Dear Therapist: How do I get comfortable with physical touch?

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By Prateeksha Shetty

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Published: Fri 13 May 2022, 12:08 AM

How do I get comfortable with physical touch? — Name Withheld

Dear writer, there are several reasons for a person to not be comfortable with physical touch. Some may be hesitant depending on the person, situation or nature of relationship while others may have pervasive distress. This would mean that a handshake or a touch on shoulder would upset them.

I also think it’s crucial that you understand where this distress is coming from. Typically, individuals with such difficulties either have a history of trauma, abuse, emotional neglect or have sensory issues. Without this understanding, any attempt for change would be ineffective. You can recognise this on your own using self-reflection and monitoring or initiate therapy to develop better self-awareness.

In terms of strategies, you can start off with widening physical contact in ways that you are comfortable with people whom you trust and then progress to colleagues or acquaintances. For example, holding a hand for few minutes, enough to cause discomfort (so as to challenge yourself) or sitting beside someone with longer duration than you normally would.

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