By Heidi Fraser Hageman March 17, 2016
"Relaxing into Being: Cultural Transformation and The Clinical Significance of Physical Touch" A presentation at the annual conference for the Society for Humanistic Psychology with EWP alumni Samuel Malkemus, PhD (‘13)
In a culture of high stress and relational fragmentation American's are becoming increasingly alienated from their source of authentic flourishing. Empirical research attests to the fact that relaxation is a necessary precondition for reducing a client's degree of trauma and overall distress. Relaxation offers a pathway out of our societal malaise. Humanistic psychology, drawing upon such figures as Heidegger and Maslow, suggests that a therapeutic alliance that brings the client closer to their authentic identity will in turn enhance their relationship to Being - that nonverbal and somatic experience of the unity and presence of existence itself. This seminar continues this discussion by focusing upon two questions. First, in the therapeutic process of relaxing a client's defenses, what is one relaxing into? And second, how might the therapist's utilization of touch enhance this process? Drawing upon contemporary literature that supports the therapeutic value of touch--despite a widespread avoidance of touch in therapy, due to fears of litigation, lack of training, etc.--I propose that touch can serve as a helpful tool in assisting a relaxation into Being. This involves exploring the ways that touch is beneficial, not only for the client, but for the larger cultural project of transformation to which humanistic psychology is committed. This seminar involves both didactic and experiential components.