“In the original Greek, the verb Khalaó indicates relaxation and feeding; retreating from a state of anger, fury or violence; opening a door; undoing the ties of a leather canister; letting go; forgiving one’s parents; removing all veils; etc.” Pethö Sándor
Subtle Touch is a somatic psychotherapy method developed by Pethö Sándor, based on a series of light touch sequences, gentle sensory stimuli, and passive movements, which is integrated with Jungian psychology as a theoretical foundation.
Calatonia was the first Subtle Touch technique created by Sándor in the 1940s in Europe, during WWII, at the Red Cross refugee camps. It was the first technique created to treat war trauma, born from war scarcity and compassion. The technique consists of a sequence of nine touches on the feet (tips of toes, soles, heels, and calves) or, alternatively, it can be applied on the hands (fingertips, palms, wrists, and forearms), and a tenth touch to the head, performed in about 25 – 30 minutes.
After the war, Calatonia was integrated into psychotherapy, as a technique for psychophysical regulation, based on the organism’s neurobiological and neuro-cognitive responses to complex stimuli. It potentially leads to deep relaxation, contemplative and self-reflective mental states, in which much spontaneous psychological insight may happen.
Its results are achieved via the application of light touch stimuli in areas of the body in which there is a high concentration of fine tactile receptors of the discriminative touch system, the Merkel endings, and concomitant activation of C-tactile receptors, associated with neural coding for affiliative touch.
Calatonia also relies on the resting-state functional connectivity as its starting point, the eliciting of orienting reflexes, and dyadic regulation (co-regulation) with the therapist, among other elements. It integrates mind wandering, perceptive and apperceptive processes, and spontaneous thoughts, images and feelings, which may occur during a session of Calatonia, into the context of the patient’s psychotherapy.
Subtle Touch method has been used in Brazil since the 1950s, and there are over two thousand certified practitioners in Brazil. They are professional psychotherapists, psychologists, speech, occupational, and physical therapists, physicians, massage therapists, educators, social workers, nurses, etc. In the past fifty years, many theses and dissertations (Master’s level and PhD) were written about Subtle Touch and Calatonia in Portuguese. Presently, there are a few publications in English: