Dr. Hofrath

Published On: November 30, 2022

How is NeuroAffective Touch Different from Bodywork?

The term bodywork refers to hands-on techniques that address relaxation, body posture, and function. Bodyworkers learn to deliberately manipulate the body to obtain physical benefits. However, bodyworkers are not trained to address the emotional responses and cognitive issues that accompany their physical manipulations.

NeuroAffective Touch invites the mind to collaborate as an active partner while engaging the body on its own terms, at the deepest biological level. By paying attention to specific layers of the body — skin, connective tissue, muscle, nervous system, organs — and by following existing rhythms and lines of force, a therapist trained in NATouch attune to and assist clients in becoming consciously present to their neuroception. This teaches the mind and body to develop a conscious, compassionate relationship.

The therapeutic use of bottom-up touch and bodywork in conjunction with a top-down invitation to the cognitive self to participate helps clients understand how their thoughts, emotions, and body function collaboratively as one organism.

By combining a hands-on neurobiological regulating contact, together with a caring relational presence, NeuroAffective Touch practitioner brings a special focus to working with childhood emotional and relational trauma. The therapeutic resonance established within the therapist-client dyad offers a new relational imprint that brings hope to the work of repairing developmental breaches and attachment ruptures that underlie much of life’s suffering.
NeuroAffective Touch Addresses Developmental Trauma

What is developmental trauma?

Developmental trauma is the result of ongoing hurtful parenting that is beyond a child’s control. Naturally open-hearted, innocent children are unprepared for physical abuse, emotional betrayal, and relational neglect.

Developmental trauma disrupts normal identity formation because it forces children to focus their energies on shoring up their survival skills. In survival mode, fear and vigilance take over the resources ordinarily allocated to normal development. Traumatized children adjust their behavior by preparing for the worst. They survive by becoming mistrustful of other human beings and hyperalert to cues of emotional and relational danger.
Adults who grew up in mis-attuned or hostile families often don’t realize that their struggles with anxiety, lack of confidence, shame, self-hatred, depression, anger, violent behavior, and failed relationships are the outcome of the physical, emotional, and relational stress and trauma experienced within their families.

Research in affective and interpersonal neuroscience shows that emotional and cognitive distress in childhood can shift the trajectory of brain development and undermine the stability of the nervous and endocrine systems. The brain circuitry of children who experience emotional and relational trauma predisposes them to hypervigilance, mistrust, and isolation.

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