Model Behavior

By Darren Buford
[Editor's Note]

Parents who discount the influence their actions have over their children do so at their own peril. Whether they realize it or not, their children are watching and mimicking what their eyes and ears behold—good and bad.
Does the same modeling and mimicry hold true with friends, family, colleagues … clients?
In this issue of Massage & Bodywork, I’d like to turn your attention to Niki Munk, PhD, and her Somatic Research column titled “Health Promotion Messaging in Massage Therapy Practice,” where she explores the connection between bodywork and positive health messaging. Munk writes, “Because of the [increased] focus time spent during a massage session [versus other health practitioners], the potential is great for massage therapists to have impact on client health and related behaviors beyond treatment effects [and massage application] through education and behavior modeling.”
In other words, the “non-hands-on” components of massage.
You’ve always known your touch is powerful. Know your words and actions are too.
Before her academic career, when Munk was a practicing massage therapist, she did her best to model healthy living behaviors to increase her field credibility with clients. She writes, “This credibility [emphasis mine] afforded me the opportunity to support clients during health behavioral changes such as quitting smoking, decreasing sedentariness, or seeking preventive or diagnostic screening.”  
According to the research presented in her column, MTs know it’s important to share positive messaging with their clients. In fact, 90 percent of practitioners indicated they agreed or strongly agreed that it is important to include health promotion messages as part of their work, and half thought they should spend more time conveying such messages. (Topics most presented to clients included self-massage, stretching, and body awareness; MTs also shared information on breath work, stress management, mindfulness, and healthy lifestyles.)
Of great importance, Munk notes, is the quality of the source of the information you provide. “It is important for massage therapists to consistently reinforce and cultivate their critical thinking and research literacy skills and identify their sources and resources whenever possible for clients about health promotion messages,” she writes. Sharing good resources is a valuable practice to build client trust and to help empower clients in their own health-related decision-making—whether that be wellness advice, literature on the value of frequent massage, or take-home exercises to prolong the effects of a massage.
Munk closes her piece by stating that because of the time allotment and interaction capabilities massage therapy sessions provide between practitioner and client, MTs have an untapped potential to become important clinicians in health care. So, here’s to continued learning, and here’s to sharing your valuable somatic knowledge with your clientele.
We hope this magazine and its content from the many bodywork experts serves as one of the said “resources” for continued learning. We encourage you to read Munk’s article in its entirety (page 44) and to peruse the many other excellent resources inside. We hope this issue titled A Fresh Approach introduces you to a number of new possibilities for your practice and chances to further connection with your clients.  

Darren Buford