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Research & Studies

Touch: An Integrative Review of a Somatosensory Approach to the Treatment of Adults with Symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Citation (APA style): McGreevy, S. & Boland, P. (2022). Touch: An integrative review of a somatosensory approach to the treatment of adults with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. European Journal of Integrative Medicine, 54, 10268. doi:10.1016/j.eujim.2022.102168.


Introduction: 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.

Methods: 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 synthesized using thematic analysis strategies, the Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool (MMAT), and the Critical Appraisal Skill Program (CASP).

Results: A total of 39 articles were included, describing 11 different touch-based interventions. Three key themes were identified: (a) catalogue of touch-based interventions being utilized in the treatment of PTSD, (b) proposed mechanisms explaining the effects of touch-based interventions with PTSD, and (c) touch-based interventions that may reduce the symptoms of PTSD.

Conclusion: 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.


touch, posttraumatic stress disorder, somatosensensory, integrative review

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