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Hug Therapy

In a world that has grown more complicated, more fierce in the demands made upon our hearts and pocket books, there is one easy, free gift left. The power of touch. Don’t turn away from the elderly, disabled, terminally ill or long term care residents because their needs seem beyond your ability to give. The one thing they need the most is the most simple, yet profound gift you have to give. Your kind hand holding theirs and a hug from your heart. The gift of touch is the most powerful healing you can offer another, and it is the most powerful healing you can give yourself. Give generously and watch yourself grow rich in what matters the most. Hug often, hug well...I embrace your spirit.... Kathleen Keating Schloessinger

I am starting this new page on "hug therapy". This is a term that I believe was made popular by Kathleen Keating. She wrote a book called Hug Therapy in 1983. Now she is retired and living in Canada with her husband who left the USA in 1966 as a Conscientious Objector, something I admire. I found a copy of her book, translated to Spanish, here in Argentina. Then I did some searches and found many sites which reference and quote her work. Here is some of what I found on the net about her and hug therapy.

She says she wrote it because she "understood we need more than pills to heal our wounded psyches - we also need the touch of love."

Introductory Words from Kathleen Keating

Hug therapy Summary

Hugging is healthy

A Hug A Day Keeps The Doctor Away

Have you hugged anyone lately? Article by Parveen Chopra

Introductory Words from Kathleen Keating

I wrote The Hug Therapy Book, a parody on therapy, because I wanted to share a serious message about the power of touch in a playful way. However, I don’t want people to take touching and hugging for granted as just a ‘nice’ gesture or judge it as gimmicky or sentimental.

I was inspired to write it because I understood we need more than pills to heal our wounded psyches - we also need the touch of love.

Hugging is an intimate form of touch. We are suffering in our society from a sad condition best described as touch deprivation, skin hunger and hug inhibition. We need to recognize that every human being has a profound physical and emotional need for touch - men and women and children. And even our animal companions!

We are alone in our separate bodies, yet to live we must connect with each other in order to belong and get our needs met. Touch is the primary way we contact and connect with each other. Touch is the experience of how I meet you and and you meet me and we meet the world. We touch the world, and the world touches us. Touch is a contact function. We meet the world outside of ourselves, outside the boundary of our skin, we make contact with the boundary of our skin. Our skin is the antennae that feels, touches, contacts the world. With touch, we meet the world outside of ourselves in a vibrant, alive, nourishing way. With touch we meet, connect, bond, belong.

Machines are important - the computer is an amazing tool! But we are losing the something grand and mysterious that makes us compassionate - and passionate human creatures. We are so much more profoundly complex than machines, it is ludicrous to make a comparison, as we often do, when we use machine metaphors. Like machines we have skills - but we must not imitate machines. It is essential to stay connected to the “divine animal” in each other. Touch is our primary connection. With touch we are restoring the balance in those human qualities that are far more powerful than ‘machine’ skills.

We are all committed to a better understanding of love...and it is one of the greatest tragedies of our day that our culture often equates tenderness with weakness and love with sentimentality. Even hugs and huggers are frequently considered just sentimental.

There is something godlike everyone of us possesses in our arms, hands, fingers. This is the power to make someone feel cherished....the power to give (and receive at the very same time!) kindness, warmth, tenderness, support, healing, security - and most of all belonging. All add up to the profoundness of love....all human qualities that humans can give - and give with a simple touch - a simple hug.


from www.bykathleenkeating.com/work1.htm

Hug Therapy Summary

The theory is that touch is not only nice. It's needed! Scientific research supports the theory that stimulation by touch is absolutely necessary for our physical as well as our emotional well-being.

Therapeutic touch, recognized as an essential tool for healing, is now part of nurses' training in several large medical centers. Touch is used to help relieve pain and depression and anxiety, to bolster a patient's will to live, and to help premature babies who have been deprived of touch in their incubator to grow and thrive.

Results of Scientific Experiments

Various experiments have shown that touch can:

- make us feel better about ourselves and our surroundings
- have a positive effect in a child's development and IQ
- cause measurable physiological changes in the touchers and the touched

We are just beginning to understand the power of touch. While there are many forms of touching, we propose that hugging is a very special therapeutic touch that contributes in a major way to healing and health.

The Power of Hugging

Hugging accomplishes many things that you may never have thought of. It ...

- feels good
- dispels loneliness
- overcomes fear
- opens doors to feelings
- builds self-esteem (WOW, SHE actually wants to hug me!)
- fosters altruism (I can't believe it but I actually want to hug that old son-of-a-gun)
- slows down aging (huggers stay young longer)
- helps curb appetite (we eat less when we are nourished by hugs and when our arms are busy wrapped around others)
- More Good Things from Hugging
- eases tension
- fights insomnia
- keeps arms and shoulder muscles in condition
- provides stretching exercise if you are short
- provides stooping exercise if you are tall
- offers a wholesome alternative to promiscuity
- offers a healthy, safe alternative to alcohol and other drug abuse (better hugs than drugs!)
- affirms physical being
- is democratic (anyone is eligible for a hug)

Even More Benefits from Hugging

- is ecologically sound (it does not upset the environment)
- is energy-efficient (saves heat)
- is portable
- requires no special equipment
- demands no special setting (a fine place for a hug is any place from a doorstep to an executive conference room ... from a church parlor to a football field)
- makes happy days happier
- imparts feelings of belonging
- fills up empty places in our lives
- keeps on working to dispense benefits even after the hug is released

Source: Origin unknown. Found on many sites

Hugging is healthy

Hugging is healthy. It helps the body's immune system, it keeps you healthier, it cures depression, it reduces stress, it induces sleep, it's invigorating, it's rejuvenating, it has no unpleasant side effects, and hugging is nothing less than a miracle drug.

Hugging is all natural. It is organic, naturally sweet, no pesticides, no preservatives, no artificial ingredients and 100 percent wholesome.

Hugging is practically perfect. There are no movable parts, no batteries to wear out, no periodic check-ups, low energy consumption, high energy yield, inflation proof, nonfattening, no monthly payments, no insurance requirements, theft-proof, nontaxable, nonpolluting and, of course, fully returnable.

from geocties.com/pathways2eden/hug.html - geocities now closed by yahoo.

A Hug A Day Keeps The Doctor Away

Hugging is not only a nice way to start the day, but it's also necessary for our positive physical and emotional well-being, according to recent research.

Various experiments have shown that hugging can make people feel better about themselves, positively affect children's language skills and IQ, and help improve the mental outlook of the person who is being hugged, as well as the hugger. According to author, nurse and hug expert Kathleen Keating in The Hug Therapy Book, hugging is a very special form of touch therapy that significantly contributes to the way a person heals, and his/her overall health.

Another true-life example is given by David Bresler, Ph.D, former director of UCLA's Pain Control Clinic, who instructed a female patient suffering from reoccurring pain to receive four hugs a day administered by her husband. Once her hugging therapy began, the patient's pain subsided. Touch therapy expert Helen Colton says that touch is a basic healing need sometimes even more vital than medication. Colton's observations indicate that when a person's need for hugging is satisfied, he becomes physically and emotionally stronger and better able to handle problems or traumas.

According to Dolores Krieger, R.N., Ph.D., professor of nursing at New York University and expert in the field of touch therapy, when one person hugs or touches another, it actually invigorates the body by stimulating the level of hemoglobin which carries oxygen to tissues. When these tissues receive oxygen, they have a new energy that continues to rejuvenate the body.

Other research in the hugging field has shown that hugging helps lessen the chances of senility in people age 70+, increases liveliness, curiosity, problem-solving abilities and overall physical well-being, and substantially improves a newborn's developmental progress.

For more information on how you can bring warmth into a loved one's heart by hugging, read The Hug Therapy Book by Kathleen Keating, The Gift of Touch by Helen Colton, and Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin by Ashley Montague

Reprinted from an article by Kathleen Keating entitled “Hug Therapy”.


This was found an a site which sell something they call Teddy WarmHeart. Here is part of their ad. I don't usually put any kind of advertising on the site, but this is pretty interesting.

Warm bear hugs are so well known that a former NASA engineer decided to put his technical expertise to good use by developing a teddy bear that generates human-like warmth and, the manufacturer says, is perfect for hugging.

This bear, Teddy WarmHeart, is a plush teddy that has a non-toxic warming "heart" sewn inside its body that generates a huggable warmth. The bear's warm heart is activated by giving the toy a short two-minute "nap" inside a special sleeping bag that gets tucked away in the bear's "den" -- the microwave. Then, the bear becomes huggably warm for up to four hours. SGS Inspection and Laboratory Testing, a company specializing in toy testing before distribution to the public, has tested Teddy WarmHeart and found this bear to be safe for infants through adults.

The Teddy WarmHeart Corp., manufacturers of the bear, state that Teddy WarmHeart was originally created to help keep premature infants warm while napping...


By Parveen Chopra

We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth
—Virginia Satir, family therapist

(I have slightly shortened this article. SH)

You may laugh off the predilection of the psychiatry community in the USA for coining names such as dance or walk therapies, which are based, on pure common sense or on practices that have always been around in various cultures. But then you may feel like giving them a hug. For by calling it a therapy, giving it a name, and ardently promoting it, they often manage to create awareness about a healthy and wholesome habit that is endangered by the bustle of modern life. Hug therapy is a typical example.

Big deal, you say, when you hear the term for the first time. But try to recollect the last time you hugged somebody or somebody hugged you. In all likelihood, it was too long ago. Worse, the answer may be 'never' if you are the kind who flinches from physical contact.

Truly, urban India is becoming more of a hands-off culture. "It is unfortunate because Indians were never averse to touch," laments Dr Achal Bhagat, a Delhi-based psychiatrist, "particularly when sharing grief or joy." The hugging or pecking on the cheek you see nowadays at parties is very superficial, adds Delhi socialite Pommi Malhotra. She has a name for it: social hugging. And its practitioners obviously do not belong to the circle of healing huggers.

So what are we missing out on?

Reaching out and touching someone, and holding him tight—is a way of saying you care. Its effects are immediate: for both, the hugger and the person being hugged, feel good.

"Touch is an important component of attachment as it creates bonds between two individuals," says Dr Bhagat. For Malhotra, who describes herself as a friendly, warm, affectionate and demonstrative person, hugging is simply a natural expression of showing that you love and care.

Vikas Malkani, 29, a director at Avis International, an Indian denim wear company, wishes for much more touching and hugging in families, particularly between parents and their grown-up children. He states that it should not be forgotten that your skin is also a sense organ. Every centimeter of it—from the head to the tips of the toes—is sensitive to touch. In the mother's womb, each part of the fetus' body is touched by the amniotic fluid, says Malkani, which may be the origin of the yearning for touch all our lives.

"Cuddling and caressing make the growing child feel secure and is known to aid in self-esteem," agrees Dr Bhagat. The tactile sense is all-important in infants. A baby recognizes its parents initially by touch. Malkani points out cultural variations pertaining to hugging: in the West, hugging a friend of the opposite sex is common, while in India you see more physical contact between friends of the same sex.

Hugging comes naturally to Kajal Basu, a 37-year-old journalist. "It loosens you up and breaks the bonds of body as well as of society. The more ritualistic ways of greeting people, handshakes and namastes, are designed to keep us apart rather than bring us together," he argues.

Touch has come full circle in the West this century. Time was when parents and hospitals were advised to leave a crying baby alone. Today the pediatricians and psychologists tell us to pick up and cuddle our children. Toys, even teddy bears, whose use has been increasing in the recent decades, are a poor substitute for the human contact needed by children.

In psychoanalysis, developed early this century, the couch symbolized the distance from the patient that the therapist had to maintain. The taboo against touch was broken in the heady 1960s and '70s by the hippies' love-ins and professionally by some therapists who introduced it in the encounter groups. Since then many psychological counselors are expanding the definition of "hug" by even patting and massaging their clients in the course of normal therapy. The idea is to add touch to the powers of speech, listening and observation. The argument goes that the client's skin can perceive care and reassurance.

Dr Bhagat, however, strongly argues against the psychiatrist or psychotherapist touching his patients; "The therapist should never cross the boundaries set by the patient," he says. Another context of abuse, he points out, is when adults have sexual contact with children on the pretext of touching and cuddling.

My comments on this part: This thinking is typical of most psychologists I've know. But I disagree that a therapist should never "cross the boundaries." This is simply what they are taught in schools and what has been passed down to them. It is rarely the result of much thinking. I believe it helps them feel separate, and somewhat superior, from their clients. I also believe they are not secure about their own abilities to manage their feelings or the feelings of their clients, so they would rather try to keep an artificial distance. This doesn't help a client feel accepted though. I find it cold and inhumane to sit there and watch while a person cries, and then to justify it by saying it is "unprofessional and unethical to cross the boundaries:" I also believe there is a huge difference between hugging someone who wants a hug and taking advantage of a child or a patient. And I feel very critical of the psychology profession for not giving students of psychology better training and instruction. This reminds me of a conversation I had with someone who was very depressed. I asked her if she thought her psychologist would cry if she killed herself and she said no. Then I asked what would help her more, a counseling session with her psychologist or a hug. She said a hug. A response like this is typical of teens who are closer to nature and what they need naturally, but this was coming from someone in her late twenties.

But then, hugging is a tool that has to be used with the same care and sensitivity as any other form of therapeutic intervention. In Delhi, Sanjivini, a well-known center that offers help for troubled minds, has a day clinic for schizophrenics where "caring" (involving touch and holding) is routinely used as a therapy. "But it is done in a parent-child matrix," clarifies Dr Rajat Mitra in charge of Sanjivini, adding that only women volunteers handle female patients and men handle male patients. Mitra explains that schizophrenics are regressed. "And when a two-year-old cries, to comfort him, you do not philosophize but hold him on your lap."

Hugging is being used even as an aid in treating some physical illnesses, following research that it leads to certain positive physiological changes. For example, touch stimulates nerve endings, thereby helping in relieving pain. It is thus not uncommon for a chronic pain patient to be prescribed "Therapeutic touch" which involves placing the hands on or just above the troubled area in the patient's body for half-an-hour (shades of reiki). This pushes up the hemoglobin levels in the blood, increasing the delivery of blood to tissues, a study at the nursing department of New York University showed. Some nurses' associations in the USA have since endorsed therapeutic touch.

Any health problem makes the sufferer feel vulnerable, frightened, angry, frustrated and helpless. The patient usually needs to educate himself to make certain life changes. Hugging can give him the positive emotional state necessary to make these changes. In one study, pet ownership was seen to contribute to the survival of heart patients. The inference: the cuddling of pets has a soothing effect that reduces the stress levels in heart attack victims.

Tactile contact is very important for people with certain handicaps and can even be therapeutic. Imran Ali, a visually impaired telephone operator at the Steel Authority of India office in Delhi, says that if somebody says "Hi!" to him, it means nothing to him—a hug does. In Mario Puzo's latest novel, The Last Don, the heroine named Athena provides her autistic daughter with "a hug box", lying in which gives the child a feeling of being hugged by a person without having to connect or relate to another human being, which is a problem with autistics.

The miraculous way in which hugging works is described in a touching story titled 'The Hugging Judge' in Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. It is about Lee Shapiro, a retired judge, who realized that love is the greatest power there is and began offering everybody a hug.

Some years ago he created the Hugger Kit. It contains 30 little red embroidered hearts. Shapiro would take out his kit, go around to people and offer them a little red heart in exchange for a hug. Soon, he became a minor celebrity for spreading his message of unconditional love.

Once, accepting a challenge from a local television station in San Francisco, he went ahead and offered a hug to a six-foot-two, 230-pound bus driver, from a community known to be the toughest, crabbiest and meanest in the whole town. Even as the TV cameras whirred, the bus driver stepped down and said: "Why not?"

But Shapiro was queasy when invited to a home for the terminally ill, severely retarded and quadriplegic. Accompanied by a team of doctors and nurses, he went about his routine of hugging and handing out little red hearts till they reached a ward with the worst cases. The last person, named Leonard, whom Shapiro had to hug, was drooling on his big white bib; There's no way we can get across to this person, Shapiro thought.

But finally he leaned down and gave Leonard a hug. This is what followed, in the authors' words:

All of a sudden Leonard began to squeal: "Eeeeehh! Eeeeehh!"

Some of the other patients in the room began to clang things together. Shapiro turned to the staff for some sort of explanation, only to find that every doctor, nurse and orderly was crying.

Shapiro asked the head nurse: "What's going on?"

Shapiro will never forget what she said: "This is the first time in 23 years we've ever seen Leonard smile.

It only takes a hug, a heartfelt and warm embrace, to change the lives of others. Try it, it works.


Hugging may sound like the simplest thing on earth, but it will help to keep a few things in mind. Non-hugs are no good. In his book Caring, Feeling, Touching, Dr Sidney Simon describes five non-hugs:

I. The A-frame hug, in which nothing but the huggers' heads touch.
2. The half-hug, where the huggers' upper bodies touch—while the other half twists away.
3. The chest-to-chest burp, in which the huggers pat each other on the back, defusing the physical contact by treating each other like infants being burped.
4. The wallet-rub, in which two people stand side-by-side and touch hips.
5. The jock-twirl, in which the hugger, who is stronger or bigger, lifts the other person off the ground and twirls him.

The real thing, the full body hug, touches all the bases. Dr Simon describes it like this: "The two people coming together take time to really look at each other. There is no evasion or ignoring that they are about to hug... You try as hard as you can to personalize and customize each hug you give... With a full body hug there is a sense of complete giving and fearless. Communication, one uncomplicated by words.

"It is the attitude that is important," says Vikas Malkani. "It need not be a full, frontal hug. It could be sideways. Generally, hug only friends and people you know."

"Many people do not like their personal space to be invaded. Still others may feel too vulnerable at times to like to be touched," warns Dr Bhagat.

The stereotype of men being less demonstrative than women in their love and affection is by and large true. "But men are more open to hugging after a few drinks at parties," says Pommi Malhotra. From her experience she says that even the tough ones respond to hugging.

Many people feel embarrassed or uncomfortable when hugged, but Malkani's advice is to still go at it because they are bound to feel good afterwards and may even feel grateful to you. When you feel the need to be hugged, ask for one. Any place is good enough for hugging: home, office, school, church, a party, a conference. You may, however, feel uncomfortable hugging, for example, at work. In that case, prefer a more intimate environment, such as at home with friends or at a party.



This was number one on google for "hug therapy" on Feb 16, 2006 when I did my search



Katherine Keating Quotes

Love is empathy.

The paradox about love is that you can feel another's sadness or joy as if it were your own, but at the same time you feel yourself as a separate person. Two hearts can beat as one, but they are still two individual hearts. The steps of embracing and letting go, of joining and separating is honored again and again.


The meaning of my life is to feel, know, and share the many dimensions of love: the courage to grow, the vulnerability to give and receive, to understand with compassion, to use anger constructively for justice ~ and to always be open to the delight of play and the deep pleasure of a warm embrace.


Bio of Katherine Keating

Katherine Keating wrote The Hug Therapy Book (see top of this file) when she was director of professional education at a private psychiatric hospital in California. She has led workshops on The Power of Touch, The Nature of Love and Intimacy, The Wounded Healer - For Health Care Providers, How To Love Child, How To Love a Teen-Ager, How To Talk To Women - For Men Only and How To Talk To Men - For Women Only.

She has a graduate degree in clinical psychology and is a registered nurse in California and Missouri - specialty in psychiatry and mental health.