Therapy vs. therapeutic

Relevant to recent discussions of touch in therapy:

Boundaries in psychotherapy are crucial for it to be psychotherapy. Otherwise, it becomes one of number of other wish-fulfilling relationships we could have (friend, physical therapist, hair stylist, parent, bartender, etc.). Just because therapeutic (read: helpful) things happen in a relationship doesn’t make the relationship therapy. For therapy to have impact beyond what these other relationships can have, it needs to be something different from what these other relationships can be.

I have had a few clients who have requested touch or some kind of physical contact. They explain that they see me as a parent figure and that it would be healing to experience non-sexual touch. I gently explain that we need to talk about feelings rather than act on them. Expressing feelings is not an end in itself as catharsis but it is a means of bringing about awareness and self-control. Gaining control over urges and feelings is the reason that they are seeking my help so it would not help for me to move in an opposite direction. Acting on feelings runs counter to the objective of understanding them and finding strategies to contain them. This has been effective with more rapid results than in experiential therapy (e.g., the client on the CNN segment – 3 years and running.)

16 thoughts on “Therapy vs. therapeutic”

  1. I have four children (one of whom is not in school yet) so believe me I know how important touch and affection is.

    The issue is who provides it and within what context. Five minutes in a glider is not nearly enough and then this turns into five more and more until the client attaches to the therapist.

    Adults need to learn to put their feelings into words. Therapists cannot gratify their client’s needs. They can instead help clients do this in the real world.

    And no, the 80% figure is not accurate as applied to all homosexuals.

  2. Dear Dr. Throckmorton,
    I saw the article on AgapePress re: Mr. Cohen’s CNN appearance. As a stay-at-home mother of 2, my youngest is 6, I have been very intrigued with the need for touch from my children since birth, especially in the early years. I have attempted to follow some of the “attachment parenting” ideas of Dr. William Sears, i.e. breastfeeding for 1-2 years, and sleeping with the children. It may seem unusual to those not around young children alot, but my intuition is that TOUCH is more important to children than food. Physical touch is powerful. Like the old trick of breathing on an infants head to quiet them and the powerful bonding that occurs with breastfeeding where touch and food go together. I would not be so skeptical of the idea of touch therapy. It must be done very carefully so as not to become sexual and end up another hurt to the hurting person. I’ve often thought that it is what alot of really hurting people need, a few minutes in a glider with a truly caring person with time to cry out the hurts of our childhoods.

    On a totally separate note, I had read many years ago that some 80% of people with homosexual desires had been used sexually as children at some point. I’ve been unable to find that info again, do you know if that is true?

    I appreciate your work on this important subject of human sexuality. My prayer is that God will “save us from our sins”, heterosexual and homosexual — and lead us all to sexual purity where we can stop using and being used. I want to be loved, not used.

  3. Dr. Throckmorton:

    What do you think is a legitimate method for a child or adult who was very deprived of any affectionate touch? Let’s assume it was part of the persons experience of homosexuality, hypothetically. How would you handle it? You very briefly wrote about it earlier.


  4. Kronemeyer is based in Jacov et al. (D! you’re gonna make me google to make sure I get the spelling correct…). Large slabs of Kronemeyer’s Syntonic Therapy will sound very familiar to a Primal Screamer.

    I did read Kronemeyer’s hideous “Overcoming Homosexuality” many years ago. A classic psychoanalyst mind-set that saw a few disturbed people in their clinic, and thereby concluded they understood an entire group of people that they otherwise avoided and were ignorant of. One wonders what he would have concluded if he’d been equally ignorant of heterosexuals as a group and seen a few in therapy (A: the same!)

    Oh, that and the classic psychoanalyst mindset of “I know it doesn’t appear that you are sick. But I know better. You must be in denial/lying/repressing/etc. You are sick because I say so.” An attitude that is virtually impervious to reasoning or evidence. One can almost hear the irrational voice/s of Rado…


    Warren, I don’t doubt for a moment that some adults can be very deprived of even the simplest human affections. To the point this does spill over in all sorts of ways. Perhaps it’s those that “rise to the level of a treatable condition”? (Is that what you’re saying?)

    In any case I don’t think it’s the role of the therapist themself to attempt to provide the missing touch or affection. I think we’re agreeing on this, at least?

    Suggest ways the client can find what they want, sure. Point them to support groups or social settings, yep. Work through attitudes or behaviour that may be preventing the desired outcome, well of course.

    I’m trying to think of an anology, and the best I can come up with — for now — is the idea that someone could (or should) go searching for genuine love and affection with a prostitute. Whatever one might get (or contract!) with a prostitute, I’m not sure many would think it was genuine love and affection.

    At least prostitutes seem to understand their role, even if some therapists do not…

    sidenote for readers: listen to Nina Simone’s extraordinary version of “Love For Sale” to get were we’re going here 🙂

  5. I am pretty sure that Kronemeyer used Janov’s ideas.

    I am not sure I do agree with the concept of touch deprivation as a common condition. I think there are severely neglected kids that may experience something like this. However, a longing for friendly touch is a human desire. I think people who get a lot of it probably want it too when they are separated from loved ones. In short, I am skeptical that this is some experience that rises to the level of a treatable condition.

  6. Dr. Throckmorton:

    Are you getting confused with Dr. Arthur Janov who wrote “Primal Scream” in 1970?


  7. Are you saying that people should not act on feelings of touch or are you saying a therapist should not do it?

    I assume you do believe touch depravity is a real thing.

  8. Dear Dr. Throckmorton,

    Could you please tell me which book by a primal scream therapist you were referring to?

  9. Funny, you must be reading my mind. I am still working on my Masters, however during this dialogue the thought has crossed my mind several times that this would a great disertation.

    I haven’t had time yet, but I will check out the link that you referenced. Thanks.

  10. There may be enough now. Even if Richard allowed his clients to be surveyed and followed by an independent researcher it would help establish that he may not be doing harm. However, a head-to-head comparison of therapies would be incredibly difficult, but not impossible to do. Did you say you were training as a therapist? Need a doctoral dissertation topic?

  11. I understand that the research is limited on experiential methods. To that point, I asked in a previous post:
    “as a clinician and researcher, how much anecdotal evidence would you need in order to justify the formation of a hypothesis, and a complete study of the issue?”

  12. No I can’t because it doesn’t exist. And that is part of my continuing point: there is very little research on touch in therapy and none on touch in therapy for people who want to change sexual feelings. None. So all we have to go on are anecdotes. There is a book by a Primal Scream therapist some years ago claiming an 80% rate of cure for highly motivated gays but no follow up since then. I will look up the reference. But you can find numerous research reports on cognitive behavioral therapy.

  13. Dear Dr. Throckmorton,
    How would you classify the particular form of psychotherapy that you practise? Psychoanalytical? Cognitive Behavioral? Humanistic? or something else or some other combination thereof?

    Can you point to research, beyond the comments of one man on CNN that shows that “understanding feelings, and finding strategies to contain them” is more effective and faster than experiential methods?

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