Book Review of The Ethics of Touch

Massage Magazine
March/April 2004
by Don Schwartz

At first glance The Ethics of Touch may not seem like a book best described as monumental but in fact, many decades of dedicated practice, study, thought and care by the two authors and 15 contributors have gone into the realization of a work of critical importance to the entire field of skilled and nurturing touch.

This book is a must-read for anyone who touches for money or barter. Although written for health-care professionals, much of the information is vital to those who touch or are touched as a lifestyle choice.

The authors' approach to their subject is thorough, comprehensive and exhaustive. I found their summaries of transference, counter-transference and defense mechanisms to be the best and easiest to understand I've read to date. Likewise, their exploration and edification of boundaries, emotions, sexuality and intimacy empower the reader to receive, utilize and further explore information about these vital areas on her or his own. An entire chapter is devoted to "dual relationships" which refers to "the overlapping of professional and social roles and interactions between two people."

Reflecting the authors' dedication to excellence, this paperback book is designed perfectly. The pages are large, the type is a pleasure to read, and the text is enhanced with exercises, examples and extended quotations. The wide margins contain references to key points in other parts of the book, critical ideas and short quotations from the likes of Mahatma Ghandi, Groucho Marx and Norman Schwarzkopf. My favorite quote, by Thomas B. Macaulay, cuts to the core: "The measure of a man's character is what he would do if he knew he never would be found out."

The book is well-indexed and annotated. The authors have generously included three appendices: forms; specialized protocols; and codes of ethics from [over a dozen] organizations and practices.

It is my fervent hope that all those responsible for training touch practitioners in any context whatsoever will require the reading and comprehension of this book for all of their students.

Whether the reader is a neophyte to the somatics field or a seasoned veteran, The Ethics of Touch is bound to facilitate progressive change in a practitioner's process and content of ethical decision-making.

The widespread understanding and utilization of the information in this instant classic is an absolutely necessary step for the profession to take to gain a wider and deeper public acceptance of the value touch practitioners bring to our individual and collective lives.

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