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  • This blog provides a forum for discussion of therapeutic technique, including cognitive behavioural and psychodynamic technique. The focus of the blog is on psychotherapeutic technique and issues in the room rather than case or theoretical discussions. At the bottom of each post is a comments section. Feel free to make any comments you like. Please remember this blog is a public forum.

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  • Chris Allan is a clinical psychologist and Director of the Psychology Clinic at the University of Wollongong. He has a strong interest in both cognitive and psychodynamic therapies and an ongoing fascination in the interaction of technology and psychology. His interests are varied and include martial arts, playing guitar, cooking, chess, clothes, poetry and computer gaming. He is married with two children two dogs and a budgie.

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I laughed and laughed at the post.
I am preparing for USMLE and our ethics questions actually sound like that!!!

Great blog!



Alas it seems what you write is true.

I remember receiving a document from the APS on touch in the psychologist's practice. It was 30 pages long!

Human touch, one of the most therapeutic things seems to have been sexualized out of existence.

I liked your description of option B, in the humorous way it was presented. Sometimes we call that the "A frame" hug.

I look forward to reading your blog


This reminded me of a wee book I had once called the 'Little book of hugs'. One of the hugs was called 'the grabber-squeezer' hug - designed for hug-by-stealth or 'ambush'!!
Good to see you're posting again! Look forward to more, you have a heap of good stuff on here.


The vast majority of clients know that touching is inappropriate so the processing of the hug needs to deal as much with the patients need or impulse as it does with the guilt they may feel for having transgressed a boundary.

phd in yogurtry

I'm here by way of Cog-Beh Therapy Arena. The post is so necessary to talk about, often. I love the tear-stained tie bit. Yes, we therapists have a shallow side, too.

Looking forward to checking in regularly.


This was a really humorous one but very true!!! My wife is a therapist and this happens to her always. She tells me that all advice fails when caught in an awkward situation especially with very delicate cases.


That was too funny. It's such a taboo subject. Glad you brought it up.

I think our own anxieties about boundaries and touch in psychotherapy figures strongly in our established "rules" about appropriate distance with clients. In an effort to "do no harm" I wonder if we've taken too much of the natural healing right out of therapy.

I was at a worshop with Allan Schore who was talking about right brain processes and I remember someone in the audience asking if therapists should be learning the use of "touch" in therapy. I believe he said it was a good question to explore.


Ha, this is excellent! As much as I want to hug my therapist I cannot imagine doing the ambush hug without getting a football block followed by termination/referral the following week. Also, since we have talked about the hug topic, and what a hug would mean to me, he is careful to stay about 5 steps away at the end of a session!
Just a reminder to the therapists out there, the right response to the client who says "I am just so grateful for all you have done" is "You are welcome and I am glad you feel this was helpful". Manners, please!



Excellent! i agree with so much of what you said! Very well written. i cannot imagine hugging my psychiatrist, much as i wish h e would hug me! Thanks for the "manners" part.


You had me laughing!

Although I don't (at present) work with touch with my clients, my own therapist has been trained in 'touch work'. I find it incredibly powerful (obviously within appropriate boundaries) as a lot of attachment issues are touch-related, and it can be a healing process. I think we have probably gone too far in avoiding touch of any kind.

John Manteria

This is a great post this is so true, you know how you avoid all of this and its for free, go to, www.therapycounseling.com





Blogs are so interactive where we get lots of informative on any topics nice job keep it up !!

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Christine Bonsmann

Funny and insightful. Complex topic. I wonder if it matters more if the genders of therapist and client are different? What do others think?


My wife is a counsellor and psychotherapist.

I all the years she has been counselling I don't think this has happened to her.

Perhaps it is because her training is to let her client's see themselves out and thus avoiding the situation occuring.

I will be sure to ask her.

This is a thought provoking blog


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Alison Phillips

"The vast majority of clients know that touching is inappropriate"

wow! How black and white is THAT!

While I acknowledge that touch in therapy is a tricky issue, there are alot of good therapists who use safe touch in their sessions with their clients ... and this touch can be very healing and comforting for these clients.

My own therapist - who is CBT trained - has offered to hold my hand during the processing of past traumatic memories. And this safe touch from my therapist not only provides me with needed comfort during a very difficult time, but it is also very helpful to keep grounded in the present.

While saying this, I would stress the importance of approaching the use of touch in therapy very carefully, and that it is vital that both the client and the therapist are completely comfortable with the type of touch to be used. I also think that the client's and therapist's intentions and perceived benefits behind the use of touch would need to be explored, so that it can be ascertained that the touch is going to be helpful for the client and not harmful (both short and long term).

But I believe that making a statement saying that touching in therapy is "inappropriate", is simplistic and incorrect, as under the right conditions (and in compliance with professional standards and ethics) safe touch can be very beneficial for some clients.

Account Deleted

I am a bit too much excited after reading your article but I am just not able to tell you how better I feel after reading this.



Oh yes it is hugly important to discuss it in supervision and try to bring it back into the room with the client too, keeping in mind the deep shame and humiliation this could evoke.

Networking solutions

Wow, Great postNice work, I would like to read your blog every day Thanks

Melbourne Psychotherapist

Wow, if this scenario doesn't evoke intense countertransference I don't know what will! They should use the scenario for an "In Treatment" episode.


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Fan of good therapy

I love this blog. I was in therapy (for the first time), with the experience of being married to a clinical psychologist for 20+ years... Anyway, I had become very attached to my therapist, and was in the fantasy phase - she would give me all the love and acceptance I had missed from my mother, and I would be "cured". I was trying to be respectful of boundaries, and asked her for a hug. She hesitated then gave me a half-way pat-on-the-back-hug. It was perfect. Had she outright said "no", I would have felt rejected and the therapeutic relationship damaged (perhaps irrevocably). Had she given me a full-fledged heartfelt hug, she would have been reinforcing my unhealthy fantasy. It was good that it was awkward as it provoked me into thinking about why I wanted the hug, about whether or not my request was reasonable (it wasn't), and I became acutely aware of how she has to walk a fine line between providing me traditional support and confronting my defenses and unhealthy patterns...

Russische Frauen

I searched for this theme! The vast majority of clients know that touching is inappropriate so the processing of the hug needs to deal as much with the patients need or impulse as it does with the guilt they may feel for having transgressed a boundary.

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