Contacting with clarity : the communicative purposes of osteopathic touch
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Citation:Barrington, A. (2014). Contacting with clarity : the communicative purposes of osteopathic touch. An unpublished research project submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Osteopathy, Unitec New Zealand.
Permanent link to Research Bank record:https://hdl.handle.net/10652/2558
OBJECTIVE: The aim of this qualitative study was to explore and describe osteopaths’ perspectives on the communicative purposes of their professional touch. BACKGROUND: Touch is a key defining feature of osteopathy. Physical contact between osteopaths and their patients is essential to communication during examination, diagnosis and treatment. Yet there is no existing research that describes the communicative purposes of touch from the perspective of osteopathic practitioners. METHODS: Purposive sampling led to the recruitment of five participants who were osteopaths registered and practising in New Zealand. Data were collected during single semi-structured interviews, which were then transcribed and analysed using the framework of interpretive description. RESULTS: Nine sub-themes emerged in the data, which were grouped into three key themes. Theme [A] Negotiation – communicating through the process highlighted the ways in which osteopaths use touch to communicate with their patients through the stages of a consultation. Theme [B] Reassurance and Empowerment – a therapeutic embrace explored how osteopathic touch communicates qualities of reassurance, care and empowerment which are considered invaluable components of the therapeutic process. Theme [C] Awareness – ensuring professionalism emphasised the need for osteopaths to maintain a context that is always appropriate for their professional touch, through the use of consent and boundaries, and conveying competence. CONCLUSION: Touch is an important tool used by osteopaths to communicate with their patients. For the participants, clarity and continuity are two key qualities of osteopathic touch that aid its communicative intentions. These include engaging the patient, establishing trust, providing reassurance and care, allowing patient involvement and empowerment, and conveying professionalism. Limitations of this study and indications for future research are considered.