resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
Medicine is Clumsy, Don't You Be
All medical systems have clumsiness in them. If the technique isn't, the practitioner is. Everyone in every form of medicine is striving to improve. That is why we call it practice.
ACA or ICA: Which Best Represents You?
Last June, I was honored to represent Texas ICA members as their representative assemblyman at the ICA Annual Meeting in Kansas City.
5 Simple Steps to Create an Effective Marketing Calendar
In the educational experience of most healthcare practitioners, business and marketing are overlooked topics.
Marijuana, Apathy and Chinese Medicine, Part 1
This article was written in response to the unheeded acceptance of marijuana as a harmless substance that potentially does good when used for the medical relief of pain.
Professional Credentialing and Board Certification: An Ethical Faux Pas
Because of the Affordable Care Act, health care systems are coordinating care through accountable care organizations (ACOs) in order to reduce the cost of care and improve quality of care.
Green Tea Improves Cognitive Function in Elderly Subjects
Publishing their results in the journal Nutrients in May 2014, researchers showed that drinking the equivalent of 2-4 cups of brewed green tea (or bottled tea) daily improved cognitive function or reduced the progression of cognitive dysfunction in elderly subjects.
Animal Acupuncture: A Case Study in the Treatment of Traumatic Injury in the Equine
The rise of animal acupuncture in the U.S. began in the early 1970's as a result of the work by members of the National Acupuncture Association in Westwood, Calif.
Giving Vets the Care They Deserve
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) administers the largest integrated health care system in the United States.
How Much Do You Know About the Benefits of Birds Nest?
Edible bird's nest is the nest made by the Swiftlet bird of Southeast Asia that is usually prepared as a soup and prized in Chinese culture as a healthful delicacy.
Integrating Art with Clinical Practice for Patients with PTSD: The Artemis Project
Are you restricted by those one-on-one clinic dynamics? Why not join colleagues and clients in experimental group settings? Three of us volunteered to do just that in Austin on behalf of women veteranss from all branches of the service.
The Acupuncturist's Problem
I want share with you some observations and insights into what seems to be the most common problem my colleagues in the acupuncture profession struggles with. If you also struggle with this problem, I hope you get a valuable "aha" moment from reading this.
A Poor Choice for Pain Relief
Acetaminophen is the most popular pain reliever in the U.S., accounting for an estimated 27 billion annual doses as of 2009. With 100,000-plus hospital visits a year by users, it's also the most likely to be taken inappropriately.
Spieth Thanks His Chiropractor After Historic Masters Win
Jordan Spieth didn't just capture the hearts of golf enthusiasts worldwide with his record-setting, wire-to-wire victory at the 79th Masters Tournament.
We Get Letters & Email
A House Divided? (May 1 issue) provoked significant response from readers. Here are several of the surprisingly similar comments we received.
Our Biggest Challenges to Compete in Wellness Care
In the first article in this four-article series [May 1 DC], I made the case that chiropractors should either embrace offering lifestyle wellness in their practices or face the possibility of losing their place in the wellness care marketplace.
The Tide is Rising in the Acupuncture Profession
Former President Ronald Regan said, "When the tide rises all boats float." The tide is rising for the acupuncture profession. Many forces outside the profession are helping the tides to rise.
PCOM Granted Regional Accreditation
Pacific College of Oriental Medicine (PCOM) recently announce it has received regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). This achievement reflects five years of hard work on the part of faculty, staff, and students.
Rethinking Musculoskeletal Pain – A Public Health Perspective
The American Public Health Association (APHA) is the world's oldest and largest association of its kind, founded more than 140 years ago and boasting over 25,000 members.
The Challenges of Integrating Eastern and Western Medicine
My Masters thesis was titled, "The Challenges of Integrating Eastern and Western Medicine," which highlighted several reasons why it is hard for these two worlds to mix.
Reducing the Autogenic Inhibition Reflex: Making Weak Muscles Strong
The autogenic inhibition (AI) reflex is a sudden relaxation of a muscle in response to excess tension.
First Do No Harm?
There's no questioning the frightening nature of breast cancer, which strikes one in eight women in the U.S. – eclipsed only by skin cancer in terms of prevalence.
Leg-Length Inequality and Pelvic Fixation: A New Approach to the Negative Derifield (Part 2)
As we noted in our previous article, with a positive Derifield (+D), the doctor observes the reactive (shorter) leg in the prone position that becomes longer or "crosses over" in the flexed position.
March, 2011, Vol. 11, Issue 03
Desexualizing the Touch Experience: A Proactive Approach
By Cherie Sohnen-Moe
Sexuality is a natural part of the human experience. We are born as sexual beings with a need for touch and intimacy. We require a healthy environment that supports our natural development in these areas to thrive as organisms.By definition, sex, touch and intimacy are three distinct behaviors and experiences. The fact that they overlap at times is what creates confusion.
In the September issue of Massage Today, I wrote about what to do when a client crosses the line. The focus of that article was on the specific steps to take when your boundaries are ignored. This is the first part of a two-part series where we explore the importance of desexualizing the touch experience and steps you can take to help prevent clients from crossing your boundaries.
Sexuality and the Touch Experience
The general public, clients and practitioners all share in the confusion about how massage therapy and sexuality are inter-related. The intentional misuse of language (e.g., massage as a euphemism for prostitution) has had a profound impact on the public's understanding of massage therapy. The misuse of words is not just a semantic problem; it is a personal and cultural issue about how people relate to certain parts of the body and human experience.
Unfortunately, we have been forced to spend the past three decades defending our profession and proving to the world that massage therapists are not prostitutes. One of the repercussions of this has been a dissociation with the sensual aspect of our work. Too many people attempt to ignore the elephant in the corner. This denial can lead to problems. Pretending that something doesn't exist is generally ineffective. Every client and every practitioner brings their sexual nature and background with them into the therapeutic setting. The key is to create an environment that demonstrates professionalism, sets healthy boundaries, and allows sexuality while desexualizing the touch experience.
The term desexualize is best defined by examining its opposite: sexualize. In the book, Behind Closed Doors: Gender, Sexuality & Touch in the Doctor/Patient Relationship by Angelica Redleaf, DC, she defines sexualizing as: "Making an event, procedure, conversation, or experience into something that is sexual or could be interpreted as sexual." Desexualizing, then, means ensuring that the treatment is not in any way turned into a sexual experience for either the massage therapist or the client. Keep in mind that while correct intentions and acting professionally does not guarantee the absence of inappropriate expressions of sexuality in treatment sessions, they can mitigate those expressions.
Proactive Steps to Desexualize Massage
You set the tone for professionalism by your marketing materials, how you answer the telephone, your personal appearance, your office location and ambience, treatment interactions, communications, and documentation. The first part of this series covers how to desexualize your marketing materials and to screen telephone calls--steps to take before someone becomes your client.
Marketing materials (e.g., brochures, business cards, Web site, business name, e-mail address) need to be professional and project the desired image. Use appropriate language and terminology. Avoid phrases like "full-body massage". Even words such as "release" can be taken out of context. Be sure your photos and artwork are not provocative: view pictures from all angles because sometimes images look fine from one direction, but suggestive from others. Ideally, have your picture taken by a professional photographer, but refrain from using "glamour" shots.
Now let's discuss your business name. Many massage therapists use their personal name as their company name. This is a fine option; although, if you go this route, I suggest you use your full name and include a title. For instance a business name that says "Terry Smith, LMT" sounds much more professional than "Massage by Terry." Use caution if you decide to have a separate business identity: avoid anything gimmicky or that could have a double meaning. Also, verify that your business name doesn't mean something derogatory in another language.
Set up a separate business e-mail account from your personal account. Either use your name, company name, or the type of work you do as the first part of your e-mail address. I have seen way too many examples of therapists with business e-mails like or . I'm a rock-and-roll gal who has a healing touch, but I wouldn't use either of the above examples as my business e-mail address.
Recently, I discussed this topic in a marketing class that I teach and had people critique each other's e-mail addresses. One woman's e-mail was . As soon as she said it out loud there was a lot of snickering in the room. She didn't get it; the year 1969 was very important to her. She failed to realize how the number 69 has a sexual connotation and that using that e-mail address for business could send the wrong message. Ideally, you would have a business Web site and your e-mail address would reflect that (e.g., ).
Brochures and Business Cards
The main ethical concerns are that the language and images convey professionalism (as described in the section on Marketing Materials). Before choosing images for your brochures or business cards, have other people look at them and tell you what they think they are. I've seen many photos that I've had to turn sideways or read through several paragraphs of accompanying information before I could figure out what the photo was depicting.
In addition to the cautions covered in the above section regarding professional images, you need to be careful with the links you include on your site. Besides the links no longer being active, sometimes a link that originally went to one site, all of a sudden takes you to a totally different site. This can be a purposeful act of misdirection by an outside source or I suppose something just went haywire (to use a technical term). For instance, there was a legitimate massage school that we had been dealing with for years, and one day while looking up their site, my staff noticed it linked to a porn site. We contacted the school and they were horrified! They fixed the problem, but were left uneasy not knowing how long it was linking to that site. So, in addition to periodically checking the links you list on your site, make sure that you check your own internal links.
Every time you answer the telephone, you create an impression. The question remains what that impression will be. Within the first few seconds of a conversation you convey how you feel about yourself, your practice and the caller. Just because the caller can't see you doesn't mean that s/he can't sense the attitudes you convey through the tone of your voice and the words you use.
Develop a script for how you answer your phone so that you always portray professionalism. Avoid fumbling. During an initial conversation with a potential client, you have an opportunity to gather essential information that can save a lot of time and trouble down the road. Always ask about their massage history, and briefly describe your protocol, the type of benefits they can expect, and a bit about your education, experience and/or philosophy. Know how to concisely describe what you do and your policies in a professional tone.
Handling Inappropriate Calls
Receiving inappropriate calls can be a source of immense discomfort. Unfortunately, many massage therapists still get calls from people who are ill-informed about the nature and scope of this work. Sometimes people are indirect about wanting sexual services. You can often determine inappropriate callers by their tone of voice, awkward periods of silence, calls placed late at night and if they request late-night appointments (unless it's a situation such as you are providing after-performance massage for a dance troupe). A common tip-off for massage therapists is when a caller requests "full-body massage" or the direct request for a "happy ending." Beware of callers that are reluctant to give their full names or phone numbers.
You have three main options of how to respond when someone calls requesting sexual services: you can get upset and hang up the phone; you can calmly state that you do not provide sexual services and end the call; or you can use it as an opportunity to educate the caller. Trust your instinct as to which option to choose, as it might vary with each caller.
If you receive this type of call, it works well to stay centered in your professionalism. If people want sexual services, that's their prerogative, but they don't have the right to expect it from you or any other massage therapist. Tell them that isn't what you do, give a brief description of the services you do provide, and let them know that a legitimate massage therapist does not perform that kind of work. This type of statement usually results in the caller hanging up if they are truly interested in sexual services or simply get their kicks from making the equivalent of prank phone calls.
You might want to develop an additional script for how you handle these inquiries, thus avoiding any misunderstandings or unwanted clients appearing at your doorstep.
For instance, if you feel that they might not be a true sexual predator, you could suggest they visit your Web site for more information and then if they want a non-sexual massage they can call back. This gives the callers the opportunity to learn more about massage or gracefully remove themselves from the conversation. Who knows--just because they want something you don't offer doesn't mean they might not want a legitimate massage in the future or don't have friends who want a professional massage. Remember, these are the people we really need to educate. They are the ones perpetuating the myths about massage and the entire healing arts field.
You can transform a potentially negative experience into a positive one by responding professionally and keeping perspective. Still, you must put your safety first. It's best NOT to set up an appointment with this type of caller if you are the only person in your office or do outcalls.
The information I shared in this article sets the foundation for understanding the concept of desexualizing massage and steps you can take to project a non-sexual image in your marketing materials and telephone conversations. Part two explores the steps you can take to create a safe space and desexualize the massage experience with clients. This includes topics such as personal appearance, your office location and ambience, treatment interactions, communications, and documentation. In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments please contact me at www.sohnen-moe.com.
Click here for previous articles by Cherie Sohnen-Moe.
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