Daily, we can find situations where other people have acted poorly or inappropriately, or just done the wrong thing. In general, it is not a bad thing to see other people’s errors. However, looking inside is much more difficult for most of us.
Changing our behaviors is important and requires self-assessment. Nevertheless, we can change our lives with steps of humble self-improvement.
Most massage therapists can see when other medical providers do not give the best quality of service. Maybe they forgot to ask all the correct intake questions or did not have the best skill set or discipline for that specific client. We can see it in others much faster than we can see it in ourselves.
As a general rule, an external judgment-based assessment makes for a superiority delusion that can be very harmful to a person and a community. When a person gets into the mindset of no one else does it as well as I do, there ends up being a lot of blaming and a lack of productive progression.
A massage therapist had a client who came from a chiropractic referral. The client said the chiropractor did a good job with the adjustments, but the massage was very uncomfortable. The therapist asked, “Who did the massage?” The client said it was the chiropractor. The massage therapist went into a rant with the client about how the chiropractor should leave the massage treatment to the massage therapy professionals. The client did have some light bruising and was sore from the massage work of the chiropractor. It made for a very frustrating experience for the client and the massage therapist.
It is easy to see other people’s errors, and that alone is not a bad thing. If we could not see where things have gone wrong, we would not know how to make them better. Many of us have learned from the successes and mistakes of siblings. A good tool to use in this situation is to ask the question, “How can I make sure I do not make that same mistake?” or “Am I doing something similar that I could learn from?”
Looking inside is much more difficult for most of us. This can be done personally or as a community. A personal assessment is done by reviewing the moments in our life that have engaged our gut. Generally, when we get emotionally invested in a situation, for example, we are angry that a person did something, we experience feeling sick because we felt hopeless, or we are just stunned that someone would do something so stupid, we are in an ethical dilemma. This is an ideal time to view new options that will help us assess our perspectives of right and wrong.
Community assessments are essential for all industries, including the massage therapy profession. This is done by industry stakeholders on a regular basis. It is first done by looking past the us-and-them barriers. How does the following information make you feel?
Annually for the last several years, the industry acronyms such as the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP), National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB), Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB), Alliance for Massage Therapy Education (AFMTE), Massage Therapy Foundation (MTF), and Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA) have met together to see what they can do to support and improve the industry. This has not been productive every year; however, many of our industries’ core documents have come out of this meeting.
Sometimes our personal bias for mistrust can come into play and create skepticism, or we can feel excited about the wonderful work that is being done by our governing bodies. Both are signs that you have an ethical connection to the information provided. We need to be cautious of both biases of trust and distrust. You can be taken advantage of or lose the benefits that come from building a trusted community. A favorite statement of mine is, “Trust, but verify.”
Being responsible for changing our behaviors is important. After looking at our feelings, we need to address the behaviors we feel justified in. We usually have misperceptions or judgments that can spur us to make bad choices. Who holds what responsible in the following story?
Tina is a fully trained and certified craniosacral therapist. Jessica is another massage therapist in town who advertises craniosacral therapy. Jessica has only taken a three-hour introduction course. She also has a much bigger online presence. Tina has been trying to find clients who need her services; however, everywhere she goes, people ask if she does what Jessica does because that did not work for them. Tina is mad and puts a post on Jessica’s online reviews that states, “Jessica does not know craniosacral therapy. She needs to be trained with 48 hours of training with clinical assessment. You should go somewhere else if you want this service.”
Recognizing the effects of our choices is essential. If Tina had come to Jessica, that would have changed the entire situation. Because of the public nature of the post, it can have a backlash on all parties involved. It will also make a professional disagreement public. A public online forum is rarely the correct place for this kind of banter.
No matter how much professional experience we have, we always need to remember there are new things to learn. Humility will help us recognize our ability to learn something new every day.
Many years ago, I was teaching a continuing education class on ethics. There were two very experienced massage therapists in the class. At the end of the course, the first one came up to me and scolded me for not knowing anything on the subject of ethics, and told me in a vulgar way that I should not be teaching. Soon after, the second massage therapist came up and informed me that they had learned a lot and understood more about their ethical responsibilities.
I do not know the background situation of either of these people. However, I want to be much more like the second therapist when I have the years of experience that they both have. We can control our perceptions and are responsible for our reactions related to them. With regular ethical self-evaluations, we can find potential for steady self-improvement.
About the Author:
Nathan Nordstrom, LMT, BCTMB, is director of massage therapy education and training at Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa. He has served on various boards of massage organizations, including those of the Massage Therapy Foundation and American Massage Therapy Association, and has been a massage program instructor and director. His company, Educated Touch, provides in-person and online training for massage therapists.