Date of Paper

5-2013

Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)

Department

Social Work

First Advisor

Felicia Washington Sy

Abstract

Immediate and long-term effects of trauma result in mental, emotional, and physical symptoms that ultimately can inhibit normal daily functioning and cause dissociation and disorganized attachment. Previous studies highlight effective strategies in cognitive and physiological approaches to treating trauma. However, limited research has been found in the area of integrative approaches that include the use of touch. This qualitative study examines the professional attitudes around the integration of massage therapy and psychotherapy into a sound clinical practice for treating trauma. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with five massage therapists and five licensed independent clinical social workers from Minnesota, all having clinical experience with trauma. Findings reveal that the multi-dimensional effects of trauma warrant a multi-dimensional approach. Therapeutically, benefits include providing comprehensive care, enhancing the therapeutic process, and saving time and money. This model would be professionally beneficial by promoting exceptional leadership in the healthcare industry and providing a sense of personal and professional gratification. However, therapeutic barriers include the client’s ability to handle touch, the client’s ability to understand the intent of treatment, and the potential for re-victimization. Professional barriers include personal and professional boundaries, professional identity related to scope of practice, fear of allegations, ambiguous laws and guidelines, and institutional resistance to change. These findings suggest a need for better advocacy, stronger laws and practicing guidelines, further research and practice models, continued dialogue among professions, and a shift in societal perspectives around the use of touch.

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