Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Physical contact between therapist and client continues to be an area of both controversy and concern among mental health professionals. Although there has been much theoretical discussion about touching, the literature contains little related empirical research.

Forty undergraduate students participated as subjects in a psychotherapy analogue study. Independent variables were physical con tact and sex of therapist. Dependent variables were subject and thera pist nonverbal immediacy, speech duration, and affective reaction and subject self-disclosure and perception of therapist interpersonal atti tudes. Data on subject experiences with touching and attitudes toward it were also gathered.

The results show no facilitative effects of therapist-initiated physical contact. Quite to the contrary, subjects who were touched reported negative affective reactions and tended to feel less well regarded by the therapist. Only one therapist of each sex was used resulting in a confounding of sex differences with individual differences and, therefore, any differences found between the male and femal therapist are most parsimoniously viewed as individual differences including sex differentials butnot general izable to the population of male and female therapists. Neither subject experience with touching nor attitudes toward it were fomd to significantly influence the affects of the independent variables. The results are compared with the findings of relevant previous research, implications for psychotherapy are discussed, and directions for future research are sugested.