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Touch: An integrative review of a somatosensory approach to the treatment  of adults with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-04-27, 14:21 authored by Suzie McGreevy, PAULINE BOLANDPAULINE BOLAND


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a complex experience which can adversely affect a person's health and engagement in daily life. Some evidence-based treatments for PTSD, including pharmacological and psychological interventions, reduce the severity of some of the associated symptoms, although they have shown limited efficacy. Somatosensory approaches can be used to assist a person to regulate their autonomic nervous system. This review identifies touch-based interventions in the treatment of PTSD and examines the role of touch with this population.


An integrative literature review was conducted to examine touch-based interventions which addressed the symptoms of PTSD in adults. Quantitative, qualitative and conceptual data were identified from eight databases, findings were appraised and synthesised using thematic analysis strategies, the Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool (MMAT) and the Critical Appraisal Skill Program (CASP).


A total of 39 articles were included, describing eleven different touch-based interventions. Three key themes were identified: (i) catalogue of touch-based interventions being utilised in the treatment of PTSD; (ii) proposed mechanisms explaining the effects of touch-based interventions with PTSD; (iii) touch-based interventions which may reduce the symptoms of PTSD.


Touch can play an important role in emotional regulation and the reduction of symptoms of PTSD. With a growing evidence base for the efficacy of these interventions, one intervention, Emotional Freedom Technique, prevailed. Methodological diversity and a paucity of conceptual frameworks mean that findings should be interpreted with caution. Developing a theoretical understanding for the underlying mechanisms of why touch-based treatments may be effective is required.



European Journal of Integrative Medicine, 54, 102168



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