Book Review of The Ethics of Touch

AMTA - West Virginia Chapter Newsletter
Winter 2003/2004
by Kim Bingaman

The Ethics of Touch is a newly published work by Cherie Sohnen-Moe and Ben Benjamin, Ph.D., which deserves a spot on every massage therapist's bookshelf.

This book covers every aspect of the challenging subject which we all are required to deal with on an almost daily basis.

The nature of massage work brings each of us into the intimate heart space of our clients. We must constantly keep a vigilant check on OUR attitudes, thoughts and actions concerning our professional relationships. There are many aspects of ethics which we tend to overlook or gloss over, believing that all those "rules" are for someone else and that I, as an individual, can manage my friendships/ relationships without crossing boundaries.

This extensive work provides us with many tools and ideas for looking at the therapeutic relationship. It has self tests which I shared with my partners. We found that, indeed, all of us could find grey areas where we fell into the void of the ethical/unethical mire.

If you never really understood what is meant by dual relationships, here is a good reference for this dilemma. The close and very personal relationships we develop with our frequent clients fall into this category. We ask ourselves, "Am I becoming [too] familiar or careless with this relationship?" Maybe we should.

The therapeutic relationship is like no other. The client looks to the therapist with trust and confidence. Could a silly, negative or flippant remark effect our client in a deep unretractible way? Yes. Must we vigilantly strive to maintain a professional, caring and listening demeanor? Yes. Must we refrain from bringing OUR drama to the session? Always.

The chapter on ethical practice management is particularly helpful in clearly defining standards and working with consent. Clients have the right to understand the therapist's intent and qualifications for application of a particular technique. False or misleading claims of ability to heal are common.

I'm glad to see the authors have addressed Business Practice ethics. I feel this area is often neglected and many business people in our culture seem to feel they can ignore the legal ethical issues that confront us daily. This isn't about money, right? It's all about healing.

Thanks to the authors, we now have an extensive reference on ethics for those who touch.

I hope to plan another ethics class in the future and will definitely use this text as reference for the class. If there are issues for which you have concerns, please let me know and I'll include them in a future class.

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