What Is Transference and How Is It Involved With Massage Therapy?

If you are in the body-work industry, you should be very aware of transference, what it is and especially how it relates to your work. My understanding of transference is best illustrated by the following scenarios:

1. Therapist attends to a client with a headache, symptoms of a “bug,” acne, anger, fatigue, good or bad pregnancy-related issues, et al emotional scenarios. The client leaves happy, refreshed and ready for life, but the therapist suddenly, or later, starts exhibiting symptoms they didn’t have previously.

2. Client is nervous and unable to relax. Suddenly a usually-confident therapist starts feeling nervous and fidgety during the session (or the reverse scenario).

3. During the massage, the client or the therapist feels extremely powerful parasympathetic/reverse parasympathetic stimulation and begins to believe more is happening during the session than actually is. (Either could imagine they are “in love,” being “hit on,” harassed, touched inappropriately, etc).

4. Therapist and client knowingly or unknowingly disagree on the purpose of massage. (Clients can tell whether a therapist is committed to and believes in the therapy, or this is just a job and the therapist can’t wait to finish and go do other things.)

5. Client, or therapist, spends the session discussing personal matters/gossip and when they part, one or the other or both are still in the negative emotional place of the discussion.

6. Client or therapist decides when they meet that they don’t like one, the other, or each other.

7. Client has a preconceived idea of the skill set/caliber of the therapist and begins to condescend to or intimidate him/her; maybe say something negative about the establishment, etc.

8. Client has history with molestation and/or rape trauma and related issues, etc., and misconstrues “normal and professional” handling during the session as “harassment.”

9. Client gets upset during treatment (maybe the therapist forgot a “request not to do”) and either speaks angrily to the therapist, starts breathing angrily, or scowling or some other defensive reaction, verbal or non-verbal.

10. The session “takes the client to a place” they struggle or wasn’t prepared to go and this has caused an emotional release (laughter, crying, embarrassment, etc.), or physical release. (Unfair responsibility/blame, etc. can sometimes be projected in either direction.)

Any of the above illustrations will affect the business, the delivery and/or reception of service, the results of the therapy, as well as whether the client returns for follow-up care and/or whether the therapist exercises his/her right of refusal of such care. A certain “energy” change in that environment will happen and set a tone, much like when someone scorned, confident, powerful, loved, or esteemed, etc., walks into a room filled with people. That person can usually feel the “presence” of the mass and whatever the dominant energy is.

So how does one guard/shield from any energy transference? Any defense will have much to do with your belief systems and/or your own personal convictions, as well as your education. If you believe you are a conduit between the universal energy and the client, then you would know that to be effective at this task one needs to be centered, grounded and committed to being the best, purest, cleanest conduit with purpose. This is accomplished mainly by breathing, allowing energy to flow through you with limited attachment.

First, the therapist must be very confident and knowledgeable of their skill-set and especially their purpose for being in the business. Secondly, that therapist must understand their purpose for treating each client and keep “referring” to this mentally throughout treatment. Why am I touching this person and what result do I want them to have? For me, is massage just to “feel-good”? Equally important to these is BREATHING, with purpose. If the therapist is not breathing properly, hence administering self-care, he/she will interpret and react or respond to any “improper or inconvenient discovery”. The reverse of this also is true for the client. Both people need to focus on their breathing and purpose for being in that little room together regardless of the undertones. The deeper your breaths, the more oxygen your heart gets to pump and the faster the exit of energy flow to the universe; also, the more calm you’ll remain, grounded, collected and focused on the purpose at hand. When client and therapist work as a team with a common purpose or objective, there will be lots of room for the healthy benefits and enjoyment of massage therapy and less chance of transferring the unwanted.

The hands can transfer the energy, good or bad, from client to client, between therapists, and vice versa. It is imperative that each party, but especially the therapist, take care of “self” before, after and during the session, to allow for only a limited attachment to any unwanted “energy” or ailment. Wash your hands immediately after each session and before touching another person, including yourself. As soon as possible at the end of your day of giving/receiving therapy, get some cardio exercise, meditation, etc., and most definitely bathe. Depending on your convictions, as mentioned, a therapist might want to wash their clothes in preparation for the next day. Never go to bed unwashed after giving therapy to someone and if you are a client who felt some ailment or unwanted energy was transferred during your session, take another shower/bath. These are very effective in cleansing and soothing “the spirit” as well as the body.

Source by JL Campbell

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