The Power of Human Touch


How many of you can recall when you would hurt yourself when you were young?  Perhaps falling while playing or taking a spill off your bike?  For some, although the hurt caused a tear or two to fall, the best thing about it was when our favorite loved adult would “kiss it to make it better”.  Often, we wouldn’t even need a Band-Aid or a visit to the doctor like we so desperately claimed.  What was wanted was that squeeze after the Band-Aid, that high-five after the tears, even simply sitting next to our loved one and feeling them there - that touch from that other person with whom we were close and loved held and carried a healing power. 

Children who are struggling with attachment disorders, people who have been victims of sexual assault or rape, and similarly, folks who battle with various levels of anxiety can benefit from the healing power of touch.  It is often assumed that it is babies who primarily benefit from touch and mainly from their mothers (or primary caregivers).  And, while this still holds truth, there are so many other opportunities that can provide healing.  Just a few examples are pain reduction, creating safer spaces, improve relationships between not just couples but also other dyads (siblings, parent/child, etc.).  Research has even shown that when a child is struggling in school, a small, simple touch on their shoulder from their teacher can provide just the right amount of encouragement to allow the child to begin to soar in their studies. 

Here are 4 simple reasons to consider the powerful, healing properties of the human touch:

1: Touch releases a chemical in our brains called oxytocin.  This chemical is like the cuddle switch.  When touch is wanted or desired, oxytocin is released.  Just 20 seconds of affectionate touching is enough to reduce our stress hormone and increase our cuddle hormone.  This can manifest safer spaces and increase trust, as well. 

2: When stress levels due to trauma or anxiety are at an all time high, our ability to experience what may seem to be compassion is muddled; especially when it is brought to us through only the spoken word.  It may seem silly but when words fail, touch may be the answer.  Touch can trigger our vagus nerve (the nerve that runs from the brain to the belly, passing the heart along the way), thus allowing us to be receptive to and to respond with compassion.

3: Not only can touch allow us to feel compassion, it also reduces stress.  Our stress hormone, cortisone, increases when we experience anxiety, trauma, stress from taking a test, falling off our bikes, etc.  A touch, even one that happens by accident, can reduce that stress hormone and lower blood pressure.  This means a happier heart.  Image the anxiety beginning to creep in because of a memory that has begun to invade your thoughts.  You are walking around work or school and can’t seem to calm it down.  Someone needs to walk past you and, gently, presses their hand on your arm to excuse themselves around you.  That one slight touch is just enough to not only distract you from your thoughts but also to decrease that cortisone that is about to sky high.

4: Touching between couples can increase trust, promote communication, and can improve relationship satisfaction.  Even the simple act of holding hands while watching a movie or hugging for just 20 seconds before leaving for work can begin to create that bond between couples.  This bond can be the foundation in which trust is rebuilt, safety is re-established, and communication is opened.

Everyone has a built in need to be touched, and yes, from birth.  However, it does not end once we reach a specific age.  It is a life-long desire for touch.  When it is practiced appropriately and respectfully, the human touch can be powerful healing aspect of the human experience.

By Léah Almilli

Is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist. She works with children as young as 6 and adults as old as 88. She is fluent in American Sign Language and she teaches ASL at the local community college. Léah like to help people grow and feel better about themselves. Léah offers a holistic, client-centered approach to the process, allowing each person the opportunities to discover how their pasts can lead into their futures. Léah makes her therapy rooms warm, welcoming, non-judgmental, and compassionate to ensure that the clients can feel safe to explore what is needed.

A Therapy Session, What’s it Really Like.


I am a working therapist, and I would like to share with you what it’s like to see clients. Therapists generally work the same way; however, each therapist works slightly different, adding their own personality and style. Through the years, I’ve created my own way of working with clients that I have found to be highly successful.

After the initial phone call,  an intake session is scheduled. In this session, we speak about what the problem is, how it is affecting your life, how I might help you, and together we develop a plan.

Sometimes clients ask, “How are you different from bouncing ideas off my friends and family.” 

First of all, family and friends can be great to bounce ideas off of, but because they love you and want good things for you sometimes they do not provide you with the truth, can be overly harsh or want you to do what they want.  I’m not family, nor am I a friend and that fact gives me the ability to look at what is going on as a neutral third party. Additionally, I have many years of specific training and experience to help people with all sorts of bothersome problems quickly and effectively.

Therapists are bound by laws and state regulation to protect your information by keeping it confidential (there are a couple of exceptions by law) but mostly what you say in therapy stays in therapy.  Sometimes friends accidentally share your secrets.

Therapists do not advise as friends do, but therapists allow you to talk out your feelings, help identify the behaviors that are causing you problems, and create a strategy for making changes. Therapists are also able to determine if your concerns might be physical, sometimes depression and other mental health issues start with some physical problems that you may not be aware of. 

Therapists have spent years gaining experiences in the practice of counseling and often gain over 3000 hours before they can work independently. Then, of course, there are two state exams that therapists must pass before they can sit in the room with you. Your family and friends not so much.

Therapists also get specialized training, for example, I have personally have training in adolescent drug and alcohol recovery, inpatient and outpatient therapy; and I have also experience working at a boy’s home, and a psychiatric hospital. These experiences have given me the opportunity to use different types of therapeutic interventions, i.e., CBT, DBT, Solution Focus, Play Therapy, Trauma-Focused, among others.

You can choose a therapist through your insurance company, or perhaps by word of mouth, or by searching therapists websites.  In California,  a professional organization called California Association Of Marriage and Family Therapists, (CAMFT) has a list of therapists.

I seem to have many referrals through the years by word of mouth – the nicest of referrals.  It means former clients trusted me, felt they were helped by our work together.  We discussed family issues, working in a business with family members, addiction issues, parent-child issues, children who were adopted and struggling with “who they are, where they came from.”

Each session is a problem-solving session.  You talk about your current situation, and your therapist uses their expertise to help you in trying to resolve the problem. Also, remember all our conversations are confidential.

Some therapists like to give homework in between sessions so that you can practice in real life the new skills and the time in between sessions you can think about what you’d like to discuss in the next session.  Your therapist might make some suggestions about what you might do in between sessions to feel better, i.e., exercise three times a week for 15 minutes outside in the sun. Most clients start therapy weekly, and then as confidence grows, skills increase, emotions are in check, and the problems start to be resolved, the sessions may change to bi-monthly, then monthly. 

Therapy should not be for forever but used when certain problems arise that make it hard for you to function in your daily life.

Some clients find that they come to therapy for six months to a year and then go about living their lives.  When new problems pop up, or they feel overwhelmed, they come back for a check-in, learn new skills and end therapy quickly. It all depends on the problems and how disabling it is to you.    

B.G. Collins summed up my feeling of being a therapist best he said;

“Most grateful for the job I choose.”

As you can see, there are a few major differences between advice from family and friends or a therapist. If you are struggling with any life problem give me a call and let’s chat about the work, we can do together.

By Judy McGehee, LMFT

My passion is working with children, teens, adults and couples, who want to build meaning in their lives. Building trust, intimacy, and companionship are most important to me as a therapist.

My relationship in counseling began about 35 years ago in working with families in church settings,in schools, and addiction treatment centers.. I became licensed in 1995, and have found this is the profession I thrive in, and wish for my clients the richness and relationships they are seeking from therapy.

I have also worked in,psychiatric hospitals, and children's centers, and believe my career has been embellished through each and every client I have had the privilege of working with.

I also enjoy being a Clinical Supervisor, and have had the honor of mentoring over 495 Interns/Associates since 1997. I received my Master's Degree from Phillips Graduate Institute, I am a member of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT) and enjoy the membership of three local chapters of CAMFT.

I look forward to working with you in the future at CCS.

2019 Do You Need a Change?

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I noticed a lot of clients talked about changes they would like to make for 2019, but they did not have a starting point on how to make them happen. This led me to make a list of top 10 don’ts to begin 2019 on the right foot. This will allow you to unleash your potential, be open to allow positive changes to unfold and overall improve your life.  This is what we all want…right? Do remember that we are all works in progress, do not be disappointed in you if you can’t stay on track. Just keep trying and eventually you can do it. I see my clients making very small changes that lead to a large positive impact. Small changes are easier to do and stick with over time. Also make sure you do only one or two at a time as doing to many at one time can set you up to fail, however, by incorporating some of these changes in your daily routines you will see the change you desire. I hope you have the best year ever.

  1. Don't be afraid to follow your dreams. Dream big!

  2. Don't be a people pleaser.

  3. Don't spend time with the wrong people.

  4. Don't gossip about others.

  5. Don't live a life that others expect of you, live a life true to you.

  6. Don't start pointless drama because of your personal insecurities.

  7. Don't do anything that doesn't feel right.

  8. Don't be afraid to spend time alone.

  9. Don't compare yourself to others. You are only in competition with you

  10. Don't hold onto things you can’t control.

If these seem a bit too hard, I can help you develop a plan and help you stick to it. That is what therapy is for to help you with the hard stuff. Remember I believe in you. If you would like to work with me or one of my fantastic colleagues give me call. 2019 is too important to feel stuck.  

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by Regina Kennedy, LMFT

I became a therapist because I want to help people who want to change their lives. I am a compassionate, direct and interactive therapist. I value optimism, truth, and authenticity.

My therapeutic approach is warm, but always direct and honest to provide support and practical feedback to help clients effectively address their treatment goals. I offer a highly personalized approach, tailored to each client's unique needs. My specialties include working with Adults, children and adolescents, families, crisis intervention, and substance abuse. I am Certified as a Substance Abuse Counselor.


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As a licensed therapist I noticed a lot of my clients were perplexed when I asked them about their self-care practices.  That led me to write this blog. Neglecting yourself doesn't make you better at caring for others, self-care does. It gives you the resilience and positivity necessary to pour into others without acrimony and antipathy.  Usually self-care brings up thoughts of extravagant vacations or spa days. I'm here to tell you that self-care is much easier than that.

Self-care is:

  1. Getting a good night’s sleep restores cognitive functions.

  2. Stop trying to please everyone.

  3. Setting boundaries and knowing that you are setting boundaries to protect yourself and not to benefit others.

  4. Exercising at least 3 days a week improves happiness.

  5. Eat well. Carbohydrates aid in the release of endorphins.

  6. Laugh more, it strengthens the immune system and boosts energy.

  7. Learn to sit with yourself, reading, watching Netflix, or listen to music.

  8. Disengage from toxic people and relationships.

  9. Cut out words or pictures from a magazine, write about the meaning to you in a journal.  Example a picture of a 2019 Lexus, this is my future car. Dream!

  10. Take time at the end of your day and write down what you’re grateful for.

I bet if you think about it you may have self-care skills that you do include in your life; sometimes. I am encouraging you to include self-care daily. Write down a few that your really enjoy. Maybe it’s that hot bath with lots of bubbles or that morning run. It doesn’t matter what you choose, it only matters that you do.

If you are having difficulty with your self-care or need help with other problems that are getting in the way of your self-care, call me or one of the therapists on my team and let’s begin the most important work for you.

by Regina Kennedy, LMFT

I became a therapist because I want to help people who want to change their lives. I am a compassionate, direct and interactive therapist. I value optimism, truth, and authenticity.

My therapeutic approach is warm, but always direct and honest to provide support and practical feedback to help clients effectively address their treatment goals. I offer a highly personalized approach, tailored to each client's unique needs. My specialties include working with Adults, children and adolescents, families, crisis intervention, and substance abuse. I am Certified as a Substance Abuse Counselor.

The Rise in Bipolar Disorder Diagnoses


Over the past decade, Mental Health Therapists have noticed a significant increase in clients seeking help for Bipolar Disorder. Prospective clients often call for a therapy appointment after being put on medication and receiving a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder from their Doctor. The good news is that Doctors are reinforcing the need for therapy along with medication for the best treatment outcomes for their patients. Many Mental Health Clinicians wonder, however, if this trend is a result of environmental or biological changes, or if there is something else causing this increase in Bipolar Diagnoses.

One study, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry basically found a huge, 40-fold increase in the diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder in children and teens over the past 10 years. In the study, researchers analyzed office visits that focused on doctors in private or group practices. According to Author John M. Grohol, Psy.D., in PsychCentral, “The key is that these are regular doctor’s offices- Not mental health professionals- Not professionals who are trained and experienced in diagnosing mental disorders, which often rely more on a clinician’s experience and expertise in asking the right questions to differentiate a disorder from something else. It may be that since these were regular medical doctors, and not mental health professionals, their diagnoses were simply more, well, wrong”.

Dr. Grohol went on to say, “I suspect that such general practitioners are more likely to diagnose a mental disorder, not out of any necessary ignorance or such, but because it is often the easiest thing to do than to try and get a parent a referral to a mental health specialist (such as a psychiatrist or child psychologist), and then ensure they follow-up with their appointment."

The problem with Doctors (who do not have specialized training) diagnosing Bipolar Disorder is that there are too many other conditions with symptoms that look like Bipolar Disorder. Senior author and psychiatrist Mark Olfson, M.D., M.P.H., told Psychiatric News that “the symptom overlap between ADHD and bipolar disorder increases the clinical challenge of distinguishing the two conditions”.

“Some symptoms, such as distractibility, pressured speech, and irritability, can be seen in ADHD as well as mania,” he said. “Because of the risks of inadvertently treating bipolar disorder with stimulant it is especially important to conduct a thorough assessment.”

As a Mental Health Therapist for over 25 years, I strongly urge my clients to get a medication evaluation from a Mental Health Specialist (i.e.- a Psychiatrist, Doctor, Physician’s Assistant or Nurse Practitioner, who have specialized training in Mental Health Treatment).  There is research that shows doctors who receive specialized training in specific disorders’ diagnosis and treatment do a better job of screening and diagnosing such disorders (Hata, 2005). Most of us expect to be referred to a Specialist for a heart condition rather than having our General Practitioner treat us. In fact, most patients are referred to a Podiatrist for a foot problem. So it seems ludicrous that patients aren’t automatically referred to a Mental Health Specialist to treat something as intricate as brain chemistry and diagnoses of Mental Health conditions. Getting an accurate mental health diagnosis and the right medication is crucial in patients having a successful treatment outcome.

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By Christine Janse, LMFT

Christy works well with Challenging Adolescents, Phase of Life/Adjustment concerns, Couples issues, Addiction, Eating Disorders, Bipolar Disorder, Depression and Anxiety.  She uses a variety of techniques to promote thought, growth and wellness along with other theories to help her clients feel better and function healthier in everyday life. Christy looks forward to meeting you. Christy is located in our Murrieta office, to schedule an appointment with Christy please call 951-778-0230