthcare practitioners who want to integrate conscious touch into their practice and patient care. Others are psychotherapists, psychologists, and counselors who want to work with the positive benefits of touch.

People who are interested in trauma touch may be able to get recommendations from healthcare practitioners, or through professional organizations for trauma touch therapists. Because trauma touch is so individualized, it is a good idea to ask for a trial session first, to see if the therapist and client get along well together.

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