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North Carolina Acupuncture Board Files Dry Needling Lawsuit
In early September, the NCALB filed a complaint against the North Carolina Board of Physical Therapy Examiners over the issue of dry needling, a form of acupuncture that uses solid needles to puncture the skin and muscle tissue to relieve pain.
Chinese Herbs and Pulmonary Fibrosis: A Case Study
"Mary M."* recently celebrated her 90th birthday. Even the former sheriff dropped by to kiss the hand of this diminutive retired teacher, to honor the years she interpreted for him during interviews with Latinas and Latinos.
Born to Energize the Human Spirit: Recollections of Sig Miller
Sig Miller, longtime executive director of the Association of New Jersey Chiropractors (ANJC), passed away on Sept. 17 after a long battle with cancer.
F4CP Making a High-Impact Impression
The Foundation for Chiropractic Progress has released details of its 2016 strategy, certain elements of which are already in play. The strategy includes ads, posters and other resources available to all F4CP members.
Your Billing Questions Answered
I hear a lot of the following questions: I am afraid I may doing something illegal. I have heard I cannot have different fees for the same service.
Tailor-Made Knee Pain: The Sartorius Muscle
A patient was referred to my office after receiving treatment from various providers with no results. The patient was training for the Olympics as a marathon runner and was unable to run or walk without severe medial knee pain.
Too Many to Remember: Tips to Revive Your Ortho / Neuro Test Skills
When I was at Palmer in the mid-1980s, we were given a set of notes in one of our diagnostic courses. The notes covered approximately 70 orthopedic and neurological tests for various regions of the body.
The Concussion-Subluxation Complex
In the Aug. 1, 2014 issue of Dynamic Chiropractic, I reviewed some of the literature demonstrating the role of the chiropractic adjustment in post-concussive care.
Which Way is the Energy Going? Are You Burning Yourself Out?
One of the simple methods that I use to define Yin/Yang theory to patients is to ask the question, "Which way is your energy going?"
Acupuncture Rising: From Acupuncture Anesthesia to Assisted-IVF, Part 2
Acupuncture's cultural and historical roots go back to the emergence of Chinese civilization. For more than 2,000 years, acupuncture needling has been continuously practiced on the largest population in the world.
Footsteps of the Sages: An Apprenticeship with Dr. Kezhan Zhang
When I met Dr. Kezhen Zhang in May 2013, I was his translator and the integrity, creativity, and passion he demonstrated as a practitioner and advocate of the medicine convinced me to travel to Beijing to study with him.
It's Time to Review
It is amazing to see the changes that are occurring in the acupuncture profession. Let's look at some of the news and events that have contributed to this growth and awareness.
Designing a Fitness Plan (Part 1)
It doesn't matter if you come to my practice for pain relief, weight loss, healthy aging or something else. The formula I talk about for each patient's fitness strategy is pretty much the same.
Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in the West
We know acupuncture and Oriental medicine as the indigenous medicine of East Asia; in particular China, Korea and Japan are the countries of origin of this wonderful healing system.
Making Sense of an Increasingly Obvious Conclusion
Where's U.S. health care heading? Like it or not, the list of telltale signs is growing to a point that stands out to even the most myopic observer. Consider this list of facts as you look into the future of health care in the United States:
Pro-Con: Swaddling for Newborns
The practice of swaddling has been used for thousands of years and was popular until the 1700s, when it was slowly abandoned by many cultures that considered it old-fashioned or barbaric.
Dietary Fat and Prostate Cancer: An Important Update
K.M. Di Sebastiano and M. Mourtzakis published a review paper examining the role of dietary fat on prostate cancer development and progression late last year that does a stellar job of summarizing the available data on fat and prostate cancer.
Diagnose Sprain Injuries in MVA Cases With Dynamic X-Rays (Pt. 1)
Am I the only person to notice hospitals are doing a seemingly insufficient job lately in their initial radiological workup of motor vehicle accident (MVA) victims?
Mechanism: Experimental Approaches to Understanding Acupuncture, Part 1
The clinical benefits of acupuncture are difficult to ignore, but also can be difficult to explain to a Western audience. For nearly 50 years, relentlessly inquisitive scientists and physicians have been working toward a conceptual model to explain acupuncture.
Targeting the Bad Apples in the Bunch
While everyone was focused on the conversion to ICD-10, the Office of Inspector General for Health and Human Services released a new report on chiropractic titled "CMS Should Use Targeted Tactics to Curb Questionable and Inappropriate Payments for Chiropractic Services."
The Modern Application of Ancient Mei Rong
Chinese Medical Cosmetology (Mei Rong) has a well-documented and venerated history dating back to the Qin (221-206 BC) Dynasty.
One Size Does Not Fit All: Exercise and Nutrition According to Your Yin/Yang Body Type
There are countless new exercise and nutrition plans out there, emphasizing the latest ground-breaking research and claiming to revolutionize the way we view health.
Omega-3 Fish Oil: An Underappreciated Element of Men's Health
As a clinician with many male patients -- and as a man myself -- I am all too aware of the fact that we like to convince ourselves that we are doing great, when that may be the farthest thing from the truth.
September, 2010, Vol. 10, Issue 09
When a Client Crosses the Line
By Cherie Sohnen-Moe
The sexual assault allegations against Al Gore has elicited much commentary about clients crossing the line sexually. Regardless of the veracity of this particular claim, it is an important topic to explore in-depth.Some clients may "test the waters" about sexual services, while others blatantly cross the line. Massage practitioners must know how to appropriately deal with those situations.
A sexual boundary can be challenged physically, verbally or both. Many factors influence the impact this behavior has on a practitioner, such as the length of time the practitioner has been working, the practitioner's ability to manage boundaries, the practitioner's history of abuse, the setting in which the boundary challenge occurs, and the client's prominence.
Boundary Crossings vs Boundary Violations
Boundaries are contextual because they can change depending on the situation. Behavior that is deemed appropriate at one time may be highly offensive in another setting. A boundary crossing is a transgression that may or may not be experienced as harmful. Often it is a minute difference in degree that makes an action shift from being considered a boundary crossing to a violation. It is also relative: what is a mere boundary crossing to one person may be a major violation to another. A boundary violation is a harmful transgression of a boundary. Differentiating a boundary crossing from a violation needs to be done on a case-by-case basis taking into account the context and facts of the situation.
For instance, just because a male client has an erection doesn't necessarily mean that he has any intention of sexual misconduct. Men experience erections even when they are not necessarily emotionally desirous of sex (e.g. when they need to urinate). Touch, itself, on any part of the body can stimulate a physiological response that results in a partial or complete erection. In a therapeutic setting spontaneous erections are often uncomfortable for practitioners and clients. The difficulty lies in that many practitioners (both men and women) are uncomfortable or fearful when a client has an erectile response during a session.
Both male and female practitioners often either ignore or overreact to an erectile response, becoming passive or aggressive with the client in discussing the condition. Each of these responses puts the practitioner in a vulnerable position. If a practitioner is verbally aggressive about the erection or hurts the client physically to quell the erection, the practitioner is abusing the client. Worse, many practitioners learn in school to discourage erections by "pressing hard on certain points." There are more respectful, clear and safe ways to deal with erections in men and arousal in women, which we will discuss.
With a sexually inappropriate client the number and intensity of behaviors usually escalate. What starts out as "innocent" boundary crossings can easily become violations. Clients might tell a sexual joke, ask overly personal questions, talk about their other massage experiences (with innuendos of sexual interactions), discuss their sexuality, or repeatedly expose themselves (accidentally removing the draping). One or two episodes may be an accident, poor boundaries, or a lapse in judgement. Or this could be a prelude to a boundary violation. While these actions may truly be innocuous, they should not be ignored, particularly when combined with other verbal or nonverbal requests or innuendos.
It may be helpful to distinguish the context surrounding the behavior. What were the client's verbal and physical cues? Did the client watch to see the practitioner's reaction? Are the behaviors increasing in frequency or intensity?
If a client (male or female) is obviously sexually aroused, and shows no signs of discomfort or embarrassment through verbal and nonverbal cues, it's usually not necessary to talk to the client about the arousal. Sometimes a simple action of moving to a different part of the body is all that's needed. However, if the practitioner feels uncomfortable or the client displays other verbal or nonverbal behaviors that could indicate sexual intent, ensure safety by obtaining sufficient information to discern the intent--whether it is merely a physiological response to touch or part of sexual desire. Identifying sexual arousal in a woman can be difficult, yet practitioners also need to keep good boundaries with their female clients. Documented cases exist where female clients have crossed the line.
Actions to Take
The first thing to do when a client crosses the line is to break physical contact. If possible make eye contact. Make sure the client is properly covered. Stand in a relaxed yet grounded manner and use a firm voice. Maintain safety. If the client's behavior feels intimidating do not stay too close to the table and position yourself so that you have easy access to your exit door. Leave immediately if the client actively threatens you.
Talk with the client. Describe the inappropriate behavior, ask the client for feedback (this helps to clarify the client's intent), and set (or reset) your boundaries and requirements. The steps taken totally depend on the client's responses. For example:
Practitioner: This is the second time that you've moved in such a way that caused the draping to improperly expose your body. Can you tell me about it?
Potential Client Responses:
Corresponding Practitioner Responses:
If the client agrees to your request, the session can continue. If not, the session should be terminated. Sometimes after going through all the above steps, a client's intent is still unclear. If that's the case, tell the client that you will continue this session but will stop if s/he behaves in any way that does not work for you.
Keep in mind that your safety is of primary importance. Sometimes the most appropriate action to take is to end the session immediately without going through the above steps. Store your belongings (including a cell phone) in an easily accessible place in case you need to make a hasty escape. If you feel threatened, leave the room and call the appropriate authorities. If you are in a spa or clinic, then go directly to the front desk. If you are in a private office, leave the building. If you are doing an outcall session, leave the premises--you can return later, accompanied by someone, for your equipment and supplies.
Document the Incident
Always document incidents of sexual boundary crossings and violations, even if the incident was resolved through conversation. Describe what happened, what you did to address the matter, and the client's response. This is for your protection just in case the client decides to lodge a complaint against you. This might seem bizarre, but consider that if a client is willing to cross sexual boundaries, who knows what else that person might do. There are cases where massage practitioners have been accused of sexual misconduct when in reality the client acted inappropriately. The practitioner refused to provide the requested sexual services and the rebuffed client complained to management that the practitioner made a sexual proposition.
Healthy boundaries are vital to managing sexual boundary crossings and violations. Sometimes strong boundaries can help prevent the "testing of the waters" from escalating into a sexual violation. Other times healthy boundaries include knowing when to leave.
One of the best ways to develop boundary skills in this area is to role-play scenarios. This is particularly important if you have a history of sexual abuse as practicing can help you avoid going into a dissociated state and "freezing."
Work through a variety of situations from the flirtatious client, to the client who makes questionable comments, to the client who asks inappropriate questions, to the sexually aroused client, to the client who is attempting sexual congress. If you are a student, this should be part of your training. If you are no longer a student, get together with colleagues and role-play. The more you practice dealing with these situations, the more adept you will be if they occur.
Next time, we will explore prevention techniques and ways to desexualize the touch experience.
Editor's note to readers: Tell us of your experiences in dealing with clients who have crossed the line. Let us know what happened, how you handled the situation and/or what you wish you would have done. Your letters and e-mails will be reviewed for possible publication in Massage Today print and online editions. If you would prefer to be left "anonymous," please indicate this in your letter. E-mail us at or mail to Massage Today, 5406 Bolsa Avenue, Huntington Beach CA 92649.
Click here for previous articles by Cherie Sohnen-Moe.
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