PEP Topic 

Haptotherapy is a type of complementary therapy that involves the use of touch to achieve mental relaxation, as well as interventions, such as talking and counseling, to assist individuals in getting in touch with their feelings. It is based on haptonomy, referred to as a science that combines thoughts, feelings, and words through a “psycho-tactile” contact.

Effectiveness Not Established

Research Evidence Summaries

van den Berg, M., Visser, A., Schoolmeesters, A., Edelman, P., & Borne, B. (2006). Evaluation of haptotherapy for patients with cancer treated with chemotherapy at a day clinic. Patient Education and Counseling, 60, 336–343.

doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2005.10.012

Intervention Characteristics/Basic Study Process:

The intervention consisted of five 45-minute haptotherapy sessions given during the period of chemotherapy as the patient desired. The mean time between the first and last session was 11.5 weeks (range 3–36). Sessions were performed by two haptotherapists on days when patients received chemotherapy. The first session included an introduction to haptotherapy and a preliminary interview reviewing patient goals for treatment. After establishing the needs of the patient, the therapist sought to bring the patient in contact with his/her body and feelings through the means of touch. Through contact, patients opened up emotionally and began to speak more freely about their feelings. Conversation and physical contact both are part of the treatment and cannot be viewed separately. The treatment often involved the back, legs, feet, belly, neck, and shoulders.

Sample Characteristics:

  • The sample included 57 patients with cancer undergoing chemotherapy.
  • Patients were primarily women (80.6%) with breast cancer (41.9%).
  • Mean age was 54 years for intervention and 52.7 years for the control group.
  • The only significant difference between groups was that the intervention group had more children living at home compared to the control group.
  • Patients in the intervention and control groups were matched with respect to sex, age, type of cancer, type of chemotherapy, evidence of metastasis, and prognosis.
  • Patients in the control group were excluded if they used any form of complementary care during the period of chemotherapy.


Patients in the intervention group were recruited from the day clinic of the Diakonessenhuis Zeist. Patients from the control group were from three other hospitals in the Utrecht region.

Phase of Care and Clinical Applications:

Patients were undergoing the active treatment phase of care.

Study Design:

The study used a nonrandomized, pre-/posttest semiexperimental design, with 31 patients in the haptotherapy group and 26 in the control group.

Measurement Instruments/Methods:

  • Visual analog scale (VAS)
  • European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire (EORTC QLQ-C30)
  • Profile of Mood States (POMS)


The intervention group experienced decreased fatigue from pretest to posttest according to EORTC evaluation. Conversely, the control group experienced increased fatigue from pretest to posttest assessment. The observed differences did not reach statistical significance.


  • The small sample size may have limited the ability to observe the true effects of the intervention.
  • As sessions were provided on patients' request, a large variability of time existed between sessions.
  • It is likely that the effects of haptotherapy do not last if too much time passes between sessions.
  • The nonrandomized design may have contributed to selection bias.
  • A drop-out analysis was performed due to a high drop-out rate in the intervention group.