Book Review of The Ethics of Touch

Canadian Sport Massage Therapists Association
Summer 2003
by Jonathan Maister BsocSci, CAT[C], RMT

The book's objective is to support body workers of various disciplines through the tricky domain of ethics. The text begins with theoretical foundations and definitions, then evolves through theoretical models and the numerous topics for which ethics are vital. Informal fonts grace the chapter headings and subheadings. This typifies the less formal style of the book's presentation. Concerns of intimidation given the heavy nature of the material are quickly diffused.

As indicated the material is aimed at a wide audience and its easily read style facilitates this objective. The content is nonetheless comprehensive and will satisfy the needs across the spectrum of related professionals, i.e., novices to experienced practitioners to academics.

The two authors draw upon the expertise of 15 other contributing authors as well as many other distinguished individuals as references and sources. The text itself is closely referenced with a detailed bibliography divided into the chapters at the book's end. Even a brief perusal of the credentials and professional referencing indicates this is a work to be treated seriously.

Chapters end with a succinct summary checklist of highlights and a list of discussion questions and activities. These are thought provoking and also enable use of this text as an academic tool. The margins are peppered with inspiring quips, as well as cutely presented referrals to other relevant sections in the book. These are a pleasant touch.

Content itself contains essential information; a list of unethical behaviours which is expanded on, as well as a 6-step resolution model. Concepts are well illustrated often with scenario examples. The nature of boundaries is well explored, as is a vital section on touch, sex, and intimacy. Hence topics that are often taboo are discussed clearly and thoroughly. Yet the authors are realistic in their acknowledgment that grey areas do exist.

Dual relationships are explained. Examples clearly indicate their complexity. Issues such as touch and infant growth are mentioned, as well as research on the benefits of touch at all ages. The extensive information on a variety of parallel topics indicates the extensiveness of research in this work. The authors are to be commended.

Practice management and financial issues are a valuable inclusion. Bartering, discounts, kickbacks, marketing, tips, fee scales, legalities, ethical advertising, and credentials are fully scrutinized. Useful also are suggestions on suitable semantics and other ways of avoiding problems in advertising and suchlike. Without preaching The Ethics of Touch is replete with recommendations which increases its usefulness tremendously.

Included is an invaluable section on Chronic Trauma and Abuse. The information is excellently researched with discussions among other related topics, on physical responses to abuse, signs and symptoms, recognition of these, and avoiding and diffusing flashbacks. Guidelines are given for working with tragedy survivors and abuse victims. Even details such as the treatment environment and the preferred interpersonal approach are noted.

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