The Brain-Skin Connection

The Benefits of Touch Therapy in Integrative Care

Andrea Winzir
Andrea Winzer

The workshop intends to introduce clinicians to the relationship between the skin and the nervous system and demonstrates the powerful effects therapeutic touch can have on mental and physical well-being. While traditional psychotherapy has primarily focused on cognitive clinical interventions, a growing body of research evidence shows that sensory stimulation of the skin can induce comfort, calm, and pain relief by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, thereby providing effective approaches to treating anxiety, depression, and other trauma-related presentations (Elias & Abdus-Saboor, 2022). 

Through a combination of theoretical lecture and practical exercises, clinicians will learn about the neurophysiology of touch and discover how tactile stimulation affects the limbic system, the area in the brain that is responsible for emotions, social behavior, motivation, and memory. Aspects of brain and nervous system functioning will be considered in the context of understanding and treating trauma through a body-focused approach. Different psychological theories and concepts will be explored from a somatic perspective and the importance of integrating the body as an integral part of the human experience will be discussed. Through simple body-based exercises, participants will experience the effects of conscious touch on their own physical and emotional regulation as well as learn simple techniques to apply with clients. 

This workshop also wants to help clinicians think outside of the box and open to interdisciplinary collaborations with other practitioners to jointly develop integrative healing approaches. Participants will be introduced to a variety of bodywork modalities, including Craniosacral Therapy and Somato-Emotional Release, and learn about current research that has shown how these therapies can be effectively used as an adjunct to mental health services. Different community service engagements implemented with a variety of different populations  will be introduced to showcase how clinicians and bodywork professionals can work together to bring trauma-informed care to those in need.

Learning Objectives:
  • Participants will learn about the brain-skin connection and how therapeutic touch can support mental and physical well-being.
  • Participants will be introduced to a variety of bodywork modalities and discover how they can serve as an effective adjunct to mental health interventions. 
  • Participants are encouraged to think outside of their own box and explore inter-professional collaborations to develop integrative approaches to trauma care.
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