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"The Code of the Caretaker"

If I take care of you, it must mean that I am good, that I am enough.

If I take care of you, it will show you what I need.

If I take care of you, I can forget my needs because I have taken care of yours.

If I take care of you, will you love me?

 

It is my "theory" that many people in the "helping" professions and especially the massage profession, have an underlying "code" that they live by.  We often build practices based on our code which is usually the unmet needs that we have hidden beneath the code.    

  • We try to "fix" others in order to feel loved or needed. 

  • We become experts of knowledge so our clients will need us.  

  • We give them advice when all they really need is to be listened to and have their feelings acknowledged or witnessed.  

  • We give clients the advice that we often need for ourselves. 

  • We give from a place that is depleted and end up burned out.

  • We rescue our clients so that we can feel important and needed.

These behaviors are often a result of having our own unmet needs.  We all have needs such as the need to be acknowledged, the need to be recognized, the need to be seen and heard.  When we find out what needs we have that are being met by "caretaking" clients, we can begin to get them met outside of our practice.  We can begin to decipher "the code" and ask that our needs be met in our personal lives.  We can be more aware of how our needs are being met through our practices and use that for increasing the power of the therapeutic relationship.

The pain in our clients' bodies tell a story of who they are and where they have been.  As massage therapists, we have the opportunity to share their healing experience.  Staying present to witness the healing of a person's pain requires that the therapist has done their own healing work. 

I first heard about this concept of "caretaking" from an article called "In the Service of Life" by Rachel Remen.   I read this article often as it reminds me of the difference between "fixing" vs being of service.  It is all to easy to jump into the fixing mode.  It is like getting a piece of candy - it is so sweet but only lasts a short time.  

When we can learn to identify our "stories" and feel our own pain, we will able to remain present for the witnessing the stories of others.  The sharing and witnessing is what heals.  Being more present and engaged, we are able to feel more, see more and listen more closely to what the clients' body is telling us.  We can be present to share the pain and follow the path (path-ology) with the client. 

When I read a series of articles by Jack Blackburn (who is now my supervisor), everything began falling into place.  www.jackblackburn.homestead.com - see articles on "Addictive Caretaking".  In the article called "Caretaking, a hidden addiction in bodywork", he states: 

" When we caretake, we assume responsibility for our clients' healing. 

 When we caregive, we support clients in assuming responsibility for their own healing."  

 -Jack Blackburn

 From his articles and other reading, I have put together a questionnaire on how do I help?  I use this as the basis for supervision and peer supervision discussions.

When we are able to discover our hidden "code", we can begin to get heal the wound at the source of the code and become clearer about what we want and need in our practices.  We can build practices that are in tune with our values and that are successful financially, emotionally and spiritually.

I so strongly believe in the process of supervision that I am willing to say that if supervision were a required part of training, we would have a stronger community of professionals.  We could focus on healing rather than constantly having to be right.  We could eliminate licensing and legislation issues.  We could work together to educate the public as to the powers of touch and healing.

 

Other Recommended Reading

Online articles:

Ethics of Touch : www.somatics.de : Go to articles for structural integrators and read "The Ethics of Touch" by Lael Katherine Green

Eliminating Caretaker behaviors - www.coping.org/ - Great examples of caretaker behavior and what to start doing about them

Overcoming the Need to Fix - www.coping.org - Another Great example that defines the need to fix and how it is a control issue.

 

Books: Ethics/boundary Issues: (links to amazon.com)

"The Educated Heart: Professional Guidelines for Massage Therapists, Bodyworkers and Movement Teachers" by Nina M. McIntosh: Highly recommended.  One of the first people to start talking about the nuts and bolts of practice building which are setting boundaries and framework.  Building a practice is based on ethics.  Ethics is just really about relationships.
www.educatedheart.com

"Ethics of Caring: Honoring the Web of Life in Our Professional Healing Relationships" by Kylea Taylor

"The Ethics of Touch" by Cherie Sohnen-Moe.  More of a college textbook on ethics.   Available on her website : www.sohnen-moe.com

"How can I help?" by Ram Dass

My Grandfather's Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge and Belonging by Rachel Naomi Remen, Md : Highly recommended.  This is really the core of our work - learning to serve.  There is an article online called "In the Service of life" that should be our Code of Ethics.   website -www.rachelremen.com 

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