Skip to main content

Haptotherapy and crying: an exploratory study

05 December 2021 | Research |Research 2021 |

Klabbers G. A., Vingerhoets A. J. J. M.
Keywords| crying| Haptotherapy



This study’s main aim was to understand better why patients cry during a haptotherapy treatment and whether crying is considered helpful.


During a period of 4 weeks, Dutch haptotherapists asked all their patients aged 18 and older to complete a digital questionnaire at home after the end of the haptotherapy treatment. Patients were asked about their indication for haptotherapy, and they answered six questions about crying during therapy on a 5-point Likert scale (1-5). In addition, the participating haptotherapists were asked (1) whether they ever had tears in their eyes during therapy, (2) whether they had
ever actually cried during therapy, and (3) whether they considered the patient’s crying as helpful for the therapeutic process.


Seventy-two participating haptotherapists recruited 640 participants, 500 women and 140 men. The respondents’ average age was 46 years. The six most common indications (n > 30) were burnout complaints, stress complaints, personality development, depressive complaints, anxiety complaints, and comorbidity. During the haptotherapy treatments, 80.9 % (n = 518) of the patients reportedly had cried during therapy. Women cried significantly more often than men
(t(638) = 7,922, p = .017). Crying during treatment did not differ between patient groups (F(5, 436) = .317, p = .903). Of the patients, 26.1 % (n = 167) indicated that they cried to let others know they were suffering, and 88.1 % (n = 564) because their crying had a relieving effect. The patient’s crying was perceived as meaningful by most patients (98.6 % (n = 631)) and therapists (62.5 % (n = 45)). As many as 43.1 % of the participating patients reported changes in general crying, with 27.3 % reporting an increase in their crying and 15.8 % a reduction.


Patient crying occurs relatively often during haptotherapy, as it does during other therapies. Most patients consider this as meaningful. The different patient diagnoses, the different educational backgrounds of the haptotherapists, and the sociodemographic differences did not influence patient crying. To further understand the effective mechanisms of haptotherapy, it is recommended to investigate why some patients cry more after haptotherapy and others cry less and how they experience their change in crying frequency.

  1. Benecke, C., Lachen, um nicht zu weinen …. Psychotherapeut, 2009. 54: p. 120-129.
  2. Bowlby, J., Attachment and Loss, Volume 1: Attachment. Vol. 1. 1969, New York, NY: Basic Books.
  3. Breuer, J., Freud S., Studies on hysteria 1974, Harmondsworth, United Kingdom: Penguin Books (Original work published 1895).
  4. Bylsma, L.M., Gračanin A., Vingerhoets A. J. J. M., A Clinical Practice Review of Crying Research. Psychotherapy, 2020. 58(1): p. 133-149.
  5. Bylsma, L.M., Vingerhoets, A.J.J.M., Rottenberg, J., When is crying cathartic? An international study. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 2008. 27: p. 1165-1187.
  6. Cornelius, R.R., Crying and catharsis, in Adult crying: A biopsychosocial approach, A.J.J.M. Vingerhoets, & Cornelius, R.R., Editors 2001, Taylor & Francis Group: Hove, United Kingdom. p. 199-212.
  7. Cornelius, R.R., Toward a new understanding of weeping and catharsis?, in The (non)expression of emotions in health and disease A.J.J.M. Vingerhoets, Bussel, F.J.v. & Boelhouwer, A.J.W., Editors 1997, Tilburg University Press: Tilburg, the Netherlands. p. 303-321.
  8. Genova, F., Zingaretti P., Gazzillo F., Tanzilli A., Lingiardi V., Katz M., Hilsenroth, M., Patients’ crying experiences in psychotherapy and relationship with working alliance, therapeutic change and attachment styles. Psychotherapy, 2021. 58(1): p. 160-171.
  9. Greenacre, P., On the development and function of tears. The psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 1965. 20: p. 209-219.
  10. Groen, J., Psychosomatic disturbances as a form of substituted behaviour. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 1957. 2: p. 85-96.
  11. Hesdorffer, D.C., Vingerhoets, A.J.J.M., Trimble, M.R., Social and psychological consequences of not crying: Possible associations with psychopathology and therapeutic relevance. CNS Spectrums, 2018. 23: p. 414-422.
  12. Klabbers, G.A., Vingerhoets A.J.J.M., Satisfaction and specific and non-specific therapy factors: haptotherapy from a patient perspective, International Journal of Haptonomy and Haptotherapy, 2021. 3: p. 20-29.
  13. Lam, C.’t., Vingerhoets A.J.J.M., Bylsma L., Tears in therapy: A pilot study about experiences and perceptions of therapist and client crying. European Journal of Psychotherapy & Counselling, 2018. 20(2): p. 199-219.
  14. Löfgren, L.B., On weeping. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis 1966. 47: p. 375-383.
  15. McCrank, E.W., Crying behavior in the human adult [Commentary]. Integrative Psychiatry, 1983. 1: p. 98-99.
  16. Rottenberg, J., Bylsma, L.M., Vingerhoets, A.J.J.M. Is crying beneficial? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2008. 17: p. 400-404.
  17. Vereniging-van-Haptotherapeuten. Beroepsvereniging van gezondheidszorghaptotherapeuten in Nederland 2021; Available from: https;//
  18. Vingerhoets, A.J.J.M., De emotionele mens. Waarom onze emoties bepalen wie we zijn. 2021, Amsterdam: Ambo/Anthos.
  19. Vingerhoets, A.J.J.M. Why only humans weep. Unravelling the mysteries of tears. 2013, Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.
  20. Zeifman, D.M., James-Roberts I. St., Parenting the crying infant. Current Opinion in Psychology, 2017. 15: p. 149-154.
  21. Zingaretti, P., Gazzillo F., Genova F., Lingiardi V., Patients’ crying experiences in psychotherapy: Relationship with the patient level of personality organization, clinician approach, and therapeutic alliance. Psychotherapy: Theory Research & Practice, 2017. 54(2): p. 159-166.

Volume 9

No. 4
  • Publication date:
    December 5, 2021
  • Volume:
  • No.:
  • Page:
How to cite (apa)
Klabbers, G. A., & Vingerhoets, A. J. (2021). Haptotherapy and crying: an exploratory study. In International Journal of Haptonomy and Haptotherapy (Vol. 9, Issue 4, pp. 30-35).
Related Articles