The Use of Touch in a Focusing-Oriented Therapy Session

in November, 2004 issue of The Focusing Connection

Some time ago a 49-year-old woman came to me. She told her story of two divorces, a problematic recent relationship, her difficult relationships with her 19-year-old daughter and 17-year-old son. On top of that she has a hectic job and was selling her house, building another. She needed some support, she felt, to be able to cope with all these things and find a way to be with it all. She was interested in my massages and my listening skills. We used both of them.

The fifth session went something like this: First we talked a bit and I asked her what she felt she would like this time. She said she wanted a combination of Focusing, massage and paying attention to some inner child stuff. Even though it sounded like a lot for one session, I said I would see if we could combine it all. So, after quite a long leading in, (she’s a good, fast talker, and I wanted to get her well into her body first), I invited her to sense what was asking for attention now. Cl: “I’m thinking of my boyfriend. It’s this month he said he would connect with me and we would talk together to see if we have a future here. Something inside is impatient, wanting him to phone. We made a deal here.” Th: “Mmm.” Cl: “I’m realizing, if he doesn’t connect with me, it’s the end for me, then I’ve reached my boundary here. I’ve been waiting for a year now, waiting for him. That’s enough for me.” I reflected that and invited her to sense how all of that felt in her body. She nodded. “It feels like this is true and right for me.” It sounded like a little piece had reached its completion.

Th: “So shall we see and invite some child part in here that might be connected with this?” Cl: “Yes, do.” I gave her an invitation towards inviting some child part, being with all that was there before, inviting whether there were some memories, images, thoughts, or a knowing of some child part or energy that might be linked with this boyfriend issue. She was silent for some time. Cl: “I’m having these memories and this feeling of this cheerful, lively, sporty child. I can see and feel her. She’s just so lively. Doing gymnastics and flic flacs. And I’m realizing how that is still very much with me right now. I can still do that and enjoy that. And how I love that in others too, such a child part. My boyfriend has that, too.” Th: “Maybe allow yourself to really sense that right now and how that feels in your body.” Cl: “It feels lovely!” Th: “Mmm, just be with that feeling as long as you like and see what wants to come.” She was silent again for some time and then said, “There is something else now; I’m seeing my father getting really mad at my brother, very, very angry he is, going berzerk with him.” Th: “There is your father being really mad at your brother.” Cl: “Yes, and I’m backing away from it, I’m so scared. And I’m realizing how even now I hate conflicts like that, and I remember how I decided right then and there, to be nice and docile, so that I would not get into trouble like my brother.” I reflected this. Cl: “Yes, conflicts in which one can listen to the other are OK with me, but not these kind of conflicts, it just scares me.” Th: “Are you still seeing that girl, being there, backing away?” Cl: ”Mm-hm.” Th: “So there is you and there is you as a girl. Maybe sense what she would have needed in that situation, what would have been right for her?” Cl: (after some silence) “Hmm, she would have needed someone to comfort her, to pay attention to her, to help her express her feelings. No one was there even seeing her. My parents both were too busy with my brother, they did their best, but just didn’t see me.”

Then I remembered her request for massage, which is touch to me. And I asked, “How could that have been on a touching level, what could such a person have been for you, using touch?” Cl: “A real comforting touch, like holding me by the shoulders, or hand on my back, or an arm around my shoulders, just gentle, caring, being there, and asking how I was.” By that time we had twenty more minutes left for the session and I wanted to honor her request for massage/touch. So I suggested, “Shall I see if I can use that kind of a touch while massaging you for the last twenty minutes, to end the session with?” She sounded very sure as she responded, “Yes, please do.” We both simply stood up and went to my massage table, which is just a few steps away from the chairs we were sitting on. I asked her to be on the table the way that felt most right for her; she decided to be on her belly. I had her leave her clothing on, because when left with little time I prefer not to take more time to let people undress, and anyway, clothes don’t interfere with sensing. Having clothes on, energy comes deeply through, when the intention of touch is clear. So in my hands I put that intention of comforting, being with, holding, (which had been in there all through the session while listening anyway), using a gentle touch and emphasizing the shoulders, arms, back, yet including all of her body, back and front. She was silently sensing. To end I asked: “How is this for you?” Cl: “It feels just great, I feel my liveliness so clearly again. I’m sensing how I love to be touched this way. I just want more of this!” Th: “Let’s acknowledge all of that, also that part of you that wants more of this, maybe let it know you hear that, and that you’re willing to be back with it.” She stayed for some more minutes just with herself, nodding. I could sense her containment within herself. Then she stood up and we made a next appointment.