Massage & Bodywork

November/December 2010

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ethics and etiquette BY TERRIE YARDLEY-NOHR YOUR BELIEF SYSTEM Understanding and recognizing your own personal beliefs and values is important in the massage and bodywork profession, because these beliefs and values contribute to your professional ethics. Examining the varied aspects of your personal beliefs, values, morals, and ethics will help you develop guidelines for your successful practice in bodywork. Success in your practice means not only financial success, but also the development of valuable and healthy therapeutic relationships with your clients and peers. BELIEFS, VALUES, ETHICS A belief is what one personally feels is true, while a value is something that one holds in high esteem. Every person develops their own beliefs and values throughout their lives. A person's beliefs are strongly influenced by family, culture, and exposure to a variety of situations. Some beliefs stay strong and true, while others can change as a person is exposed to different situations. Often when individuals are asked who had the greatest influence on their lives, they naturally say it was their parents or other close family members. This is understandable, because it is these individuals with whom a person spends the most time in the first 15–18 years of life. Children trust that what they hear at home is right and true; only when they are exposed to other points of view do they begin to see there are other opinions and beliefs besides their own. During adolescence, one begins to see the wide variety of beliefs and values the world has to offer. The culture in which someone is raised also can define customary beliefs, habits, and traits, such as religious and social groups. The environment in which a person grows up can truly affect what a person believes. For example, a person who was raised in a rural setting versus an urban upbringing will most likely have different beliefs or values. The exposure one has had to world events, news, education, and other belief systems can also greatly influence how both a therapist and client think. A community's shared beliefs are generally influenced by tradition. A massage therapist opening a practice in one town may be looked upon as a welcome addition to the community, while in another community, a therapist may encounter opposition due to ordinances or rules enacted in the past to drive out prostitution. As therapists, it is important that we examine our own beliefs and how they can affect our business. Personal beliefs can potentially interfere with how we interact with clients. Being an instructor of massage for more than 10 years, I have encountered a number of situations with students that could affect the relationship a therapist has with a client. For example, I've heard students complain that feet are dirty and gross, while others expressed difficultly working with someone who is overweight or from a different culture. It is important that therapists look outside of their environment and know that each time their beliefs are questioned, it may be an opportunity to learn and expand. Values and beliefs define who we are, but can also limit the possibilities that may exist as a therapist. For example, if a therapist believes that feet are gross, she may decide not to work on the feet of her clients. What happens to the client who thinks that having his feet worked on is the best part of the massage? This client may seek out another therapist who can meet those needs. Therapists need to question if a belief is limiting their practice and relationships with clients. 104 massage & bodywork november/december 2010

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