Importance of Professionalism

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JasonE
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Importance of Professionalism

Post by JasonE » Sat Feb 02, 2008 11:18 pm

The majority of my clientele are women, and about 95% of the work I do is therapeutic/medical in nature.

Now and then I get a few clients that need work in... "awkward" places. In the last few months I have worked many iliopsoas and iliacus, the lower third of rectus abdominus, tons of glutes and hip rotators, many intercostals, the full length of the sternum, most of pec major, breast scars, etc. My training included working these areas, but for most of my clients any one of them is a new experience.

I know male MTs that rarely if ever venture to work these areas. I don't know why that is.

From first introduction to last goodbye, I strive to comport myself as a competent and nearly unflappable professional. My new clients usually seem pleasantly surprised by this. Again, I don't know why. But I do know that my boundaries and the way I conduct myself help establish a base of trust in the client-therapist relationship.

When a client needs work in one of the aforementioned "awkward"places, I try to educate them on it and let them know how I intend to do the work. Then I ask them if they are okay with what I am proposing. In 99% of cases, I get permission. If they are then nervous during the work, I continue to communicate with them throughout, and bring them into it as an active participant, helping me in some way. It is at these times that I feel the most need to be COMPLETELY professional with IRON-CLAD BOUNDARIES. As the work progresses, my clients generally relax and become totally okay with it.

On rare occasions, clients that are a little uncomfortable with something may overcompensate by suggesting "you don't have to drape around that area" or whatever. Rather than explore their comments, I simply state that I have a preferred method of draping that works best for me when treating that area.

Sometimes clients will ask questions about what it's like to see such a variety of bodies on my table... these usually insinuate that their own body is less desirable in some way. I let them know I'm more interested in what's happening BELOW the surface, as that's where I'm doing my work. If they keep talking, it usually becomes a neutral discussion about their tissues and/or anatomy stuff.

I know of skilled male MTs that were not hired because they didn't have a professional demeanor that inspired trust in the prospective employer. While these men could do the work, they didn't understand the importance of making the employer and their clients feel secure about HOW the work would be done.

If a male MT is having difficulty with his massage career, he may want to assess whether he could improve his professional demeanor. This may affect his dress, grooming, hygiene, mannerisms, grammar, speech patterns, posture, and so forth. Of course, having a solid technical and theoretical grasp of the work you do also helps... at LEAST have a good grasp of anatomy and basic physiology!

Though I am doing well for now, I am now considering buying a large, successful practice with a sizable staff. As an MT, I enjoy socializing and chatting a bit with my colleagues... but as an owner I will have to make adjustments to suit my new role as employer and primary business stakeholder. Though I would also be an MT, things I take for granted now could be problematic for an employer... so my professional development will continue.

It's never over... we continue to grow and change as professionals, or we stagnate and become ever greater risks to ourselves.

Instead of ending this on an overly-serious note, I'll close this with a quote that I dearly love:
"I saw the angel in the marble and chiseled until I set it free."
- Michaelangelo
May you chisel well! :D
Jason Erickson, NCTMB, ACE-CPT, AIS-TA
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Re: Importance of Professionalism

Post by pueppi » Sun Feb 03, 2008 9:26 am

JasonE wrote: I know male MTs that rarely if ever venture to work these areas. I don't know why that is.
I'd venture to say, it is because we live in such a litigious society that many people don't want to put themselves in the position of being sued or taken to task, even if it was by wrongful action of the client.

I think you made a very helpful post, but with all of the "politically correct", "sexual harrassment" and "what-other" items going on nowdays, I can certainly see why a male (and even a female) would consider being cautious as oppossed to being extraordinarily helpful nowdays. :?
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Post by StephenCMT » Sun Feb 03, 2008 11:15 pm

Jason, that was an excellent post. Your work description pretty much matches my own except that I shy away from breast tissue work on clients though I do the other chest work you've mentioned. It's simply a legal boundary in my state and a personal boundary for me.

Pueppi DOES bring up a valid point as far as the risk we run dealing with the double-edged "You looked at me funny! I'll SUE!!" sword of Litigation Mania nowadays, but it's good to see others taking up the mantle of sticking to our guns until our bodywork is more legitimized without forgetting the fact that we should never force that stance down our clients throats.

Kudos to you both! :)
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Post by johnnymac » Mon Feb 04, 2008 7:46 pm

Jason, great post. When working with a female client, I always ask permission to work on certain areas. the sternum is a classic example. But if you do this with confidence and explain your technique including the outcome, you display a side of yourself that help breakdown any barriers people may have.

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Post by Gaspen » Fri Feb 29, 2008 6:25 pm

Jason, great post. All others, great follow-ups. For what's it's worth this is how I generally approach 'questionable' areas.

When working on a regular, they trust me and my work. Still, if I'm working on a new area, explain my approach, what I'm going to do, the reasoning behind it, etc. I also tell them to tell me if they feel uncomfortable for any reason. If appropriate, I have them place a hand in front of an area in order to create a boundary.

When working with a new client and especially one who doesn't know me (was not referred through a friend/family member), my approach is very conservative for the first appointment. I do this for two reasons: to ascertain how the client responds to my work, and to begin a therapeutic relationship. At the end of the first session, I will mention other possible therapeutic approaches.

If I'm informed that the client will only be able to have one appointment, I still ere on the side of caution (therapeutically and boundary). I take it very slowly, with explanations using books/diagrams if necessary.
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Re: Importance of Professionalism

Post by JasonE » Sun Jun 13, 2010 11:33 pm

Somewhat over 2 years since my original post, I still strongly stand by everything stated therein. When hiring, we look for that kind of professionalism in prospective employees...

And that's why I was so upset by something I learned today. One of our local competitors has several male MTs on staff. This is fine, except that two of those male MTs routinely engage in sexually aggressive behaviors towards their female colleagues. Though several female MTs have complained to that massage center's management, the complaints were laughed off and several female MTs eventually left. The male MTs in question are still employed there. :evil: :smt017

This is unacceptable. :smt013 :smt013 :smt013 :smt013 :smt013

Practitioners and owners of massage businesses have the right to be respected as professionals and as people. We do not have to put up with these kinds of behavior. Likewise, we also have to shoulder the responsibility of acting ethically and treating our colleagues with the respect due to any person, and also with whatever professional respect they have earned.
Jason Erickson, NCTMB, ACE-CPT, AIS-TA
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Re: Importance of Professionalism

Post by renauddv » Mon Jun 14, 2010 6:01 am

Nice original post and follow-up Jason. It was a good read, and I agree totally. In the wellness centre I own, we have 3 male and 3 female therapists, as well as 4 female yoga/movement teachers (I teach as well). There are only three of us that do "detailed" work as one of my therapists puts it, two male (including me) and one female. As a team we regularly have discussions on professionalism, and ethics, as our disciplines are diverse. Our approach of treating every client with utmost respect has created a working environment where the client is very comfortable. Since it is a team approach the client knows that the practitioner they see is who they most need at that time, and are most comfortable with. That said we have had very few say they won't see a male therapist, and fewer that have had reservations about close-in work. In those cases we refer to the other practitioner, and make sure the client feels in no way that they are being difficult or a problem, and we always follow-up even after the hand off. We have a client base that includes many nurses and MDs, and having them refer and feedback has helped. Clients that we have surveyed (formally and informally) all support the professional approach we have and the inclusive nature of how we do business.
To keep this going, everyone has to be on their game, and on the same page. All of us help to educate the client, help them to understand the how, why, and what we are doing. It sometimes takes more time than the 1hr booked session, but always comes back many times in rebooking and referrals. If a practitioner is tightly booked we are comfortable in handing off a client to someone else not busy and saying "I have another client next, but if you have a few extra minutes, (name) is available to answer some questions, or explain...” The feedback we've had from this is great; it doesn't cost, and creates confidence in the client and practitioners.

So back to the point of the thread... If you have the highest standards of professionalism, work in the client's best interests, explain what you are doing, why, and include the client as an active participant in their wellness, they will be accepting, comfortable, and will refer or rebook. Also in our favor is that the Canadian public is nowhere near as litigious as in the US yet.


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Re: Importance of Professionalism

Post by ChrisS » Sun Aug 29, 2010 11:14 am

Thank you Jason
As someone who's about to get started going into this field, this was a very good read. I enjoy reading your posts as there's an obvious passion and wisdom to what you write.

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Re: Importance of Professionalism

Post by Giri » Thu Nov 25, 2010 12:14 am

Thanks Jason for the “professional demeanor” aspect of your original post. It is well stated and highly relevant for all therapists everywhere.

Just for a different perspective on the “awkward” places part of the post; This seems to be particular to American culture and a contrast to working in Europe where people generally have less issues around nudity and body image. It took me awhile to get used to my local clients just stripping in front of me in preparation for a session and their indifference to draping.

An amusing aside; During my first interview for a massage therapist position here in Prague, the owner of the practice, wanting a demonstration of my work, had his receptionist/therapist come into the treatment room, strip naked in front of both of us, and lie on the table undraped so I could work on her. It was not a big deal, just a human body which we all have and have seen. While I was taken aback I concealed my surprise and completed the demonstration without draping (and got the job).

Mind you public nudity is common here and Europeans generally (and I think rightfully) consider the human body to be part of our natural world and thus aren't bothered by it. Many of my clients fail to understand or are puzzled when I explain that proper draping reflects respect, privacy and how I best work. When I explain that in the States these things are regulated by law the response is usually to be amused at the American sense of what they see as Puritanical based fear of and anxiety about our bodies and nudity.

I still struggle a bit with these cultural differences. As a body worker I appreciate a more accepting and less uptight attitude towards our bodies while being habitually entrenched in my cultural and educational experiences. I still insist on practicing and educating my clients regarding proper draping as I was taught. Additionally, these are practices that I cannot afford to let slip as I still periodically practice Stateside.

A couple more from Michelangelo:

"Every beauty which is seen here by persons of perception resembles more than anything else that celestial source from which we all are come."

"I am still learning"

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Re: Importance of Professionalism

Post by JasonE » Fri Nov 26, 2010 9:38 pm

A lovely post, Giri. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!
Jason Erickson, NCTMB, ACE-CPT, AIS-TA
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http://www.CSTMinnesota.com

Internet forums are like going to the zoo; if you get enough monkeys together, sooner or later someone will start throwing their poo.

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