The Value of Ethics

By Nancy Dail, LMT

Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates were Greek philosophers who laid down the foundation for ethics in society. The word “ethics” comes from the Greek ethikos meaning “arising from habit”. The motivation to behave ethically as a moral standard is to believe that if you act appropriately you will support character traits that are in line with socially acceptable behavior, support legal standards, and promote professionalism in the business community. You would in essence make a habit of acting appropriately for the benefit of society.

Where did you develop character traits that support ethical practices? Family, school, mentors, community figures, heroes, the media, religion, literacy, and even the time in which we live all have an impact on the development of character traits that influence how one acts morally. “Cardinal virtues” of wisdom, courage, temperance and justice were Aristotle’s answer to the most important character traits with the understanding that it is paramount to balance the virtues and not let one overcome another. Since our actions impact others in indeterminable ways, it becomes necessary to follow codes of ethics that spell out our boundaries that are the ethical parameters of practice.

Each practitioner upon entering a profession is invested with the responsibility to adhere to the standards of ethical practice and conduct set by the profession. A therapist must therefore be operating legally, exhibit maximal competence, continually seek advancement through continuing education, join a professional association and follow the code of ethics set forth by the profession. Practitioners must be very clear about their professional identity otherwise ethical dilemmas will be more frequent and difficult to resolve. Clarity can be a challenge in the dynamics of our industry. States are all over the map with licensing and requirements for different hours. There are many continuing educational workshops that may not provide enough information for the practitioner to become confident in the modality. Is it made clear by the CE provider what it takes to advertise the subject of the workshop? Whose responsibility is it anyways to make that determination? Where is the value in being ethical in this situation? What benefits the client and what benefits the practitioner?

After pioneering in this field for almost 40 years, I have seen the massage therapy profession come a long way. We have schools, licensure in most states, national certification, a rich industry of continuing education, vendors, research organizations and multiple associations. But ethics is not a finite set of rules that do not change, in fact, ethics is an adventure in the values and ideals that shift and evolve with the profession. The value of ethics must be a benefit for the client and will be the foundation of the practitioner’s success. Exploring the value of ethics brings meaning to the industry, helps support professional character traits, and promotes clarity of practice.