Touch Taboo in Therapy

Published Categorised as Brain Health, Health, Brain Power, Personal

This week’s reading for my ten minutes of tDCS during brain biofeedback came from my website. I decided I wanted to refresh my memory on the hypothalamus. But instead of reading Wikipedia, why not read what I’d written back in 2010 with the benefit of my trainer reading along with me, and so I could find out at the same time if any of it needed updating or correcting.

We didn’t get that far.

The image of the hypothalamus stopped us. She was very taken with it, and we began discussing the anatomy and functions depicted in the image. Neither of us could remember what ADH stood for until I scanned down the image, and there it was, defined for those who look: antidiuretic hormone. It goes to the kidneys. I read out the hormone listed next to ADH: oxytocin. It’s for births, right? I asked. Yes. But more than that.

It’s the hugging hormone.


Apparently, the new research is showing that humans — child, teen, and adult alike — need eight hugs per day minimum. Uh… Even married couples don’t hug that often day after day. Maybe when newlywed… Kids, on the other hand, do hug that often and more. To make matters harder for us big-personal-space adults, the hug has to be a real hug, arms fully around each other, not an air-kiss hug or a one-arm hug. A real one.

Whoa, that’s pressure. And in a way as depressing as hearing how one needs good sleep for so many hours, when one’s brain injury screws up sleep every single night. And no one can do a thing about it. However, therapists could help in the hug department, except that, especially in the US, touch — and thus hugging — has become synonymous with sex and so taboo.

Ramryge angels at Gloucester Cathedral, England

Brain injury grief is

extraordinary grief

research proves

needs healing.

Therapists can use all the senses except touch in their work with clients. Eyes to observe and create a connection with. Ears to listen and hear nuances in tone of voice. Nose to smell state of cleanliness. Well, okay, not taste. We don’t lick each other like dogs do. We can only talk about how our taste changes. But touch is one powerful sense therapists, psychiatrists, and psychologists can but don’t use to calm clients, convey support, enhance bonding so that therapy can be more effective, and promote the production of oxytocin in each other.

No touching! is the recommendation from professionals and teachers to counsellors. I suspect many break it in their practice once they get to know their adult clients and discuss it with them first. I had that happen once. Can I hug you? he asked. I was unsure. I was in mega-pain, and I had never been a touchy-feely person to put it mildly. Plus he was a man, and isn’t the societal mantra that when men and women hug, it’s all about eroticism? Yet life was pretty much awful and getting awfuller. I did need a hug, and he’d seen that.

I said yes.

It was a real hug, full arms around. It was the most sexless hug ever. And it calmed me and allowed me to leave feeling slightly more able to face the rest of the day.

My Duck logo walking on my books in pink and blue shading.



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