About Safe Touch® Therapy
In situations of either real or perceived danger the body and mind activates our emergency “fight or flight” response in order to keep us safe. However when this response fails us, when we freeze or somehow are unable to prevent or escape the danger, the situation then becomes traumatic, and our normal ability to cope becomes overwhelmed by helplessness and terror. Our minds become stuck in the traumatic event/s while our bodies continue to store its memory.
Although trauma triggers intense emotions, many of the ongoing consequences are physical: sleep disturbances, panic reactions, numbness or excessive sensitivity to touch, headaches, limited movement and breathing and postural changes. It is as though the body is stuck within a state of continual trauma and our physical experience of life becomes disconnected from reality. Safe Touch® Therapy offers an opportunity to understand and address these patterns of physical responses which remain with us long after the danger and trauma has passed.
The culture in which we live teaches us to primarily value only what is rational or mentally based, and not to focus to much on physical sensations. As such we run the risk of becoming people who live “in our heads” and not in our bodies, therefore missing the richness and fullness of our experiences. Consistent with these cultural beliefs, many typs of therapy only focus on the cognitive aspects of trauma, and ignore the physical manifestations of the traumatic experience. Safe Touch Therapy has been developed to fill this shortcoming and offers a supportive and alternative path to renegotiating old physical behavior patterns.
Safe Touch® Therapy Method:
Safe Touch is an integrative approach to the body that allows patients to connect to their emotions and to express those emotions in a way that was not possible during the traumatic experience. The process has several goals: to strengthen the patient and to allow them to regain awareness of their body; to create and maintain healthy boundaries; to build trust-based relationships and deeper levels of communication. For a person who has been traumatized, this represents a safe approach to reintegrating the body with the intention of witnessing the trauma’s impact without minimizing it.
It is important to emphasize that the method is intended as a bridge to the psychotherapeutic community. We encourage all participants to adopt a holistic approach to the treatment process, and to combine physically therapeutic contact with psychotherapy.
A Safe Touch therapist is a senior, highly skilled touch therapist but does not apply the type of physical contact that is normally expected. It is the patient who decides on what kind of contact they prefer: direct skin-to-skin contact or through clothing, whether they choose to lie down, sit or stand. The type, quality and location of touch are also decided upon by the patient. If physical contact is not desired at all, the session will focus on breathing, guided imagery, or movement. Together, the therapist and patient create an emotionally safe environment in which healthy boundaries and trust can be developed. Treatment always progresses at a pace that can be controlled, while giving absolute respect to patients’ feelings and limitations.
Recovery from trauma is much like giving birth. It takes courage to release and feel the pain, to trust in the hands that support you while opening yourself to the intensity and power of the new life before you.
Juliet Mendelzweig is one of the founders of the Safe Touch method for treating trauma in Israel and the director of Lev Hamaga Center (the college and multidisciplinary treatment center). She is a lecturer at Tel Aviv University and leads workshops and courses. Juliet is a senior member of the Association of Massage and Body Treatments in Israel.