Book Review of The Ethics of Touch

As registrar, and now deputy Registrar, I have always been concerned with the issues of ethics in our field: an important subject that is rarely covered, often only superficially, in trainings. I have been searching for something encompassing that could provide a solid base of understanding. B. E. Benjamin, and C. Sohnen-Moe have come through with a strong text: The Ethics of Touch.

The book leads you through the basics of the field, from a touch-therapist's point of view (applicable to anyone in the healing industry): Ethical Principals, how to find, recognize, and evaluate our parameters that are used in making the ethical decisions that impact our business and our lives; Boundaries, how to recognize them, create them, and work with them; Communication, how it can be used to prevent or resolve ethical problems in the work place; Dual Relationships, how relationships with overlapping professional and social roles form, the ethical and moral problems that may arise, and how to watch for them; Sex and Intimacy, how these impact many aspects of our work; Ethical Practice Management, specific issues that need to be addressed and some suggestions on how to approach them; Business Ethics; Trauma issues; and Supervision.

Not just a dry text, there are many real-life examples, points to ponder, and self-quizzes throughout, as well as chapter summaries with more questions and activities. Take the time to work through the quizzes, questions and activities to consolidate your understanding. Five years in the making, with many contributors and reviewers, it covers a lot of ground effectively.

Did I have some quibbles? Yes. As someone who specialized in studying the somatic field, it grated that all touch therapists were reduced to "somatic" therapists, a very broad generalization, at the beginning of the book, that seemed inappropriate for a book on ethics. This made me scrutinize other key terms carefully. For example, in the description of ethics we find "upholding the dignity of the profession" which is more about style than substance. Why not "integrity of the profession"? I didn't like the (common) blurring of "Code of Ethics" and "Code of Conduct." It left me concerned that other crucial information lacked rigour in thought, but that I was accepting it for lack of better knowledge or understanding.

In general, the text assumes that 1: the reader desires to be ethical, and 2: the reader has the strength, personal resources, and professional resources to explore and immediately implement ethics in their business dealings. In chapters with the reflective points, self-assessment questionnaires (I'd like an index to help re-find them), and self tests I felt more supported in owning these assumptions, and felt more adrift in the chapters in which they are lacking -- I particularly felt this in the section on gender issues that should have been developed further. And though we can learn from them, some terminology and legal issues are written specifically for American practitioners. I hope these issues will be addressed in later editions.

And that's an important point. There will be later editions. This is the first edition of the first in-depth book on ethics specifically focused on our profession. It reaches out to us to help us understand our ethical issues effectively, my quibbles notwithstanding. I would be remiss in not saying I believe this should be mandatory reading for our members. Better yet, enter into a dual relationship with a colleague: buy a copy and commit to exploring this book together. Help each other be rigorous in your explorations, and to recognize when you need an external professional opinion.

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