Earlier this month, I made a post about finding my ideal clients in which I implied, near the end, that I’m a body psychotherapist. (The exact quotation was, “If you were looking for help from a body psychotherapist, what would you hope they could do for you?” Which admittedly was more about finding out what people want out of body/mind workers in general – of which there are countless flavors – but did imply that I’m a body psychotherapist.) At the beginning of the article I did talk about the need, especially early in Rubenfeld Synergy’s development, for it to be called something else – a Method, to use the actual name; a “modality,” to use a term that people outside of the bodywork world don’t generally know; a “technique,” as Alexander adopted. Associating bodywork with psychotherapy is still taboo, and as I learned a few days ago, actually against the Standards and Practices document I signed when I was certified as a Rubenfeld Synergist. Oops.
So it falls to me to state clearly, here and now: I am not a psychotherapist. While the roots of the Method include Gestalt therapy, I am not a Gestalt therapist, either. I am, in fact, not any kind of therapist. 🙂
I do practice a Method that is included under the umbrella of The United States Association for Body Psychotherapy, but I am not permitted to call myself a psychotherapist, body or otherwise. Bad things could happen. (Someone was sued some years back.)
While the Standards and Practices of my certification of course trump anything else for me, there is a weird thing in Massachusetts that potentially puts things in a gray area: in Massachusetts, one is permitted to hang out one’s shingle as a psychotherapist without having a license. I’m not entirely sure why this is the case, although the extensive and arguably unreasonable hoop-jumping required to get any kind of licensure in Massachusetts might be part of the cause. More likely it’s a weird loophole that hasn’t yet been closed.
A 2006 Boston Magazine article on sexual abuse in psychiatry notes:
Like many states, Massachusetts regulates specific types of mental-health workers, but there are gaps. In addition to psychiatrists, it requires licenses for people holding themselves out as psychologists, mental-health counselors, social workers, and marriage and family therapists. Not covered is the term psychotherapist. That means anyone from an unemployed construction worker to a psychiatrist who’s been punished for abusing a patient can call himself a psychotherapist. One Boston-area phone book has 432 listings under the heading ‘Psychotherapists,’ and it’s possible that not one of them is actually a licensed therapist. (Insurance companies will not pay for treatment by unlicensed therapists, but many people don’t have mental-health coverage anyway.)
This is troubling to say the least, and I find it sadly ironic that it seems the population most likely to abuse this lexical loophole is not necessarily people who study for years to learn alternative modalities, but people who used to have licenses but now don’t because they are unethical jerks.
Given this exceedingly ugly company, I will no longer be tempted to refer to myself as a body psychotherapist, or a psychotherapist of any kind. While I may do further studies one day and obtain some kind of official state licensure, at the moment, Rubenfeld Synergy Method is enough for me.
Still, though: it’d be nice to have something to call what I do besides “Synergist,” since nobody knows what that is. “Bodyworker” isn’t quite accurate; “Counselor” is close but runs into the same legal gray area. Apparently RSM has been legally defined as a “holistic bodymind healing modality.” Just rolls off the tongue, donnit?
But, we do what we must. My certification, code of ethics, liability insurance and professional organization membership are all covered, and handy labels must wait for some stroke of marketing genius to touch down. Until then – my listing in Psychology Today notwithstanding – I’ll stay away from the gray.