Book Review of The Ethics of Touch

Ben Benjamin and Cherie Sohnen-Moe are well-known to MTJ readers. They both have contributed regular columns for many years and both have taught workshops at AMTA National Conventions. Between them the knowledge and experience is vast and for this book they also have incorporated the wisdom of 15 colleagues in massage therapy, chiropractic, law and psychotherapy, including MTJ's ethics columnist Dianne Polseno and authors Diana Thompson and Ruth Werner.

The Ethics of Touch is divided into nine chapters. Each concludes with discussion question and concludes with discussion questions and activities for self-reflection or group participation. Questions for journaling and discussion are included throughout the text. Wonderful quotations appear in the margins of most pages, as do notes indicating where to find follow-up information.

The first chapter, "Ethical Principles," clearly defines key terms and discusses psychological concepts. "Boundaries," Chapter 2, explores the challenges of personal space-physically, emotionally, intellectually, sexually and energetically. Next, "The Dynamics of Effective Communication" discusses setting boundaries, interactive and reflective listening, managing conflicts and self-evaluation, which is essential to understanding and applying any of the book's lessons. The fourth chapter delves into the range, risks and complexities of "Dual Relationships." The fifth chapter follows up with issues of "Sex, Touch and Intimacy," including guidelines for establishing sexually safe treatments.

The next two chapters, "Ethical Practice Management" and "Business Ethics," cover professionalism, informed consent, tips, bartering and taxes. The authors discuss appropriate ways to refuse to work with a potential client, if the situation deems it necessary. It would be inappropriate to state, "You really remind me of my former boyfriend. I'm working on my issues with him right now, so it's probably best if I refer you elsewhere." Instead say, "I think my ability to help you is limited. I would like to refer you to a very skilled, experienced and compassionate practitioner who can give you better care" (p. 168).

The eighth chapter is entitled "Special Considerations in Cases of Trauma." A client might live in denial or not recall abuse, or he or she might not disclose it to you. Anyway, as the authors say, "Traumas come with life" (p. 220). Understanding the emotional needs of people who have experienced unresolved trauma or lived through sexual, physical and emotional abuse is fundamental to a safe, ethical practice.

In the final chapter, "Supervision," the authors highlight this aspect of professional practice that has long been of primary importance to the mental health professions, and will become essential to massage therapy training and practice, as well.

The book concludes with appendices listing follow-up resources, including sample office policies, sample informed consent forms, specialized protocols for working with trauma and abuse survivors, and the code of ethics of [over a dozen] professional organizations. Each chapter is carefully documented with endnotes, which can be referenced for further reading. A helpful index also is included.

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