Self-reflection — use of touch

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In the helping relationship, the social worker must maintain a balance between flexibility and appropriate boundaries. One such boundary is the use of touch. In social work, touch has long been held as dangerous and taboo. It may be harmful to a client, and it is important to be aware of the client’s past history. For example, a child with a history of sexual abuse could interpret touch as a sexual advance. However, touch can be a positive action, particularly for certain cultures.

On top of these perception and ethics issues, you should also determine your personal perspective for how you might use touch in your work with clients. In this Assignment, you reflect on your own culture and the role of touch in the helping relationship.

 watch the video Southside Community Services: Mrs. Bargas, Episode 3.

2 pages

  • Explain how you view the use of touch in your personal life (e.g., tend to hug all friends and family or only touch close friends and family).
  • Explain how your perspective on touch was developed (e.g., via family culture or experiences with friends).
  • Identify two reasons you might use touch with a client, and why.
  • Explain how you view the initiation of and reaction to the use of touch in Southside Community Services: Mrs. Bargas, Episode 3.
  • Explain how you will determine that this use of touch will be positive for the helping relationship.
    • What would tell you that the use of touch is not appropriate for the client?


Cummins, L., K., & Sevel, J., A. (2017). Social work skills for beginning direct practice: Text, workbook, and interactive web based case studies (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

  • Chapter 5, “Basic Skills for Direct Practice” (pp. 87-96)


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