Emotional touchpoints

Emotional touchpoints

Emotional touchpoints are a powerful way of helping people share their experiences which can challenge assumptions about what matters to them.

They allow people to explore the emotions they are feeling around a situation or experience of using a service, and give people a chance to share how situations and experiences of services and professionals made them feel.

  • Time to do: 5 to 20 minutes, depending on situation and use
  • Staff: Confident facilitator required
  • Cost: £
  • Equipment: Emotional Touchpoint Cards; table for the cards to be laid on and the means to capture the shared story (audio recording, stationery, flip charts)
  • one-to-one
  • small groups
  • face-to-face

How to do it

  • Lay the cards out on a flat surface so that they are visible and easy to reach.
  • Ask the participant to select emotion card(s) that best sum up how the experience felt.
  • Invite them to say why they felt this way. Use active listening skills to encourage them to tell their story.
  • In appropriate, discuss with the participant what could have been different.
  • Ideally, the facilitator should type up the story afterwards and give the participant an opportunity to review it.
  • The participant should also asked for permission to share their story with the appropriate people or services.


  • Helps the participant to go beyond bland statements such as “that was good”
  • Helps people to get in touch with their own experience and emotions
  • Supports and empowers user, family and staff involvement in service improvements
  • Develops relationships between users, carers and staff

The advantages of the story outputs, and subsequent reflections and discussions include:

  • challenging assumptions about what matters to people
  • affirming that little things are not only noticed but do shape people’s experiences overall
  • helping to see positive and negative aspects of experiences in a more balanced way
  • making improvements that can immediately benefit the participant and
  • highlighting simple, practical changes that can be made as a result for the benefit of future users.

This tool has been widely used in care settings with older people and people with learning disabilities. However it has also been extensively used with a range of users, carers and the general public.


  • It is a deceptively simple approach, but to produce meaningful results it must be properly facilitated
  • Touchpoints and emotion words are useful prompts and can be a short-cut to accessing emotions, but not everyone will respond to such a direct approach.
  • Success in sharing a story, as always, depends upon the relationship between the facilitator and participant, the appropriate use of skilled questioning and a willingness to share on the part of the participant, which may be influenced by the setting.
  • Can be time-consuming to type up and review the story.
  • Discussing negative experiences requires sensitivity and skilled facilitation skills to avoid resorting to defensiveness, blame or rushing to reach over-simplistic solutions.
  • Sharing positive stories also requires skilled support to extract meaning and ask questions as to why this experience was a positive one; the skills and supports that made it so; and what it would take for this to happen more often.


  • Asking someone to engage in an emotion-based conversation about an aspect of care that they are indifferent about is a flawed exercise and essentially pointless.
  • Some people may simply not engage in an emotion-based conversation as this may not be something they are comfortable or confident with. At no point should people be pressured to participate.
Last Updated: 31 August 2020