June 5, 2012

Therapy of a Kind

Reading the paper this morning, (I know, how old-fashioned of me!) I found myself very interested in the story of a fellow who had gone to a psychiatrist for treatment of depression. As the patient went through a few sessions, he said it became apparent that the therapist had honed in on what he felt was the real problem.
The patient was a gay man, and the psychiatrist told him he would become much happier if he played more sports and thought of other men as friends rather than potential partners. The patient’s complaint was, however, that he was not there to become happier by becoming more heterosexual: he was there for his depression.
Nothing in the psychiatrist’s introduction or qualifications gave the patient any clue he was seeing someone focused on gay conversion therapy, the patient said. The subject did not come up until he was already in therapy and feeling very uncomfortable.
I sat there and did a “hmmm” over my morning coffee. Are any of us massage therapists doing services other than those described on our shingle? Am I massaging or giving nutritional advice? What about those folks who talk about their relationships or troubles?
The big question: Am I projecting any of my issues onto clients?
Well, this is a tough one for any therapist to consider. We are, all about helping people, of course. We’re here to guide people to healing, right? What if our healing ideal is not their idea of healing?

I can say I have had an experience like this on the other side of the sheet. It didn’t help with what I sought help for in a massage. If anything, I felt attacked rather than soothed. It’s given me pause, now and then, when I recall how it went.

The distal portion of my right calf had been aching for a few days, and I was on vacation in San Francisco. The long city walks and hills had my calf screaming for mercy, and no amount of self-massage or PNF was fixing it. I needed some relief.

The City, as the natives say, is a complicated place. Signs glow orangey-red in many of the side-streets advertising massage services. I did not need ESP to figure out that these places catered to men only. I finally found a listing for massage by a therapist who had lots of little letters after the name. Seemed studied and professional, I thought.

This was without a doubt the worst massage I have ever had and the worst experience with another therapist. My aching calf was ignored while the therapist lectured me on nutrition. I got the feeling he intensely disliked touching me as he did some sort of shiatsu-like grope on my spine. He actually suggested I join an ashram immediately for a full-body detox. He even gave me the name and address.

I had to pop up with what about my calf? He told me working on my calf would not help.

About 58 minutes later my friends picked me up in their tiny car.

“How was your massage?” my friend asked.

“Weird. Really weird,” I told her. “And my calf still hurts.”

No comments: