When I attend a professional conference I generally go to acquire new skills to add to my toolbox. At this year’s AMTA convention I chose to invest in learning about what I need to seriously access before performing those skills. It has occurred to me that as we continue to integrate into the healthcare arena and show efficacy on more and more conditions, we owe it to the community to be thoroughly educated on the contra-indications. I have come to love the phrase “Informed Touch” which I define as: knowing what to implement, how to implement; why to implement; and when to implement. It is the lynch pin to maintaining our main directive “Harm Not”.
Because we are an aging population and certain types of pathology are becoming more common, it seems I am always researching on how best to serve my clients. One of my best resources for Cancer has been a website: www.S4OM.org. It was one of the reasons I attended the AMTA lecture on “Introduction to Oncology” presented by Lauren Cates, who is a gifted educator and a massage therapist that serves this special population. She informed us, challenged us, and cautioned us. I am grateful to her and her compatriots in the organization who have worked so hard to help us understand a very complex topic.
What really struck me were the universal truths she presented that applied not only when working with Cancer patients, but when working with any special population.
Here are a few: (the quotes are Lauren’s from the class)
#1 - Update your knowledge to cut through the fear to the actual facts. I use AMTA position papers, massage specialty sites and massage research sites ie: www.massagetherapyfoundation.org to name a few.
“Remember clients take their cues from the therapist”
#2 - Informed Decisions require communication about current /past diagnosis; treatments; and prescriptions. The more you understand about what the client is going thru and has been thru, the better you can support their needs.
“You may need to sell them on the light touch (because it’s what their current condition calls for)”
#3 - No matter who all is involved in their healthcare team, always remember that ultimately the client is the expert of their own experiences.
“There is no perception of pain – pain is a perception”
#4 - Boundaries may be different. Fear and anxiety can be very real components when dealing with any pathology. We may need to create silence and space for people to express what their true feelings are…. if they want to.
“Touching their body can help change their fear filled misperceptions”
#5 - Meet them where they are now. Session Intake forms may need to be adapted to specific challenges presented by a health predicament. Ask lots of questions.
“How are you doing today?” “How do you feel about that?” “What else goes with that…?”
#6 – Working with a special population can be much more than just using a lighter touch and adaptive bolstering. It may require some additional information/research, pursuing specialty training/mentoring, or referring them to a specialist.
“When there is a shred of doubt, don’t do it”
What I hope you take away from this is that the heartfelt desire to help is very important but, as always, it needs to be merged with education and experiential knowledge. Know your stuff and know your client. Remember, the greatest gift we can share is our “Informed Touch”.
Be well, Do good work, and write about your favorite resources.