Massage & Bodywork

SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2015

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F r e e S O A P n o t e s w i t h M a s s a g e B o o k f o r A B M P m e m b e r s : a b m p . u s / M a s s a g e b o o k 77 F r e e S O A P n o t e s w i t h M a s s a g e B o o k f o r A B M P m e m b e r s : a b m p . u s / M a s s a g e b o o k 77 Practitioners of the alternative healing arts are invaluable resources for those of us who are suffering emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I have benefitted greatly from massage, shiatsu, craniosacral therapy, acupuncture, and energy healing over the years, and I remain deeply appreciative of the therapists who have provided me with good care. I have also had the misfortune of receiving treatment from a bodyworker who exploited my trust to manipulate me into a sexual relationship. The experience was life-shattering. I would like to share this experience with you to bring increased understanding of what happens emotionally and psychologically to a client whose trust is abused by an unethical therapist; and, more specifically, the impact of such actions on clients like me who have backgrounds marked by childhood trauma. Having now reached the point of recovery, it's clear to me that my childhood traumas—early abandonment, emotional neglect, and sexual abuse at 9 years old— played a key role in my inability to protect myself from this abusive therapist and also in my struggle to heal from the experience. Power differential and transference— concepts you learn in your ethics training—are magnified in clients who have suffered childhood trauma. My hope is that by witnessing the tainted therapeutic relationship through the story I am sharing, you will gain an enhanced appreciation for why it is essential that you always honor and hold sacred the trust your clients invest in you. In all healing professions, trust is central to the therapist-client relationship. In the somatic healing professions, trust holds even more power. Ben Benjamin, co-author of The Ethics of Touch and author of numerous articles about ethics in the bodywork field, writes that bodywork, "by its very nature, violates the normal boundary that exists between most people. Once this boundary has been crossed, it is easy to imagine that maintaining a clear separation between professional touch and personal intimacy can be confusing and difficult." 1 Energy-based bodywork may pose even less clear boundaries, as the part of our system that is being treated—energy—is intangible and subtle. It carries a mystique for the client who is unfamiliar with this not-yet-mainstream practice. As a gifted bodyworker may exploit a client's emotional and psychological vulnerabilities with physical touch, so can a gifted energy worker exploit a client by manipulating his or her energy. The combination of the two is potentially devastating, as I can personally attest. "Bodywork, by its very nature, violates the normal boundary that exists between most people. Once this boundary has been crossed, it is easy to imagine that maintaining a clear separation between professional touch and personal intimacy can be confusing and difficult." Ben Benjamin

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