Touch and Love in Therapy

I’m perplexed, nervous, and also excited by some changes happening in my therapy. Curious y’alls thoughts, experiences.

I’ve been seeing my therapist for about 2 years. We’ve always sat on opposite sides of the room (or have been virtual). Recently she has offered to come sit by me on the couch. I declined because closeness scares me. She has offered a hug. I declined. I did ask for one the next session though and she accepted. Last session we sat on the floor, closer to each other than usual. And she asked if I’d like her to hold my hand. I was in the midst of feeling some intense shame that had me pretty disconnected. I vigorously shook my head no to that one too though. I mean, yes, it would have been soothing… and also, terrifying! My stomach was immediately in knots when she asked and I instinctively moved away from her after she asked. Thank you trauma for filling me with fear at physical contact. Sigh.

I’m just kind of in this weird space of… I do want all of these changes and closeness… and also confused by where it is coming from. It wasn’t a part of our relationship for 2 years. Maybe it makes sense to her since we also talked about therapy love this year… and kind of both agreed that it was a safe, natural thing. Maybe she can sense that I don’t want to have to reparent my inner wounded child alone and is offering to help… I just don’t know…

What does closeness and touch look like in your therapy? What was the timeline for that? Did y’all ever talk about how and why the changes happened or did it just happen organically?

4 thoughts on “Touch and Love in Therapy

  1. Perhaps it is to help with your physical closeness with your daughter. This may be a segway into that. I am the same as you as far as touch is concerned and would most likely be questioning as well. The first thought that came to my mind was for parenting purposes.

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    1. I think that’s a logical leap. I don’t think it is the case with us though. My daughter and I have tons of physical closeness. She is about the only one who gets that from me. We’ve co-slept her whole life; she contact naps; I baby wear; she gets snuggles whenever she says “up” or gestures to be picked up; or when we are playing and she comes to sit in my lap; I gently “draw” on her face with my finger to help her fall asleep; I rub her back to soothe her when she wakes up suddenly and is fussy… lots and lots of physical love/touch with the little. Not so much or at all with other adult humans or for my own needs. So… maybe that’s more it… helping me connect with having my own touch needs.

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  2. Both of my therapy relationships were probably a year or so old before touch was ever introduced. With J, I almost always was the one to initiate and it generally was just a hug here and there. Very seldom. With L, I’ve found that she will reach out and offer a hug more, but she usually leaves it up to me as well. Neither therapist ever asked or offered more than that, and I don’t know how I would have reacted to it either. I definitely think it warrants a conversation because it seems to be just creating confusion on your part as well as triggering that feeling of almost “itchiness” at the thought of it, you know? It’s an important boundary and one that may need concrete parameters around it at first. Or you may find when you know more of her intentions it happens more naturally. Keep us updated!

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  3. I would feel confused by the change, too. Maybe you can ask her about it and talk about it? Ask her where it’s coming from and why she’s doing these things and offering these things when she hasn’t in the past?

    I understand that desire for closeness and also the fear.

    Personally, I’ve kept my distance from therapists, physically. No touch or hugs. I did give one therapist a one-armed hug when I said bye to her at the end. It makes me feel safer and more comfortable to have that distance. If it’s something that you’re working on in therapy, I can see how that could potentially be useful.

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