Massage & Bodywork

MAY | JUNE 2023

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80 m a s s a g e & b o d y wo r k m ay/ j u n e 2 0 2 3 critical thinking | MASSAGE THERAPY AS HEALTH CARE Don't Devalue Your Work Own the Importance of Your Relationship with Clients By Cal Cates In the January/February 2023 issue of Massage & Bodywork, senior editor Karrie Osborn wrote a lovely piece about working with people affected by dementia and Alzheimer's disease ("When All Is Forgotten," page 32). Her guidance was clear: Remember that as a massage therapist you are not an island. You have a responsibility beyond the discrete interaction with this person for whom you are providing massage therapy. I am pulling this out because I suspect many folks saw that Osborn's piece was about working with a specific population and likely decided it didn't apply to them. If you are touching humans in a setting that is related to the treatment or management of health- related issues, this applies to you. Whether you are a contractor, an employee, or a volunteer, and whether it's dialysis, oncology, or a senior center, it's important that you think of yourself as a member of the care team for every person you touch. Certainly, when you are working in a setting like a spa, private practice, or other location where the other members of a person's care team are not immediately available to you, it can be more difficult to make those connections and share information about your observations. Not impossible, but harder. Let's unpack that at another time, because you are not off the hook, my friends. The sidebar in Osborn's article, "Being the Eyes and Ears for Your Clients," underscores the importance of paying attention to things you may think are none of your business or have nothing to do with you. Subtle changes in mental status are mentioned specifically, and there is so much more. When we touch people, they tell us things—with their faces, their bodies, and, yes, their mouths. When we provide massage therapy in settings where we are one of many care providers, it's easy for us to engage in some internalized demotion. Push back if you like, but in my experience as a massage therapist and a teacher of massage therapists in clinical settings, the No. 1 mistake we make is deciding that what we see, feel, and understand about the people we touch is less important or less accurate than the observations of other providers. If the other team members are nurses or doctors, maybe social workers or physical therapists, it's easy for us to feel and behave like they know more or know better. What's true is that they know different. They know what they know within their scope, and what they know about the person you're touching is what they learned in their interactions with that person. Think about

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