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Hands Holding a Dove



Havening Touch

Havening Touch involves the use of simple, slow touch on the face, palms or outer arms. When these parts of the body are touched using Havening Touch, the signal is transduced electrically, and the brainwaves slow to delta brainwaves. Havening Touch is used in conjunction with all of the many Havening Techniques. The touch is simple, and the biology is fascinating. Aim for confident use of Havening Touch through the individual having an understanding:

  • of how it is a fast and simple way to 'signal safe' to our brain

  • that the use of simple touch categorises Havening Techniques as psychosensory processes (see your Primer)

  • of how we can utilise this signalling and combine it with cueing activity in our brain

  • of how activity in our brain drives how we feel in the moment

  • of how we are always 'present' because even if we are thinking of experiences in the past or possibilities in the future, the flow of neural traffic through receptors is happening at this moment

  • that we can choose to absorb receptors or make receptors to change our responses

  • that we generate GABA when using Havening Touch

  • that we move to using slower brain waves called delta brainwaves (see illustration above and Harper's paper)

  • that DOSE (Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, Endorphins) is useful when using Havening Touch

Confident Havening Touch shows:

  • a slow and steady movement

  • a good contact on the outer arms and palms

  • soft and spaced touches across the face, under the eyes and above the eyebrows, like a skipping stone across a still pool, or stars in the sky, or gently putting on face cream for nighttime.

  • a touch that starts in time with how the individual is feeling and then slows down as they become calmer

Understanding the biological basis of using Havening Touch can inform our practice, for example:

  • There is an optimal speed for electrical transduction, and this knowledge can help us slow down.

  • The first use of Havening Touch is novel for the person, and they will be following directions. This means they will be using their working memory and their hippocampus because using Havening Touch involves spatial movements and pattern-making (click here for more information).  If the individual really loves touch or likes and trusts the person they are working with or feels very cared for, they will also be making oxytocin. If it seems exciting for them and they are anticipating relief, they may be making dopamine and endorphins. We can note, then,  that the production of DOSE while using Havening Touch is useful. When we look at the graph of ideal CASEs used in the Havening Techniques, we can see this very clearly (click here to see the graph). 

  • When we use Havening Touch often, we soon create receptors, and long-term potentiation (LTP) takes place. This means that when they use Havening Touch, they may pay less attention to the psychosensory input, and they will recall previous experiences of using Havening Touch. There are many ways we can make each use of Havening Touch 'novel', comfortable and pleasurable. For example.

  1. We can introduce Havening Touch very carefully and associate it with experiences the client already enjoys. For example,  experiences of soothing touch, applying make-up or creams, rubbing one's arms while watching a sporting event, crying with laughter and rubbing one's face, touching one's face when thinking, praying, using Mudras and washing hands. Or we can introduce using the Question Set for favourites process, which I share (click for the link).

  2. We can build curiosity through sharing about the biology of touch or other stories that might appeal to the client (click for link).

  3. We can use our focus to pay attention to each touch, and we can activate our hippocampus by noticing the placement and finishing and starting points of each Havening Touch; for instance, we can note where we start on our shoulders and observe which hand reached the point of an elbow first. Or we can try to notice the spaces between those gentle spaced touches on our face.

  4. Or we can use our imagination and think of someone we love or someone we think is very funny who is doing the Havening Touch for us. Clients have chosen their grandmother, who stroked their face when they were a child, or famous personalities, cartoons and pets. Our imagination makes it possible for pets to do Havening Touch, and clients describe how amusing it is to notice their brain solving this. This will be likely to activate the production of oxytocin (click for link).

  5. Or we can activate more dopamine by making use of the Havening Techniques and aim and reward ourselves for completing the task.

Stressed Woman

In the Wild

In our daily lives, we can notice people using simple touch to signal 'safe' to their own brain or to help others feel cared for and calm. A 2015 study suggests that we touch our faces around twenty times an hour, up to 800 times a day. Reflect also on how we hug ourselves, enjoy stroking pets, pray, do Mudras or use rosary beads, how washing our face or crying can be soothing. And of how good it is to be hugged by someone we love.

Psychosensory Project

How many examples of 'signal safe simple touch' can you observe 'in the Wild'? Observe, Calibrate and Track how long the touch is used for and any changes.

Principles: Touch


Touch is electrically transduced to the brain. Studies have shown that a single touch to the cheek while the individual was doing a stressful task changed their brainwaves to slower ones. Touches to the lips can help the person move to the parasympathetic system. Holding hands has been shown to result in brain-to-brain coupling and in a reduction of pain. Increasing evidence shows that touch has an important social value and plays a vital role in communication,  impacting our perceptions and well-being. Social touch can reduce emotional distress and pain in humans and has an analgesic effect through social grooming in the animal kingdom. Skin-to-skin touch may have an analgesic effect on human babies undergoing minor medical procedures and a therapeutic effect in reducing pain in cancer and chronic pain patients. Touch may be involved in brain development, and studies are being carried out to explore the function of the womb touching the baby's body. 


Principles: Psychosensory


Introducing Havening Touch

Booklet: When Touch is Perceived as Aversive

In the previous sections, 'How we Learn',  'Introducing UTS and EMLI' and 'Introducing CASE'  we have looked at sensory input, how we learn (LTP and LTD), cues and CASEs, sensory input and the CASE at the moment of the EMLI binding together, and we looked at content, complex content and context.

Let’s consider how this relates to practice and how you can use it.
In the very first stages, when a person chooses a practitioner, they usually take great care. You can learn a lot by asking clients, once you have worked together successfully, why they chose you. What I have learned from asking this question is that their reasons usually relate to previous experiences that they enjoyed. We could classify these learning experiences as being moments in time when they felt safe and free (ELFS - Event, Landscape, Freedom, Safety, such as Dr. Ronald Ruden's example of Proust’s experience on page 13 of the Primer). Clients have told me that being in Harley Street was important to them or that I provide sessions in Scotland in a very beautiful and secluded place where no one can see their car. Others have told me it was because I was gentle with a dog who wandered in when I was doing a YouTube video. Others because I keep animals, others because I have a doctorate, and others said their choice was informed because I am an artist. All of these choices are linked to rewarding CASEs (the related receptors were made during experiences that fulfilled ELFS).

And practitioners also take care to cue helpful CASEs prior to the session, and this is done through activating receptors made during ELFS experiences. This is the reason we make beautiful websites and comfortable waiting and session rooms. Steven Ruden describes the care he has put into his waiting room. The room is large with a choice of safe nooks or open positions to choose from, there is a choice of comfortable chairs, the colours are relaxing, the lighting is soft, the room is scented, and there are plants and artworks. Books,  beautiful magazines and newspapers can be read. There is a choice of drinks and snacks, and all are served in pleasing-looking and feeling cups and dishes. Another example is the successful Scottish suicide-prevention charity 'Chris’s House'. Their buildings are full of sitting rooms for people who are impacted by suicide in some way. These rooms are very similar to the rooms the clients would have or the family might have at home. There is also a sensory room, a kitchen, a shared area and gardens. People can ask for assistance around the clock. There is no waiting room. They are welcomed and cared for by people who are dressed in everyday clothes and who behave in a friendly and informal way. People often get involved by making tea or cakes, washing dishes, cleaning up, dusting and hoovering, and this helps them regain balance and generate DOSE.

The following information is about the way that I found works well to introduce Havening Touch. One of the reasons I work this way is to help the individual have a first experience of Havening Touch while activating receptors which generate good feelings. You can use the same project that I shared in the section about CASEs, but the focus here is on introducing Havening Touch. I find this is very helpful and increases how much people adopt using Havening Touch in everyday life. It's also extremely useful for when people find touch aversive. In the following project, we will explore how to help people use Havening Touch comfortably.

When the session begins, many professionals offer a cup of tea, coffee or a warm drink and a choice of where to sit. The person will be activating receptors that they made before during experiences that fulfilled ELFS, and their responses (CASEs) are likely to be DOSE generating. Research has shown how sensory input, such as a warm drink, informs our predictions and perceptions. Have a look at this article and consider primary learning and cueing and how we can use this knowledge to help the client have the best experience of Havening possible.


The way I use this knowledge is as follows (in brief, for your reference):

For Zoom sessions, I ask them to make themselves a warm drink and be cosy someplace and think of the session as a treat to themselves. I start by explaining that Brain Art and Brain Sculpture sessions using Psychosensory processes like Havening

  •  are different and …

  • the second frame is ‘that the individual is the tester of the techniques’

  • and that there are a few good methods for testing well and that they may have these skills already …but they might not, so a good way to start is for me to share some testing tools in a way that’s fun and useful. Plus, it gives us a chance to get to know each other and settle, and it will take about six minutes or so ....


They usually say 'yes'

We then do Question Sets (see Project here.) I shape the sets for each person. This process means I can observe around 100 to 200 CASEs. And they balance their history, each word is a cue and activates existing receptors that they made some time. Some will be related to EMLI, some ELFS, some neutral, some bored. They remember things they had forgotten they liked (because they have been focused on their worries).

Then I choose one of their favourites  (an external, often experienced ELFS) and ask them to focus in it. Having a cup of tea for example, or finding a comedian funny, or cooking, riding a bike or gardening. I cue this favourite (receptors activate automatically) and they ask themselves Questions and Observe and Calibrate the different elements of their Brain Art (CASE including content, complex content, and format). Now, I get to find out how they access most easily and what the format is like. It might be Somatic (sensation or metaphor), Cognitive (internal dialogue or images), Autonomic (relaxed face, gut and body) or Emotional (signalling to others and self). And from this, often they are surprised and relieved that these are systems and it’s normal. For example, they may be afraid of any of these ways of accessing. Mysteries explode, and smoke and mirrors vanish for them. This can be the most important part of the session as they start to understand cueing receptors and CASE. Usually, they learn about LTP and LTD for the first time.

Then, when they are happy and accessing well from the cue, they start doing Havening Touch for the first time. This LTP is going to be useful, as the association is going to be a strong pleasurable CASE in the future.


Then we discuss what they liked, and what they didn’t like about Havening Touch. Then we use the cue again, and they think about the pleasant experience; they Question and Observe and Calibrate the CASE and add Havening Touch, and they then Track the changes.

After a few minutes, they share what they noticed. Generally, the CASE becomes more powerful in some ways. The Cognitive images become clearer, or larger, or 3D or moving; sound is accessed, or becomes clearer; the somatic is larger, more comfortable, more joy-making; or they observe the autonomic shifts: that their body is softer, more relaxed, their breathing calmer, their skin looser, jaw loose; or that their emotions are altered, more expansive, more compassionate, more calm.

I say 'well done, well tested', and note what they found easy. Then I ask if the word Amplify would fit this experience, and they usually say yes. We talk a bit, usually about how we can feel okay even when times are tough, by activating receptors we made before. That usually generates some conversation and questions. I ask if they could use any of this (Utilise is the last element of QOCTU). They say 'yes' and usually also note how they have been doing the opposite. Sometimes, they say they are angry that no one has explained this before.

Then we look at how this works, and then I explain that we can use Havening to reduce unwanted CASEs (that are cued). And we explore EMLI and cues. It’s surprising how fast you can do all this. Faster than writing it. And it’s all useful.

Then, I ask if they want to test out the reducing method. And I explain that there are many comfortable Havening Techniques which can be used to reduce unwanted responses. And they say 'yes', and we move to doing EH. Click to see the section on 'Event Havening' to read about the next stage.

The reason that I don’t ask clients 'to think of a time they feel free and safe' is because when people come to a session, it’s often because they feel out of touch with feeling free and may have lost their safe places. I use Question Sets for cueing instead, and this process also helps the client stop using dramatic arcs. It's useful to know about ELFS as practitioners so we can identify them. When we ask clients to think about moments when they felt free and safe, they often choose times like one-off holidays, weddings and other important events, but for this process, we are looking more for a time like enjoying a nice cup of tea. I call this Amplify Havening, and I use it when I introduce Havening Touch to clients so that the LTP that occurs will generate a good association. I don't tell clients the name of the process until they have experienced amplification for themselves.

In Event Havening, I use working memory activities (see Primer) for the distraction element, and I avoid using cues for EMLI or for ELFS that are precious (special moments). These would also involve accessing long-term memories, and we want to use working memory. I do use the information gleaned from doing the question sets to identify areas that they feel confident about, have knowledge about, and find funny or boring, and some of these will be related to ELFS. I use these topics as a basis for working memory activities. We will explore working memory in Project 3.

Booklet: Introducing Havening Touch

Click and swipe to access all pages of the booklet. This one can be downloaded. 
the same project as for introducing and learning about CASE but here we are focusing on the idea that we can use this process to introduce Havening Touch.

Booklet: When Touch is Perceived as Aversive

- swipe to turn pages

What did you discover?

I hope this inspires you to explore Havening Touch. I would love to know what you discovered. Let's connect in our Messenger group and share.

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