Book Review of The Ethics of Touch

Shiatsu Therapy Association of British Columbia
Winter 2003
by Vanessa Wiebel RST

Once in a while the STA receives books for review. I had the pleasure to browse through the book on the important topic of The Ethics of Touch, covering over 309 pages with intriguing information about touch and its effects on the client, all from the therapist's point of view. . . .

The book by Ben E. Benjamin and Cherie Sohnen-Moe covers all possible questions that might arise for a new or experienced practitioner. The authors invite the reader to reassess their ethics, their values around the topic of touch, how to handle ethical dilemmas and to understand the balance and importance of good and clear communication with our clients on a physical, psychological and verbal level!

The book invites self-exploration and evaluation of your own practice. It is a check-in tool filled with case studies, examples and questionnaires you can fill out either alone or with colleagues. You get to explore and understand your values and ideas about touch while receiving feedback [and] doing self-supervision, a reality check! Answers on topics and issues that you are not sure whom to ask or are to embarrassed to ask, are addressed and guidance is offered. Cherie and Ben do not hesitate to face the uncomfortable issues of inappropriate touch.

  • "To which level do I as a practitioner have to tolerate client behaviour or demands?"
  • "How to deal with falling in love/lust for a client or a client for you?"
  • "What can be done if the client or I am uncomfortable?"
  • "hat to do if the touch is misunderstood by the client?"

The authors show how the ethics of touch effects all areas of our practice:

  1. in-business
  2. communication
  3. what kind of dual relationship dynamics can emerge
  4. understanding touch boundaries, specifically of people with traumas
  5. how the trauma can effect the perception of touch
  6. how trauma experiences can change a persons sensation of touch and communication with a client or practitioner

I have not found in any other book an explicit chapter on how to do supervision effectively as a body-worker. Supervision is work a practitioner does to relieve themselves "of the issues and topics they find are burdening them" and topics that are not ethical to share at home or with friends, as doing so would breach confidentiality codes. Supervision is a great tool to prevent burn-out and to stay in touch with what is happening within us [as] practitioners.

The book offers helpful, realistic tools. It is non-sexist [and] non-racial while addressing the topics with proactive guidelines a practitioner can choose to apply in their practice. The authors do not say which choices are right or wrong. They indicate what results or consequences are possible with different choices you may make. The perspectives of the practitioner and the client are shown. The reader experiences making informed and conscious choices, rather than guesses and assumptions. Even though the book writes predominantly from a Massage Therapist perspective, I found, as a Shiatsu Therapist, I could relate to all the topics very well, finding the book to be a great, inspiring tool. I can recommend it to students and RST's.

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