Psychotherapy & Massage Therapy: Better Together
When you began working in your chosen profession, you developed a clear idea of what your clients would need from you when they came to see you.
Massage therapy? Work with the body to improve a client’s quality of life.
Psychotherapy? Work with the mind to do the same.
The trouble we run into, whatever type of therapy we’ve studied, is that while our profession treat parts of a person instead of the whole, a real human being is not so easily divided up. And that means that as therapists we often run into situations where a client needs something that is beyond our scope of practice and expertise.
There are a lot of issues that inspire people to seek the help of a therapist that straddle the borders between mind, body and spirit (in fact, some would argue that there are very few issues that don’t). Sexual and other physical trauma, eating disorders and other body issues are some poignant examples of situations that have really intense mental and physical components.
Massage can trigger painful memories that have been stored in the body and cause an emotional meltdown on the table.
Talk therapy can only go so far when a client’s issue involves total alienation of the body; touch can be an essential part of the process.
So then the question becomes, how can massage therapists and psychotherapists work together? How can we bring the best of what we do to a situation, without doing to much or too little?
Working together: Tips for effective partnerships
Know what you can provide, and what you can’t.
Ok, you already know this but as a reminder:
Massage therapists have a lot to offer in terms of increasing serotonin and dopamine, modelling and teaching safe touch, feelings of body acceptance, and reducing or retraining hyperplexia (exaggerated startle response). Talking about issues and giving options or suggestions (other than referrals) is outside the scope of massage therapy.
In addition to helping people to process and cope with painful emotions and memories, psychotherapists tend to be pretty skilled with boundaries, and good at identifying some of the tricky dynamics that can arise in interpersonal work like transference, projection, etc.. Using touch or other body work is outside of most psychotherapy training.
Know what your colleagues can provide, and use them.
If you're psychotherapist who has never had a massage - get one. Same with massage therapists. If you've never done talk therapy - try it out.
Part of being a great therapist is being able to help clients identify what else could be helpful. Get knowledgeable about how other disciplines can help with the issues your clients face, and let them know all their options! A more holistic approach should help them feel better faster, and isn’t that our goal?
Get to know who’s doing what in your therapy community. Network to find folks whose approach you feel comfortable with and whose skills you trust. Talk to them on how you can partner on referrals, hold joint sessions and create customized treatment plans that address the whole person. Your clients will get the benefit of a holistic approach, and you’ll gain a huge amount of insight and knowledge by seeing how your colleagues come at the same problem from a different angle.
Have you collaborated with other professions in providing treatment? Do you think it’s a good idea? What excites you or worries you about it? Let us know!