Massage & Bodywork

March/April 2013

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sound, I think of retirement planning," Bakke says. "It's a constant source of concern in my life right now, so thinking about that usually makes it go away quickly." Pat, an officer in the military, says that it is touch alone, not any bad intentions, that contributes to erections during his professional massages. "I've never had feelings about any of my therapists," he says. "Just the physical touch, especially in areas like the inner thigh, can cause the erection. Most times I don't really realize I have an erection, or I'll have a slight feeling, and then I'll look down there and realize it's popped up." Refocusing Our job as massage therapists is to help people integrate into their bodies. We are here to help people not only heal from physical pain and injury, but also from emotional traumas that can be held in the body. We are here to accept clients' bodies so they can accept their whole selves. While erections may be an uncomfortable topic to address in the context of a professional massage, we as massage therapists should practice enough understanding and empathy to encourage well-behaving, well-intentioned clients to return to the table. We need to remember that erections are usually not about the practitioner. They just happen. Notes 1. "Question: What If I Get an Erection?" The Real Rub—Life as a Massage Therapist (blog), accessed February 2013, http:// 2. David Friedman, A Mind of Its Own: A Cultural History of the Penis (New York: The Free Press, 2001): 18. 3. Ibid, 25. 4. Ibid, 39. 5. Elaine Pagels, Adam, Eve, and the Serpent (New York: Random House, 1988): 150. 6. Friedman, 39. 7. Pia Poulsen, "Involuntary Erections and Oxytocin in Massages," Massage and Wellness: For Clients and Therapists Alike (blog), accessed February 2013, http://blog. 8. R. Levin, "Is Prolactin the Biological 'Off Switch' for Human Sexual Arousal?" Sexual & Relationship Therapy 18, no. 2 (2003): 237. 9. Friedman, 258. 10. "Question," The Real Rub. Sarah A. Ryan-Knox has been a licensed massage therapist in Oregon since 2003. She has a dual certificate in massage therapy and shiatsu from the Cortiva Institute, formerly known as the Desert Institute of Healing Arts, in Tucson, Arizona. Contact her at vigorous compression or tapotement. These types of techniques stimulate a sympathetic response from the body, and can help arousal pass. Move away from the legs, gluteal muscles, or abdomen and focus on areas not associated with the sacral or lumbar nerve plexuses. Often it is appropriate to simply turn a male client into a prone position and work on his back, neck, and shoulders. If the client indicates by his verbal or nonverbal behavior that he has sexual intent, end the session immediately and terminate the therapeutic relationship. It is common to feel threatened, awkward, and embarrassed when confronted with sexual arousal responses during a session. The best way to prepare is to practice. Plan the words you would use, and practice these words out loud. As you practice, you may start to notice that the emotional triggers caused by these words decrease in intensity. It is also helpful to role-play these scenarios with colleagues. It can feel embarrassing at first, but when you get over the embarrassment you know you are building the skills you need to manage sexual arousal responses and maintain a healthy therapeutic relationship with clients. Anne Williams is the director of education for Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals and author of Massage Mastery: from Student to Professional (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2012). This passage was adapted from Massage Mastery. She can be reached at See what benefits await you. 69

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