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74 m a s s a g e & b o d y wo r k n ove m b e r/d e ce m b e r 2 0 2 3 74 m a s s a g e & b o d y wo r k n ove m b e r/d e ce m b e r 2 0 2 3 critical thinking | BODY OF WONDER The Art and Science of Connection Use Artistic Interpretation to Build Rapport By David Lesondak Science is a way of understanding why things work the way they do. Whether it's anatomy, physiology, cellular processes, biochemistry, or neuroscience, the better I understand it, the more effective I am at my work. I'm more confident in delivering the desired result, and I'm better equipped to communicate about the body's natural healing ability to physicians, other kinds of therapists, teachers, and my clients. But in this column, I want to talk about a different kind of communication, one that's more of an art than a science: the art of communicating and connecting with our clients. What are some of the ways we can establish rapport and comfort? How can we make them feel heard and safe? THE ENVIRONMENT I've had the good fortune to be able to personalize every space I've worked in, including shared spaces. Even now, at the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, I have relative autonomy over my treatment room decor (as long as there are no OSHA violations). It's very important to me that the room sets a tone from the first moment my client sees it. That means no clutter or paperwork of any kind (other than theirs) on my desk. Not even a laptop. They are here to spend the next hour focused on their body, and I want to minimize any opportunities to remind them of potential pressing obligations outside the room. One thing that's important to me is good art. And while that's taken some time to properly curate, it's been worth it. What's on your walls? Does it just look nice and take up space, or does it speak to you? Is it an image that helps keep you centered? Image 1 used to be in the lobby of my old center, but now it has a place of honor in my treatment room. It speaks volumes to me. The stone implies strength, but time has worn away the stone and made the hands soft. That suggests compassion and sensitivity. There's a hint of robes—perhaps translating to knowledge and wisdom. And what's in the hands? A sword? For swiftness and precision? But there's also a metal circle, so is it something else? Maybe an anchor symbolizing grounding or stability? That said, the piece of art clients notice most is Image 2. As a structural bodyworker and somatic problem solver, it also speaks to me. I thought the shape and structure would be a great visual reinforcement of what I do and a subtle suggestion of why people are there for treatment. Turns out it's not so subtle—it's a frequent topic of discussion during the first visit. People are drawn to it—and into it. That's the great thing about art. It takes us out of ourselves and allows for the opportunity to experience the familiar—in this case, a cool bridge in Pittsburgh—in a new way. Maybe this piece also subliminally suggests that the potential exists for them to see and experience themselves in a new way. Whatever the attraction, the art gives us something to talk about that's not about the client's aches, pains, accidents, or problems. It's an icebreaker, a point of connection that gives us a moment to relate before we get to that stuff. PHOTOS BY ROB STROVERS 1

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