Dissertation Title:

Touched by Touching: A Hermeneutic Phenomenological Look at the Experience of Touch for Bodywork Practitioners


Sophie Fletcher

Date, Time & Place:

June 7, 2021 at 12:00 pm


Physical touch is a universal experience that is vital for one’s life, however it has only gained research recognition over the past few decades. Three areas of touch research continue to be neglected: what happens beyond the obvious physical stimulation, the inherent bidirectional attribute of touch, and the embodied experience of those who utilize touch as a main avenue of their work. This research addresses each of these areas through exploring the lived experience of touch for bodywork practitioners. It relied on a hermeneutic phenomenological methodology amplified by a depth psychological lens that enhanced embodied understanding. To capture the ubiquitous nature of relational experience, literature from depth psychology, dermatology, philosophy, interpersonal neuroscience, touch research, bodywork manuals, sociology, and biomagnetic energy science was explored. The interview findings demonstrated that touch allowed the practitioners to bypass the conscious mind and experience deeper connection between themselves and their clients. It also revealed that the physical nature of being a bodywork practitioner requires a lifestyle that incorporates self-care to help the practitioner provide the greatest service to their clients.  This research contributed additional flesh to theories about somatic countertransference, intercorporeality, peripersonal space, the body as the unconscious, the collective unconscious, the Wounded Healer archetype, energy exchange between bodies, intuition, resonance, and the transcendent function. Contemporary research on touch and bodywork requires both discernment and insight. This research responded creatively to this calling.

  • Program/Track/Year: Depth Psych Emphasis in Somatic Studies, S, 2014
  • Chair: Dr. Christine Downing
  • Reader: Dr. Lori Pye
  • External Reader: Dr. Shogo Tanaka
  • Keywords: Touch, Bodywork, Hermeneutic-phenomenology, Depth-psychology, Somatics, Intercorporeality, Somatic-countertransference, Resonance