Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


There is a wide range of opinion among psychotherapists as to the appropriateness of physical contact between therapist and client. Some suggest that touching facilitates the development of the therapeutic relationship; others, however, argue that potentially harmful effects far outweigh possible benefits.

In the present case study, touching was manipulated using an ABA reversal design during each of four initial meetings of a male therapist and female client. Dependent measures included therapist and client immediacy and speech production, and client self-disclosure. Time series data for each dependent measure were examined to determine whether client and/or therapist behavior changed in response to touch. Additional correlational analyses were performed to provide information on patterns of concomitant variation, over time, among the various immediacy, speech, and disclosure measures.

Therapist-initiated touch increased client speech production in two of the sessions, but also produced compensatory reductions in client immediacy (e.g. reduced gaze, backward lean), especially in early sessions. The results suggest that the effects of touch on the client-therapist relationship can be quite complex and may change as the therapeutic relationship develops. The results also highlight the importance of examining therapist as well as client response to physical contact.