Karen Thompson

Licensed Massage Therapist, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor

The Touch/Violence Dyad: Changing the Narrative and Trajectory of Youth Violence Through Social Work Education


This capstone project explores the strong correlation between negative touch, touch deprivation, and violent behavior in children and adolescents and the impact it has on family, community, and society systems. The analysis is based on statistical data and empirical research from experts in touch and violence. It includes a literature review, a conceptual paper, and a practice application, all of which emphasize the critical role that touch plays in the mind-body connection. The literature review underscores the significance of positive touch, its influence on individuals throughout their lifespan, and how negative touch and touch deprivation can contribute to violent behavior. The conceptual paper offers a cohesive construct that integrates attachment, social learning, psychosocial development, and polyvagal theories to explain how negative touch and touch deprivation can lead to violent behavior. The capstone project aims to put this knowledge into action through social work continuing education efforts, as defined in the practice application paper. The practice application paper highlights the significance of social work education in addressing the intricate interplay between touch and violent behavior. Social workers can play a pivotal role in reducing violence by gaining a deeper understanding of the psychology of touch and leveraging this knowledge to create effective interventions. This capstone demonstrates that a more comprehensive understanding of the impact of touch on the developmental trajectory of children and adolescents can facilitate the creation of a safer and more harmonious society.


Karen’s passion for higher education has had a significant impact on her professional journey. While pursuing a business degree from the University of Cincinnati and working in various business and industry settings, Karen’s focus of study shifted. Her personal experiences and inquisitive nature led her to explore the unconventional field of medical massage therapy, which allowed her to pursue her interest in the mind-body connection. She became a licensed medical massage therapist, fueling her lifelong passion for the connection between the mind and body.

As Karen’s knowledge grew on the psychological impact on the body, she pursued a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the Union Institute, followed by a master’s degree in social work with a specialization in mental health from the University of Kentucky. Currently, she is pursuing a Doctorate in Social Work.

Karen has years of experience in medical social work, having worked in various healthcare settings such as hospice, hospital, emergency rooms, and primary care. She is a tenured Clinical Social Worker and Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor. Karen has managed a large team of social workers and volunteered for community disaster response efforts, developing strong managerial skills. She has demonstrated her leadership abilities as the Northern Kentucky Chair for the Kentucky National Association of Social Workers.

Karen’s research on the impact of touch on children and juvenile offenders of violence is a significant contribution to society. Her work challenges current narratives surrounding violence and emphasizes the transformative potential of positive touch and service to others.