The Power of Touch

In ‘New Scientist’ (28th February 2015) is an article ‘The Touch That Made You‘. It is an interesting article about the power of touch. I have always found the power of touch really interesting. Many years ago I read a science article story about twins that were born in a hospital, one of the twins wasn’t doing so well and was placed in an incubator. It was thought that that baby would pass away. There was a policy that the baby needs to be kept in a sterile environment, so no contact with people, even the sibling.

A nurse thought that if the baby was going to pass away then the twin should at least hve had a chance to be near to the sibling before it dies, so she put the twin next to the baby in the incubator and the babies both instinctively reach out and cuddled each other. In this moment the vital signs of the ‘dying’ baby started to improve, and eventually both twins left the hospital healthy.

This story was in an article about epigenetics which is a fascinating field of study about how genes can be expressed (turned on or off) depending on environmental stimuli.

Touch is one of those stimuli, when we experience gentle touch it triggers the release of hormones like endorphines. These endorphines are messenger molecules that ‘tell’ the DNA how it should be expressed triggering healing, wellbeing and a sense of calmness. Touch can also increase bonding and closeness.

The article talks about two different types of touch receptors, one type is useful for every day life, these are mainly in the hands, mouth, and tongue and are useful for dexterity, eating and doing various other everyday tasks that require a good sense of touch. The other type of receptors seem to be linked to gentle touch and slow movements, like stroking. These receptors are mainly found on the scalp, the upper arm, shoulders and down the back and upper legs. There are other sensory receptors that detect pain and other sensations, but these are the two that detect touch.

The other receptors pass signals quickly to the brain, whereas these receptors send signals slowly to the brain, with the signals taking perhaps up to a second to arrive at the brain.

One thing the article touches on briefly is how touch can be used to influence. This isn’t covered in any great detail but this has always interested me, and learning about the two different types of touch receptors helps me to understand the impact touch can have on someone based on where that touch is. I know that may sound like I am saying something obvious, but it is more about some of the things I haven’t thought much about in the past. So there are some places clearly you would get very different responses to other areas, because some touch would clearly be inappropriate. This isn’t what I was thinking about, but rather the difference between touching on the hand versus touching on the upper arm.

As a hypnotherapist I may well touch the back of the hand to do anchoring, which is a process of creating an association, and if I chose to touch the upper arm instead in the past it may well have been an arbitory decision, whereas know I know that touching the upper arm is likely to lead to endorphines being released, it likely to lead to an increase of wellbeing and healing, so if I want these elements to be present it would be sensible to touch the upper arm rather than the back of the hand. Perhaps if I wanted something more neutral I would touch the back of the hand instead.

Likewise for influence, if a sales person wants to create a connection and a feeling of calm well-being in the customer they would be better off gently touching the upper arm. I know generally people are more agreeable and more likely to do as they are asked and more likely to follow suggestions if you touch them gently as you ask them without giving any attention to the touch, so that they don’t pay conscious attention to the touch.

What are your views on touch, and on the use of touch? Have you used touch in therapy or sales or as a parent and found it works well or have you had a different experience?

You can check out further information about touch and emotion research here

Child/Teen to Parent Violence

In the Daily Mail newspaper was a news article about Child to Parent Violence to many this may sound shocking, but it is actually a very common problem Since about 2007 I have focused heavily on supporting parents and families with challenging teens and sometimes younger children that are violent to their parents. In many cases the families are single parent families where the mother has experienced prior domestic abuse, and now they have a child behaving in a similar way. In 2015 I attended a pan-European two day conference in Brighton looking at the latest research on this topic and the research in tackling this issue, the conference also looked at how widespread it is and how under reported it is.

This is an issue that needs addressing more than it is being addressed currently. There are changes to the law which will make anyone over 10 years old able to be prosecuted for domestic abuse. This may well lead to many children entering the criminal justice system for their violence and control of their parent. What I would like to see is more out there to help these families, to hopefully prevent these children being criminalized by helping them stopped doing the behaviour they are doing and helping parents manage the behaviour and turn things around at home.

There are a few good and effective parenting/family programmes out there which can help, but these don’t run wide enough and don’t get enough funding or staffing to run often enough. The best ones are a Non Violent Resistance Parenting course running that addresses Child to Parent Violence, and Break 4 Change which started in Brighton and the original course and variations of it now run around the country. These courses have now also started to roll out through Europe. Break 4 Change is the course I run. The version I run is based on the Brighton version but has been tweaked based on learning from all the times we have ran it since 2012. It has parents and the main focus child on the course together, they are in separate rooms, there is a room for the children and one for the parents, and they have a video dialogue and both groups address the home issues. Hopefully there will be more support available for families in thus situation in the future to help the children, who are still children in need of help and support regardless of what they are doing, and support for parents. What are your thoughts on this, and on children being able to be prosecuted for domestic abuse?

Tackling Youth Crime & Anti-Social Behaviour

Research About Tackling Youth Offending & Anti-Social Behaviour Through Parenting Support – Measuring outcomes and gathering an evidence-base for a particular approach or way of working is an important part of any intervention. By measuring success you can also notice where improvements are required. For example from the outcomes gathered based on this work one observation was that when looking at the longitudinal findings there is a gradual rise in youth offending rates. To address this, parenting support groups have been set up which run monthly all year round so that if any parents feel that things are slipping back to how they were, or if they feel that they are beginning to struggle again there is somewhere for them to go to get support before things get too bad again.

The data presented here is based on me using a human givens approach to parenting support being offered to 321 families over a four year period. The human givens approach uses elements of solution focused working, motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioural therapy, interpersonal therapy, and hypnosis, and places this within a context of looking at the innate human needs of family members, how they use their natural inbuilt skills – like their ability to view problems objectively, and their ability to relax, and systemically looking at what areas the smallest change can be made which will help make the biggest shift in the situation.

Data was gathered at the time of each referral about whether the young person the referral was relating to had entered the youth justice system or not. This was compared with data a year after the parent(s) were either offered support but declined it, or a year from the date support ended if they accepted support. To get an idea of outcomes over a longer time period 91 families that were offered support had data gathered at the time of receiving referrals as to whether the young person had entered the youth justice system or not, and this was compared with data gathered over three years later. This was the basis of the hard data. All families offered support were included in the data.

The soft data that was gathered consisted of feedback from parents about what changes they had noticed at the end of working together, feedback from the young people about what changes they had noticed, scaling questions at the start of the intervention and the end of the intervention, for the parents, scaling areas like; best hopes, confidence and relationship with the young person, and scaling questions with the young people on areas like doing as their parent tells them to do, listening, being listened to, and quality of the relationship. All the scaling was 0-10, with 0 being worst and 10 being best. The average number of sessions parents received was 6. The range was from parents receiving a single session, to parents receiving twelve sessions. It was rare for parents to receive twelve sessions and in many cases parents received less than six.

Soft Data

At the first session parents were asked how confident they were at managing their teenager. The average response was 5. The same question was asked at each session; the average response from parents in the final session was that things had improved to 8. Parents were asked where their relationship with their teen was at the start. The average response was 6 at the start which by the end of the support had risen to an 8. Best hopes were the most important subjective piece of data because the best hopes are identifying how much improvement has been made relating directly to the problem situation that was present at the beginning, and comparing how things were at the end. The average response to asking parents to scale best hopes in the first session was that things were at about 4. At the final session the average scaling of best hopes had increased to an 8. The average number parents said they would be happy with achieving was 7 so most parents achieved what they wanted to achieve from receiving support by the final session. With best hopes parents were contacted six months later to see where they were at that point. The average number parents reported at the six month follow up was that things were still at a 7.

Parents also had the opportunity to feedback what improvements they had noticed compared to before receiving support, here is a selection of comments from parents:

• It gave me a helpful insight into changing things in different ways

• I feel confident to follow through with discipline

• We are getting on better than before and can handle things a lot better

• Spending more time together

• Talking more often

• Better communication

• More positive

• More confidence

The young people also had the opportunity to feedback what changes they had noticed following their parent(s) receiving support, and here is a selection of comments from the young people:

• My parents listen to me more than they did and help me sort out my problems better

• My Mum is more calmer than last year, but it might be because we agreed on that

• No shouting and rows like before. Mum seems happier and I am staying at school

• We are together more and we go out more often

• My sister does not threaten me with her fists

• We’ve changed bedrooms. I think it’s because me and John argue when we share a bedroom so I think it’s a change and we hardly argue anymore

• When I get angry they tell me to go upstairs to calm down now

• A lot has changed. The house is more peaceful and everyone is relaxed. We have a laugh

• They are a lot calmer than they used to be when they tell me off

• Mum listens to me…My mum knows more about me

The difficulty with soft data, apart from it being subjective is that it doesn’t capture information about the families where parents chose not to engage, it only gathers information relating to parents that engaged with the support. This means that there is no way of knowing whether the support made any difference to the families other than what they have reported. The parents that chose not to engage may also have moved on just as much, or outcomes may be worse but there is no way of knowing.

Hard Data

This is where hard data is useful because it allows for the capture of information relating to the outcomes of those that engaged with support as well as those that chose not to engage with support.

321 families were offered the opportunity to receive parenting support. Out of those 321 families 57% chose to accept the support and 43% decided they didn’t want the support. When looking at the levels of young people that were in the criminal justice system before being offered support and a year after being offered support and declining it, or the completion of receiving support, when parents engaged 20% of the young people had previously offended and a year after the parents engaged in support this reduced to 10%. When parent chose not to engage 42% of the young people had previously offended and a year after the support was offered this had reduced to 31%. The interesting finding was when this was compared with the 91 families that were monitored over a 3 year period. Over this longer time period offending rates began to creep up as would be expected but there was a huge difference in the rate this occurred between those that had parents’ that engaged and those where parents’ didn’t engage. With parental engagement the offending rate rose from 10% to 17%, still below the 20% starting rate. With the parents that chose not to engage the offending rate rose from 31% to 52%, well above the 42% starting rate.

The parenting referrals fell into two categories, prevention referrals, these are referrals of young people that have perhaps been involved with the anti-social behaviour team, they will be parents of young people that are at risk of entering the criminal justice system but haven’t yet, and referrals of parents of young offenders, these are referrals of parents of young people that are in the criminal justice system. The young people that are in the criminal justice system are all working with a youth justice worker at the time of the parenting support referral being received. They are frequently on orders lasting three to twelve months.

With many services being cut and focusing on targeted work with high end cases and reducing the focus on prevention and early intervention these findings can show the importance of prevention to reduce youth criminal offending and the impact this has over a three year period. 225 referrals were preventative. Of these 64% engaged in the support offered and data was gathered a year after the support ended 96% of the young people hadn’t offended at this point, 64 of the referrals were monitored over a three year period and 89% of the young people still hadn’t offended three years later. 36% of the parents chose not to take up the offer of support, a year following the offer of support 87% of the young people hadn’t offended and three years later this number had reduced to 67%. This is encouraging because it shows that many young people at risk of becoming young offenders are unlikely to do so. It also shows that when parents receive this support they increase the chances of their teen keeping out of trouble. Whereas if they don’t have any support there is more chance of their teen entering the criminal justice system within a year and significantly more chance of their young person doing so within the next three years.

The hardest to engage parents are parents of young offenders. Many of the referral for parenting of young offenders is for parents of older teens. Many of these teens are 15-17, whereas the preventative work is often parents of 10-14 year olds. Many of these parents choose not to engage, a frequent comment from parents is that their child is nearly 16 and so they only have to last a few more months, after that if they don’t sort themselves out they can move out of home. Some parents comment that their teen is already 16 or older and so if they do one more thing they will be out. The engagement rate of these parents is significantly lower than for preventative support. Out of 96 parents that were offered support, only 39% engaged. Data gathered a year after support ended showed that 68% of the young people hadn’t offended over that year. 27 parents of young offenders were monitored over a three year period and this rate had only dropped slightly to 60% that hadn’t offended three years later. These were all young people that before parenting support was offered had committed criminal offences and were all being seen by a Youth Justice Worker. 61% of the parents offered support chose not to engage. A year following the parents choosing not to take up the offer of support 44% of the young people hadn’t offended, which dropped sharply to only 18% of the young people not committing offenses over a three year period. The interesting finding here is that all the young people had a Youth Justice Worker during the first year, so for those parents that engaged there was support for the parent and support for the young person. The big difference appears when the Youth Justice Worker involvement ends. For the young people whose parents were supported, long term outcomes were more optimistic, there was a more stable result. Whereas when parents didn’t engage with support, once the Youth Justice Worker wasn’t involved, so the young person wasn’t being supported, the likelihood of reoffending dramatically increased so that three years later 82% of the young people had reoffended, compared to just 40% of the young people reoffending when parents had been supported and had developed ways of thinking and managing situations that allowed them to support their teen with keeping out of trouble.

So, by offering support to parents early on there is a higher level of engagement in that support. The outcomes are greater and there is significantly less likelihood of the young person entering the criminal justice system. When parents engage in support even when their teen is in the criminal justice system, they can develop skills and ways of thinking that can help them to support their teen to reduce the chances of them reoffending. In these cases the parenting support compliments the work being done by the Youth Justice Workers and when the parents have been supported they are more able to keep progress going after the Youth Justice Workers involvement ends. This way of working helps to empower parents and give them hope because they aren’t being told techniques to learn that may or may not work, and may not be appropriate as their teen grows up, they are being encouraged to think about things in a slightly different way, they are being encouraged to view situations differently, be mindful of their own emotional needs and the emotional needs of their teens, and to focus more on solutions and how situations become resolved, rather than on searching for ‘why’ and blaming or feeling that they must be bad parents. This allows the parents to develop skills for life rather than just techniques for situations.

Help With Depression

Research has shown that in almost all cases depression is not a biological or genetic illness. The biological changes that occur are the result of the depression not the cause. In some cases the biological effects are caused by diet, and pregnancy can also cause depression, although most cases of post-natal depression are caused by the highly emotional thinking the depressed person is doing rather than being driven by the chemical changes. And most depression that ‘runs in families’ is due to learning how to respond to the World around us how the parents or grand parents did, learning a depression way of responding in the same way that a child learns to walk, talk and behave from parents and adults in their life.

Studies carried out in the US to try to find out what works when treating depression showed that to quickly lift depression what was needed was a mixture of cognitive, behavioural and interpersonal therapies. This has now been improved upon by also utilising a solution-focused approach, a human givens approach and guided imagery or hypnosis.

When a therapist works with a client to help them ensure their basic needs are being met and helps to get their focus of attention off of worrying and ruminating and onto problem solving and relaxing the mind, depression often lifts quickly. To significantly lift depression can now often takes less than three sessions. Depending on how depressed someone is, some people can make the changes they need to make themselves without help just because they know what changes are needed to be made, whereas other people need a little encouragement, and some need a therapist or coach that can help them to make the changes. And although depression can be lifted quickly that doesn’t mean that depression is lifted quickly with everyone. There can be a lot going on in someone’s life that has led to the depression and that maintains the depression that needs to all be addressed before the depression is finally able to be lifted for good.

Most depression is caused by emotional worrying

It could be worrying about a past problem or event, present problem or event or a future problem or event. This worrying causes over dreaming at night. When you dream too much it inhibits the release of serotonin and is almost as active as being awake. It also reduces the abilities of the immune system. All of this leads to waking up early as your brain wants to stop you from dreaming excessively, then often managing to get back to sleep yet still waking tired and unmotivated. This can then start off the next days’ cycle of worrying.

When depressed your thinking style changes as you are in a highly emotional state of mind. It can be like walking around in a trance (I would say you are walking around in a trance). You start thinking that everything has always been bad and always will be and that if anything good ever happens it won’t last, or it was only a one-off good thing, or ‘looking back on it, it wasn’t that good really’. Because you are in a highly emotional state you can’t think effectively about your problems so they can seem easily overwhelming because the emotional part of the brain and the logical part of the brain are two different areas, so when you are in any highly emotional state, whether it is depression, or even love, you don’t see different options, you don’t notice all the information about a situation, you become blinkered or blinded by the emotional trance you are in making it hard to see a way out.

To lift depression clients can learn to relax. This can be in many ways. One of the best is to do 7-11 breathing which is where you breathe in deeply to the count of 7 then out to the count of 11. By doing this with the out breath longer than the in breath you trigger the relaxation response. Just 3 or 4 deep 7-11 breaths will help to relax a client and focus their mind.

Next the client can challenge their thinking by thinking about what it is that they are worrying about and problem solving it. Also they can spend time each morning closing their eyes and truly imagining some good things about the upcoming day. At night or in the evening also spend a few moments to imagine what it will be like to feel much better, who will be the first to notice? How will they know? What will their behaviour be like? Really imagining it and feeling it.


I cover depression on my course ‘Introduction To Overcoming Emotional Problems’ (Coming Soon) Which introduces about basic emotional needs, innate skills and abilities, and a variety of psychological problems and ideas about how best to treat them.

Below is a set of two self help tracks that can help to support people in lifting depression and anxiety. There is also a comments section. I look forward to your comments about the article, about the tracks, and if you have come here because you have been feeling depressed I look forward to hearing your progress and experience, and what you have found helpful to move on that you think would be helpful for others to know.

Feel free to share this article with others that you think may benefit from the article or the tracks.

There are some other locations on the web you can find useful information, like here about seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and here about treating depression with hypnotherapy vs CBT.

Free Self Help Wellbeing Tracks – Use Both Tracks, They Are Interactive So To get The Most From These Tracks Follow The Instructions And Carryout The Tasks.

Track One

Track Two