Book Review of The Ethics of Touch

Shiatsu Therapy Assn of Ontario Pressure Points
Summer 2003
by Nancy Van Der Poorten, CST

Any book with these two authors and this publisher is sure to be an excellent one and should be recommendation enough to purchase it, but for those who do not know the reputation of these people, here's a review that I hope will make you run out and buy the book right away.

I can't say often enough that this book is excellent and should be in every bodyworkers' hands! (not to mention on the shelves of school libraries).

Ben Benjamin is the founder and president of the Muscular Therapy Institute in Cambridge MA and has been in private practice for 40 years. He has written many books including "Exercise without Injury" and numerous articles on topics ranging from treatment to ethics. He was the chairperson of the AMTA Council of Schools Professional and Sexual Ethics Task Force for 4 years.

Cherie Sohnen-Moe is the president of Sohnen-Moe Associates, a company that publishes business and practice management books and offers seminars on these topics for bodyworkers. She has been a massage therapist herself and is an author, business coach, and workshop leader.

This is a formidable team! In addition, the book has an impressive list of contributing authors.

A quote from one of the book's reviewer, Elaine Calenda, Clinic Director at the Boulder College of Massage Therapy, expresses the essence well: "This compilation has had to age like fine wine to reach its full maturity.... We needed this text 20 years ago, but the basic philosophy contained throughout this work was not in existence back then. Our society and the professionals that nurture it also had to mature. You have succeeded, beyond all expectations, to take this megacomplexity of human behaviour and contain it in a very comprehensible and practical manner."

What else can I say to encourage you to buy it? This book covers the full range of ethical issues - core psychological concepts, boundaries, the dynamics of effective communication, dual roles, sex, touch and intimacy, sexual misconduct, desexualizing the touch experience, ethical practice management, standards of practice, business ethics, special considerations for trauma cases and clinical and peer supervision. If you don't enjoy the more theoretical discussions of ethical issues, you'll be thrilled with the practical information that will help you to become a better and more successful therapist. This book contains forms such as a Client Bill of Rights, sample office policies, and a Trauma Survivor handout.

Each chapter has an introduction that neatly sets the stage for the information to follow, a full body and conclusions and chapter highlights that put it all together. There are questions and activities to stimulate thought and discussion and the text is sprinkled with thoughtful quotes.

There are also exercises that help you to assess your own thoughts about an issue and questionnaires that can help you to decide if you are having trouble in a particular area. For example, there is a Discover Your Boundary Issues questionnaire - a series of questions that can help you to determine whether or not you have boundary issues with a particular client, and a Boundary Indicator Exercise - a series of questions that help you to understand what your own boundary characteristics are. You can read a bit at a time or delve deeply into each chapter. You don't need to read the book from beginning to end but can jump in where it interests you.

The overall purpose of ethics, says the book, is to guide the practitioner so that the client's welfare remains the first priority. You need to understand basic ethical principles and core psychological concepts, each of which are richly illustrated with examples. What exactly does "client-centered" mean? What are your defense mechanisms and how do they affect the client? It's likely that you have dual roles with a number of your clients--are they family? Colleagues? What is the difference between sex and intimacy--they are not the same though they do overlap.

The authors treat fully and frankly with issues that are often only skirted. As a therapist, do you have sexual feelings during a treatment session? How do they impact you and how do you deal with them? Do any of you clients (male or female) become sexually aroused during treatment and how do you handle it? When and how do you address this issue with the client? The authors deal fully with sexual misconduct and provide a Risk Factors Questionnaire that can help you to explore the issue. How do you desexualize the touch experience? Ben and Cherie offer suggestions.

And for the practical minded among you, this book is full of ideas on how to handle working with minors, dismissing a client, working with a new client, how to develop your own policy statement, how to determine your treatment fee, bartering and taking tips, taxes, referrals, marketing, dealing with insurance companies.

Have you ever thought about having a supervisor? I don't mean while you are in school, but once you've graduated. Having a supervisor is valuable for the therapist (and is required for some disciplines in some jurisdictions, such as psychological counseling) and this book explains how to go about finding someone and the benefits of such a relationship. Do you work with trauma survivors? This topic is dealt with fully and includes a Trauma Survivor handout.

At $28 (USD) this book (320 pages) is a very reasonable price - if you feel that you can't afford to buy one yourself, why not buy a copy with one of your colleagues and take turns reading it? Or borrow it from your school library? It should be in every bodyworkers' hands, well-thumbed.

Return to Review Index. . .

Copyright © 2001-2018 Sohnen-Moe Associates, Inc