Does your Massage Consent Pass the Peanut Butter and Jelly Test?

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Does your Massage Consent Pass the Peanut Butter and Jelly Test?

Consent, Massage &Peanut Butter & Jelly

*Full disclosure, I believe I learned this exercise in grade school creative writing.

Frequently when talking to clients you may think that you are communicating effectively and giving a great consent when you actually are not. This failing actually massage consenthappens with everyone at some time. People are full of funny little quirks. If you ask them if they understand, they may say yes when they mean no, or you yourself may unintentionally overcomplicate the matter in order to show you understand when you don’t understand. To make things even murkier, lurking below our psychology, the actual words we choose may have a totally different meaning to another person based on the context, their past experience, and the desired outcome.So how do you know if you’re really making sense and connecting on any legitimate level?

I would always advocate for clarity and simplicity of speech, but sometimes even when you think you are being clear you are not.

This recently happened between a staff member and a client. As the mediator, I listened to both sides of the event, and both thought they had clearly communicated their thoughts but both walked away completely at odds with the outcome. So what happened?


 

-The client had expressed that her shoulders were tight and her neck needed work

-After a full intake, the therapist confirmed that she agreed and that she also wanted to work on those areas and described “We have 30 minutes. I would like to spend about 15 min on each area. How does that sound?”

-At the end of the massage the client was unhappy and stated, “Although I thought the massage was quite good, I asked for my neck to be done”

-In talking to the therapist, I learned she had performed a 30 minute massage, with 15 minutes on the shoulders and 15 minutes on the neck, but she had performed the majority of the cervical massage prone, rather than supine because she felt the client was very relaxed and did not wish to ruin that therapeutically. As the client was use to the neck treatment having been performed face up, she assumed it had not been done and left unhappy. 


 

Even though both parties sat down to communicate formally, because of the personal histories they brought to the table, they failed to reach clarity. For reasons like this, and many others, I really recommend putting your consent through the peanut butter and jelly test. It goes like this:

Write instructions for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to an alien, who does not know anything about this planet. 

While the task seems simple enough, you will soon find you are going to run into problems when you start critically thinking about things such as:

 

  • What is jelly?
  • What is a plate? What does that look like?
  • What is a knife?
  • How do you determine amounts?
  • What are descriptive terms? What do they mean?

Through this practice, you begin to understand there is a LOT we take for granted in our communication, even when relating to other professionals. Words like ‘massage, trigger point, therapeutic, deep, strong, sports, etc’ may have lots of meaning, some meaning, no meaning, or a different meaning, depending on who you are talking to. So if you think you are communicating clearly or if you suspect that you’re not, try running through the peanut butter and jelly test and see what you are taking for granted.

 

 

What I did Not Learn About Fascia Work and Massage

UNLEARNING

This blog was inspired by the fact that we spend a lot of time trending hard and obsessing over modalities. We debate whether they are ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ and what we as therapists should be doing now.

Recently I talked with a very aggressive young therapist who was willing to alienate many of his current peers and deprive himself from the benefit of their experiences by defending a modality he in fact had no training in, simply because some of his previous peers had deemed it ‘right’. And shortly before that, while training another young man, I told him he might want to do some more research on some of the modalities he was using simply to ensure that they actually did what they said they did. At that point, he became completely confused, afraid to treat, thinking he might be doing something wrong.

It leaves me wondering if, as experienced therapists in the age of easy communication, we are really doing our parts by telling younger therapists what to value and what not to, without letting them see how we got there – because the process is just as important as the result.

With that I give you  ‘What I did not learn about Fascia work 2005’


I did not learn about Rolfing or Tom Myers

I did not learn that it was tearing, stretching or re-modeling

I did not learn to use heavy pressure

I did not learn to go in any one direction or follow a track

I did not learn it as a passive activity

I was not told that it would solve any one problem or kind of pain

I did not learn that it would hurt

 

In fact, what I learned did not have much theory behind it. What we had learned about fascia was imparted to us in anatomy and dissection, where it was labeled ‘the packaging’.

Our instructions and week of practice were demos of our teacher accessing different areas of the body, with different holds, based on the shape of the body, the clients’ complaints, and instructions that our work did not have to look like hers. We were just to find a comfortable way to hold, to move in the direction of ease with the biology, to move slowly and gently, and to ask for feed back.

When the demos were over, we were set free to work on our own. Our instructor went around and helped us with body mechanics for staying in one place for a long time, and showed us how to keep our fingers from digging in and pinching skin.

Some of the work was feather light, as it was around the face. Some of the work was broader, as it was on the leg or arm. None of the work was particularly deep. The methodology she gave us was “see what works for your client, given their comfort, and the shape of the structure or how you can access it.” It was simply another way to ‘get in’ based on the needs of the client.

At the end of the class, when we had worked every part, she added to the list, “Next time you practice, experiment with having the person tense a little under your hand, and then relax. And see what that does….see if that changes things.”

I think that was probably the most important part of the class.

I have been working this way since 2005. I also imagine everyone who was in my graduating class is working that way, and that our instructor learned to work that way from someone before her, and that she had a community of peers that supported her in that work.

It is fantastic that we now know the tensile strength of fascia, but modalities have never been what drives good treatment, they are ONLY an extension of a communication process. I do not know that we are doing young therapists any favors by debating what is right and wrong as far as modalities. In fact it gives the impression that things are black and white, which they are not. There is ONLY what works given the circumstance, and it requires a lot of thinking outside the box often. Young therapists need to be taught to think for themselves about what is plausible, and to listen. I am not so sure that is the impression we are leaving.