Massage therapy ethics and why they confuse the crap out of me:

Confusion #1: Scope of Practice

I don’t talk much about my day job, but today I will.

I work for a pretty cool company that provides work-life solutions for corporate clients, mostly in the form of onsite childcare.  The short version is, I hang out with two-year-olds professionally.  There’s a lot more to it than that, but that’s the fun part.  And it is fun, most of the time.  And rewarding.

Skip to one of the rewarding bits: I got to make a real difference in the lives of two cool kids. Recently, a parent of one of my students spoke to me regarding his hesitations about raising his children bilingual.  He was worried about confusing them and messing up their grasp of English.  I’m not a linguist (although I am married to one!), but I’m a child development specialist, and I’ve read the studies about multilingualism in young children.  I shared what I knew about the most effective techniques for raising bilingual kids, and encouraged him to give it a try.

They’re doing it.  And these children’s lives are going to be changed forever. Their brains.  Their employment prospects.  Their worldview.  Their family relationships.  Their understanding of their dad’s culture.  And I’m crazy thrilled to have been a part of this shift for their family.

Was this within my scope of practice?

Right now, I’m expected to weigh in on ANYTHING parents might ask me about.  Got questions about nutritional requirments?  Biting and aggression?  Ear infections?  Potty training?  Birthday presents?  I need to offer answers.  And if I haven’t researched these things already, it’s considered bad practice if I don’t offer to look into the matter, and offer information with a healthy dose of my own better judgment.

But I’ll be a massage therapist soon.

And all of a sudden I’m supposed to quit knowing things. It doesn’t matter that I’ve got a solid grasp of nutrition.  I’m not a nutritionist, so I need to shut up.  Are you trying to figure out how you’ll ever fit an exercise habit into your family life?  Tough nuggets, ask your life coach or personal trainer.  Who cares that I’ve helped people figure these things out before?

I get that there are power differentials between a client and a massage therapist. But how can I pretend the fact that people come to me every day for parenting advice when I’m not even a parent is not indicative of a sort of power differential, too?

“Hey, I’ve noticed you’re always wearing your shoes on the wrong feet!  Maybe that’s related to your joint pain.”

Okay?  Not okay?  I never learned it in school, but it’s pretty stinking obvious.

“Hey, I’ve noticed the soles of your running shoes are really worn down.  Maybe that’s related to your joint pain.”

How about that?  It’s a little more technical, plus I’m not a runner.  But we DID talk about it in school, as an aside.

“Hey, I’ve noticed you claim to eat nothing but potato chips and pork rinds all day.  Maybe that’s related to your joint pain.”

I have a fair bit of personal experience and am aware of both the scientific literature and anecdotal evidence showing links between chronic pain and nutrition, especially related to food sensitivities.  But that has nothing to do with massage.

Where does scope of practice meet common sense?  What about personal knowledge and experience? Ideas?

This thing grew freakishly huge as I went through the process of writing and reflection, and so became Part 1 of a two-part series. Check out Part 2 for more consternation from yours truly!

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