Podcast

Episode 430

Aug 23, 2022

Healwell’s Cal Cates joins the podcast to talk about why we all need to get cozier talking about sex in our massage practices.

Listen to "E430: Let's Talk. About Sex. Yes, Sex. (with Cal Cates)" on Spreaker.
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EPISODE 430

Weekly Roundup

Discussion Topic

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Transcript: 

Allissa Haines:

Hello everyone. Welcome to the Massage Business Blueprint podcast, where we help you attract more clients, make more money, improve your quality of life, and talk about uncomfortable things like we're going to do today. I am Allissa Haines and I am delighted to be here with my guest, Cal Cates. Hi, Cal.

Cal Cates:

Woo-hoo. Hello, Allissa. I'm delighted to be here as well so that works out.

Allissa Haines:

Thank you. Let me give a little brief intro on Cal who I've known for, I think, over a decade now, which makes me feel old, but there we are. Cal is one of Healwell's founders and its executive director. Cal speaks all over the world on a variety of topics related to integrative medicine, emotional self care for practitioners, the mechanics and the politics, that's my favorite part, of introducing massage therapy into clinical settings and about massage and touch in general. Cal has been participating in research, teaching, developing curriculum for massage therapy courses focused on hospital based practice, oncology massage, end of life care, for bajillion years, at least since 2007. It is maybe their third or fourth visit to the podcast, so I'm super excited. Cal, what did I miss? What are you doing that's important that I forgot to mention?

Cal Cates:

Well, we're going to talk about one of the big things, but I think we're always trying to invite people to think about and feel about the things that they'd rather not think about or feel about. And I think that in addition to that itself being a challenge, helping people understand why that's valuable is also what we try to do. So helping massage therapists broaden their perspective about what massage therapists can bring to the world, no matter what your practice setting or special population that we tend to do at Healwell, we work with people with chronic and serious illness and we do work in hospitals, but we work in homes and clinics and various settings.

And the things that we've learned in working with those populations are valuable to anyone who is calling themselves a massage therapist. And I think that's a hard sell because I think people tend to say, "Oh, well, I work with marathon runners," or, "I work with this or that population and so I don't need all that feeling-y stuff." And we want to just really invite people to understand that you may not need it, but trust me, once you get it, you're going to be like, "Oh, my gosh, this is amazing, and I can still be a structural integrator," or whatever it is that I do. So yeah, that's what we're doing over here.

Allissa Haines:

Just small things. [inaudible 00:02:46].

Cal Cates:

Yeah. And we're causing trouble with our podcast and just, again, doing the same stuff there, just with guests and things like that.

Allissa Haines:

So what are you reading? We like to chat about what we're reading at the beginning of each episode, before we dive into our topic, and I want to know. It's probably not something light because I've met you. So what is it that you're reading, Cal?

Cal Cates:

Well, funny you would say that because, in fact, I am reading a book called Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? And it is a collection of essays and speeches by Martin Luther King. And it has questions that are valuable for today's world, not surprisingly. I was going to say... But you caught me at a weird moment because I did just read some fiction, but even the fiction was kind of dark and twisted.

Allissa Haines:

Excellent. [inaudible 00:03:37]-

Cal Cates:

And you?

Allissa Haines:

I'm reading a book, but I'm not done so I'm not going to talk about it yet. But I did listen last night to the NPR's Life Kit Podcast.

Cal Cates:

Oh, yeah.

Allissa Haines:

And they had Susan Cain on, and I just love her so much.

Cal Cates:

Great.

Allissa Haines:

And she's got a new book called Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole.

Cal Cates:

Oh, right.

Allissa Haines:

I know, it's totally up your alley. And so it's nice. And I like Life Kit podcast because it's like 20 to 30 minutes, which is my drive home and it's what I can digest. And it's really nice and it gives me three minutes to sit in my driveway and finish the podcast and gather myself before I enter my home.

Cal Cates:

Nice.

Allissa Haines:

Which is valuable. And yeah, it was just really interesting and she very much talks about how embracing the sadness in our lives is an important part of our whole life and processing that is an important part of how we process all of the happiness in our life. And it's just in a really lovely way. And I could listen to her read the dictionary.

Cal Cates:

Yes. I was going to say, the way that she writes, I really would read any book she wrote, but that, I bet she's going to treat that so beautifully.

Allissa Haines:

Yeah. And she's got just the best voice. It's just perfect for podcasting or I think I'm actually going to get the audio book on this one because I just want to hear her talk to me.

Cal Cates:

I don't think I've ever heard her speak, so I'm excited to... I'm going to have to go check out that episode.

Allissa Haines:

It's so good. And she's just a delight, and live, she's like one of those people... She's in the camp, you're going to totally appreciate this, of Tracy Walton and... Who's the woman who wrote the book? She's got terminal cancer. I don't know. She's got that kind of voice, that dry-wit and this smooth voice and the most personable attitude.

Cal Cates:

Totally.

Allissa Haines:

I now have to think of that other person, but I will at some point. Anyhow, Cal, I want you to tell us... You talked a little bit about Healwell, but we have this sponsor spot and so I want you to tell me what's topical right now with Healwell.

Cal Cates:

Yeah, well, we're hosting a virtual symposium that is called Healthcare & Intimacy. And we did a symposium last year called Just Care about social justice and healthcare, and that was a two day. And we kind of decided that two days specifically about this one thing was maybe a lot for people to be sitting in front of their computers. And so we decided to do one day this time. And in some ways, the symposium was inspired by a palliative care social work colleague of ours who has done actually quite a bit of research about how much people want to talk about sex, intimacy, that part of their health, and how their healthcare providers don't ask them about it. And they feel like it's sort of a taboo subject, and that when that door is opened for people, particularly, in the case of serious illness, but I think there are all kinds of reasons in people's lives that they lose intimacy and sexual contact, and that we don't talk about it.

And we, I think, as massage therapists, we don't talk about it because we don't have the training. And so we'll get into that, but we really wanted to bring together people who are excited about this topic, who talk about it all the time, who believe there are no stupid questions about this topic. And we were so excited because we started... We are small potatoes, I feel like, in the big world. And sometimes, when we go out and reach out for speakers and things for various events that we're hosting, we think, "Ugh, people are going to say, 'Oh, well, I've never heard of you, I'm not going to come and speak at your event.'" And we called kind of the real heavy hitters in this area. And not only did they all say, "Absolutely, yes, I can't wait, tell me when it is," but they're like, "You should talk to this person and you should talk to this person and my friend that I worked with on this study would be a great speaker."

And so our whole lineup is people who really are coming at this topic from all different perspectives. From the geriatric perspective, from HIV, from sex work, from pregnancy, from race, gender. Here's all the stuff, there's this whole cosmos of an aspect of health that we just don't touch, as healthcare providers broadly, but certainly, as massage therapists. And we wanted to create a space where people could come and learn about that and talk about it and just become more comfortable, wherever you are now, that you just get to scoot a little more toward the space of like, "Okay, I know more now, maybe this is still a topic that makes me nervous, but it's an informed sort of nervousness instead of sort of an oh, gosh, don't come near me kind of nervousness."

Allissa Haines:

I'm excited to talk about all the different kinds of nervousness that we're going to get into, because I just thought of five-

Cal Cates:

Oh, my God.

Allissa Haines:

... in my head.

Cal Cates:

Yeah. You.

Allissa Haines:

Anyhoo, okay, sorry, I flipped off of my podcast notes and lost where I was. So first of all, I want people to know that to get to information about the symposium, they can go to healwell.org/intimacy-2022. And I'll have all those links in the podcast note and we'll share them all on our social media again, so you will see it, it is hard to avoid. And I guess, we need to talk about sex. Why are we talking about sex? And let me just start by saying that every massage instructor and ethics teacher ever has said, "You don't talk about sex in the treatment room. That is not appropriate. It's not acceptable. It invites inappropriate behavior. And no, you should shut down any conversation about sex. And if a client keeps talking about it, you should take your hands off of them and say, 'You have continued to speak about this even though I've asked you not to, our session is over, I will meet you outside and you will need to pay for the full session.'"

Cal Cates:

Wow. That is a well rehearsed script. Yes. Correct.

Allissa Haines:

And so what's wrong with this? This is what I was taught, Cal.

Cal Cates:

Right. And we have received quite a bit of, I don't know, I feel comfortable and accurate calling it blowback, from the massage therapy community about... We've had people swear at us on our Facebook page and of tell us this is unprofessional. And they can't believe that we're having this event and I'm all about sex but not in my treatment room. And I want to be really clear that we are not suggesting you engage in sexual acts in your treatment room, or that you invite your clients to talk about sexual acts, except that what if a client comes in with some sort of mystery injury, and the injury happened while they were having sex. But because there's this real understood taboo about talking about sex, and maybe not just in your practice, this is culturally. Speaking, I am an American, I have lived in America my whole life.

Knowing the American culture about sex, this person is going to be embarrassed, ashamed. They're going to tell you they did something else that led to this adductor injury or this low back injury. And isn't it way more helpful to you when people say, "Listen, I was in this sex swing and I got my leg stuck, and one leg went to the floor and the other one kind of stayed in the swing. And now, this is what happened." And you're like, "Oh, that makes a lot more sense," than whatever story they might make up that would center both of your comfort and make them feel like this was an acceptable way to explain it. A client is going through a divorce. And part of what's challenging for their body right now is that they're not receiving intimate touch and/or they're not having sex. And for 98% of humans, sexual acts and sexual intercourse is part of our health.

And you can't do anything about that "as a massage therapist," but I want to know what's happening for you and your body. I want you to be able to say, "It's been a year and a half since my divorce and I just really miss being touched." Without you, my massage therapist, gasping and being like, "Oh, God, let's please talk about anything else." That person isn't saying, "Please process this with me," they just want to say it out loud. And so if you can just receive that information in a kind and calm way and normalize it, say, "Yeah, that makes sense," that might be the end of that conversation. But that's a much more supportive way to respond to that question than like, "Oh." Now, you're on guard and you're waiting for them to mention sex again, because then that'll be their second offense, and then we work toward the script that you shared, right? Like, "I'm not here to talk about this."

And I think that the other piece of this symposium and this conversation is our cultural laziness that makes us think that intimacy and sex are the same. And that if we are intimate, it means sex. And that there can't be intimacy without sex. And in the work that we've done through palliative care and working with oncology patients and just working with people who are often at really vulnerable places in their lives, the key to effective therapeutic relationship is intimacy. It is this sense that nothing is off the table, that no matter what you're going through, no matter where your pain is emanating from, no matter what's hurting, you can talk about it in here. As a massage therapist, I'm not trained to help you process it, but I can definitely receive it. And I can say, "I can see how that would hurt, thank you for telling me that," or any number of other things that say that this is a safe place to say the things, and in a more broad, sort of liberation sense.

And I think this is the part of Healwell that some people just... It's too far an idea that each day we get up at Healwell, because we believe in our collective liberation and that part of the struggle that we're having as the massage profession right now is that we are so uncomfortable talking about sex in any way that we just shut it down. And so when we talk about, are there bad actors? Absolutely. There are people who will come to your practice in a predatory way. There are massage therapists who have been stalked, who have been harmed, who have been attacked by people who are seeking sex. And actually, who are seeking to exert power. I mean, to be honest. And we have to be able to be comfortable in the space of talking about all of these things, how lack of intimacy and lack of connection actually lead to people behaving in a way that makes them feel like exerting power is the way to get what they need.

Culturally, we have so much work to do that... There was actually a woman on our Facebook page who said, "Oh, wait. So you're just talking about a complete cultural overhaul." And I was like, "Yep, that's what we're talking about. And we hope you'll come with us." This symposium isn't going to fix things, but we can't create sustainable solutions from a place of fear and from a place of avoidance. So we want to just invite people in to learn more about, that sex happens for lots of people, that sex is important to a lot of us, that intimacy is important to pretty much all of us, and that that connection with our fellow humans that comes from listening, sitting still, being vulnerable, these things that we don't really prioritize in our professional growth, are really important to the future of our life on the planet.

Allissa Haines:

I think what's really interesting is that all of these instructors that draw this very black and white line, that say, "You can't talk about sex because that's antithetical to massage and into what should be happening in your treatment room," those are the same people who can say, "Touch does not mean sex." So you know that there's a divide between what therapeutic touches or what mindful touches or whatever you want to call it, skilled touch, safe, skilled, non-sexual touch, you know that there's a difference between touch and sex and sexual activity. But the notion that someone can't divide discussion about sex and related topics from actual sexual activity is a little messed up. You mentioned when someone gets divorced and being able to honestly say, "I haven't been touched." I've worked with a lot of widows.

Cal Cates:

Yeah.

Allissa Haines:

A lot of widows. And we are not a culture that automatically lives in multigenerational homes anymore. So you get this widow whose kid and/or grandkids don't live anywhere near, no one hugs this person. I am not a hugger and I hug my widow clients, because I realize I'm the only one that does, for so many of them. And that kind of pushed me to move past my own weird, "You don't hug clients," boundaries, which is just crap. But that was probably one of the first things that moved me past my own discomfort in that boundary, which is really good for me. And I've had widows say to me, "You are the only person in my life that touches me." And I have never felt that was inappropriate or sexual or anything. And that was a huge way that I came into, "Oh, we can talk about these things and they're not sexual in nature."

Cal Cates:

Right.

Allissa Haines:

And if we're going to care for people's bodies, we have to acknowledge that these are things that happen.

Cal Cates:

Absolutely.

Allissa Haines:

There was somewhere else I wanted to go with that, but I don't remember what it was right now so it doesn't matter.

Cal Cates:

Well, I feel like part of what you're pointing to is another giant piece of cultural baggage, which is pleasure. And the desire for pleasure, the permission to experience pleasure, and the... Pleasure is this dirty word in our culture, in so many different ways. That pleasure means that you're being lazy, pleasure is... It is dirty sex. When you feel pleasure, it's boo, right? How many of our clients, I doubt they would choose the word pleasure, but come to us because what they experience in our space is pleasure. Maybe not for the whole hour or however long we see them, but they are experiencing something very positive in their bodies, and possibly, with their minds, depending on how you're interacting with them, but that is okay and it's better than okay, it's essential. And that yes, we may be addressing this specific muscular injury or this area of tension or whatever it might be, but what we're really offering is permission to experience pleasure, and that's not dirty.

Allissa Haines:

And this is like... I saw it... It makes me so crazy. I saw it on some massage therapist who says they teach business and marketing or whatever, but pretty much their whole Instagram is jokey funny comic-y thing, so whatever, I had feelings. My point would be they had a post that was making fun of people who moan during a massage. And I was like, "Ugh, I hate the concept of massage therapists laughing about shaming a client reaction to massage, no matter what that reaction is." And it just epiphanied me that it's because we think moaning has to do with sexual activity, and it doesn't.

Cal Cates:

Right.

Allissa Haines:

Right? And we do the same thing when people moan over really good food or whatever.

Cal Cates:

Yeah.

Allissa Haines:

There are noises we make when things feel good, and they can feel good in a lot of different contexts.

Cal Cates:

Yes.

Allissa Haines:

And we probably shouldn't be shaming clients for that or anything else.

Cal Cates:

Truly. Yeah. No, I feel some kind of way about that whole thing you just shared. And I do feel like we, as a profession, we don't do a great job with this. And I think it does get set up, if it's not already partly there, which I guess it would be, just from our cultural indoctrination. In school, how many of us have a similar script to what you described for if a client gets an erection? That is a sign of pleasure. The nervous system is responding in a positive way. Yes, there are times when a person on your table is actually touching their own genitals, trying to inspire an erection, that's a different interaction, but still an interaction that could be handled more skillfully with a greater comfort of sex on the part of the therapist, that if we... My real fear... Oh, gosh, so many concerns.

But one of my concerns is that what we do when we create these scripts and these ideas about when this happens, this is how you respond is that we inadvertently demonize sex and the desire for sex and pleasure. And that these have to be discreet situations. We say, "Listen, you know when a person is moaning because it just feels good, and when a person's moaning becomes more insistent in a way that like, 'Okay, we're sort of maybe crossing a line and I need to maybe say something.'" Or I remember very early in my practice, and I must have been doing some kind of module where someone said, "This is how you handle this." Because I had a client that I had been seeing for quite a while, and she had never been someone who moaned during the massage, but it was suddenly, during this one session, she was sort of moaning a lot.

And I asked her... One of her moans made me wonder if I was actually harming her. And she said, "Oh, no, I'm just a very expressive bottom." And I knew enough to know that that was... I had been seeing this person for quite a while. She often had small bruises and things, and she and her partner engaged in sadomasochism and bondage. And she said, "I have a very loving partner and we have consensual things where sometimes she ties me up or I tie them up." And I was like, "Okay." So that's also good to know, right? And I was able to receive that information without panicking. But when she said she was an expressive bottom, which meant that she was typically the person who would be subdued in that BDSM relationship, that made me feel like, "Oh, wait a minute. I'm not a top in this situation."

And so I finished the session, all good, she paid, she left. And when she came back the next time, and I had to totally screw up my courage, but I just said, "Listen, I'm not really sure how to bring this up. I was taken aback when you explained your vocalizations during our last massage as that you are an expressive bottom, because it made me feel like you were saying somehow that I was a version of a top, and I want to make sure that we both are clear that this is a strictly nonsexual relationship." And this person's a social worker, she was like, "Oh, my gosh, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable," blah, blah, "This is the language that I use." And I was like, "Cool, that's what I thought, but I love working with you and I didn't want this to get weird. And I know I'm probably making it weird because on the spectrum of comfort with sexual expression, you're probably way over here and I'm not, but I just want to put this out before it becomes something that it doesn't need to be."

And I do think that so many of the situations that massage therapists describe aren't dangerous, they're just poorly handled. And I just can't say enough that there are dangerous situations. And I don't think that being more comfortable with sex will prevent you from finding yourself in a dangerous situation, as the only thing. But I do think that our profession will really benefit from dealing with its fear of sex and its fear of the overlap of pleasure, sex, massage. They do coexist and we can't make it black and white because it isn't. And I think we hate that, which I appreciate, but it just doesn't work to just pretend that that's not true.

Allissa Haines:

There's a lot there, Cal. This is why I love our conversations because I know I'm going to think about them for the next six months. Would you like to discuss things, efforts in our industry and our profession that perhaps may be problematic in regards to how we handle this collision? And I'll say it out loud. Do you want to talk about the respect massage thing that's going down?

Cal Cates:

Ugh, man. Yeah.

Allissa Haines:

It's okay if you say you don't, I'll just cut it out.

Cal Cates:

No, I do, I do want to talk about it. And again, I want to talk about it. I want people who feel the feels, based on what we share about this, to share their thoughts about it and to weigh in about it and to be honest with themselves. I mean, I feel like one of the things I want to say is that I really admire... I feel like ABMP really does provide such meaningful resources for the profession and really tries to show up to some of the harder conversations, understanding the tensions of being a nationwide association that has to try to represent all of the voices in a way that helps people feel like there's a sense of community. And they purchased this program that was created by a massage therapist called Respect Massage.

And the inspiration for it and the desire for an organization like ABMP to answer the request from the massage therapist communities to do something to address this problem, that I think is actually not as rampant as it might seem, I could be wrong about that. But I think that we see some stories in the news. We see bad actors on the massage therapist side, as well as on the client side. And we feel like, "Oh, my gosh, this is a huge issue and it's happening everywhere, every day, every minute, we need something to do." And so Respect Massage is a program that, essentially, teaches massage therapists how to look for red flags, buzzwords, things that sort of indicate that a new client or even an existing client is perhaps wanting sex as part of their engagement.

And you get a sticker for your massage, for your practice door, and you get an emblem that you can put on your website. And I think my struggle is that this doesn't keep us safe. It supports us in being afraid, it pigeonholes clients who maybe just don't have great words. I think that it supports the idea that there is this specter of the predatory client that is just around every corner. And it puts us in a place of unnecessary hypervigilance where we're really expecting any new client to be doing something shady. And we're listening with, rather than a curious ear, a critical ear. And I think it could use some tweaking.

Allissa Haines:

I'm over here nodding like crazy. Can I vent my feelings about it?

Cal Cates:

Please.

Allissa Haines:

First of all, and this makes me bonkers, if you have to say respect me, you've already lost, right?

Cal Cates:

Yeah.

Allissa Haines:

Because respect is not... I don't even know that respect is deserved. Courtesy is deserved.

Cal Cates:

Yes.

Allissa Haines:

But respect is something that one earns. And as an example of a professional massage therapist, that respect is earned with how your verbiage on your website, it is earned with how you communicate with clients when you're not in person, in you, and again, your website, your social, your voicemail, and then your phone conversations, and then your in person interaction and conversations, and your follow up, and your thoughtfulness and intake, and your thoughtfulness and follow up, and how you use a client's personal information once you have it. You cannot say respect me and have someone respect. You say respect me and someone will laugh at you, because that's just not... So verbiage wise, that makes me bonkers. And I feel like it's a way to put a sign on your door that says, "I have had very poor training and boundaries. And so I'm going to aggressively monitor our interactions so that nothing makes me uncomfortable because I have very bad boundaries and I'm uncomfortable with myself."

Cal Cates:

Yeah.

Allissa Haines:

Right?

Cal Cates:

Yeah.

Allissa Haines:

I should also jump in to say that ABMP's a sponsor of my podcast and of many other things that we do, and bless their hearts for, before they even became a sponsor, saying that they would never censor me. So I'm just saying that out loud, so they really can't.

Cal Cates:

Same, I want to give them the same props.

Allissa Haines:

Right? They have always said, "Do not muzzle yourself for us," and always been open to conversations about things that are-

Cal Cates:

Definitely.

Allissa Haines:

... hard.

Cal Cates:

Yes.

Allissa Haines:

And then I feel like when you slap a Respect Massage or you say things like conversation about sexual blah, blah, blah, will not be tolerated in a massage room, when you say things like that, it begs the non problematic clients to say, "Well, what kinds of problems have you had?"

Cal Cates:

Yes.

Allissa Haines:

And it gives an avenue for problematic clients who are disguised as another problematic clients to start that conversation, and that's a power trip. You put that on your door and on your website, and someone who's looking for that power issue is going to know immediately how to cause you discomfort and conflict.

Cal Cates:

Absolutely.

Allissa Haines:

And I did this a long time ago, I said something like I have zero tolerance for X, Y, Z, and it wasn't related to sex or whatever. And somebody was like, "Zero tolerance is the worst possible phrase you could use for anything, because what it says is you will not forgive a mistake and you will not be open to conversation about something that's important and difficult."

Cal Cates:

Yeah.

Allissa Haines:

And so now, I try to only use that phrase in jest like, "I have zero tolerance for people who don't put their dishes in the dishwasher." I try to not use it in real [inaudible 00:30:52].

Cal Cates:

Some places, it's okay.

Allissa Haines:

Right? That are important.

Cal Cates:

Yeah.

Allissa Haines:

But I also think that we're seeing this massive rise of awareness about things like pelvic floor physical therapy.

Cal Cates:

Yeah.

Allissa Haines:

This massive awareness of what perimenopause does to a body.

Cal Cates:

Yep.

Allissa Haines:

Oh, my God.

Cal Cates:

Whoa.

Allissa Haines:

And this amazing generation of people coming after me. And for me, specifically, I always think about my nieces of young women and young non-binary people who are just blowing my mind with what they will not tolerate.

Cal Cates:

Yeah.

Allissa Haines:

And they will not tolerate being marginalized in conversations.

Cal Cates:

No.

Allissa Haines:

And it's so inspiring to me. And I think this-

Cal Cates:

It's... Yeah.

Allissa Haines:

It really comes along with this, like, "We will not tolerate you being unwilling to have important conversations about what's happening in my body and in my world and in my life and in my relationships."

Cal Cates:

Absolutely.

Allissa Haines:

That was a tangent. I apologize.

Cal Cates:

Well, this is the thing is I don't know if it was because as we've been talking within Healwell and with people who are willing to engage with us about what is this about and why is this happening, I keep coming back to what I've learned in my work in equity and diversity and the difference between a safe space and a brave space. And I feel like what you just described is brave space that we're so used to safe space, and I think particularly white people, white men, for sure, but I think in massage, white women kind of take the space of white men and broader culture because we really... White women are the majority of massage therapists in America. And so we are the big voice, right? Even though we could go on another tangent about male educators and whatever, but-

Allissa Haines:

Whole other podcast.

Cal Cates:

... in a brave space, there are lots of characteristics, but one is to welcome multiple viewpoints. It's to own your intentions and impacts. It's to notice and name group dynamics in the moment. And I feel like that's one of the things that I love to see the younger generation do is they'll say, "Wait, that sounded like you were judging me, marginalizing me." And these are the words that they use. And I'm like... And I know that people who aren't engaged in this work hate this, because you can't be asleep. You can't phone it in, you have to show up and engage. There will be discomfort, there will be feelings. There will even be disagreements that will just stay points of disagreement. And that the ability to challenge with care, the ability to actively listen and receive without planning your rebuttal, these are skills that we really don't have.

And whether we're talking about sex, whether we're talking about gender, whatever it is, it's one of these things that has become... Differences of opinion are polarizing in sort of an almost increasingly dangerous way, it seems like, now. And how do we... We engage on social media. Our face to face skills continue to dwindle. And we don't... You live far from me, I don't get to be in meat-space with you, right? So this is how we interact. But I really feel like one of the things I'm so excited about for this symposium in particular is our speakers are going to say things that people are going to go, "Did that person just say that?" Without tittering, without any kind of hedging or whatever, just saying true things that need to be said more.

And that will invite us to think about our biases about sex, about who gets to have sex, about... Our keynote speaker has done a bunch of research about people who are living with serious illness and how much they appreciate having the opportunity to talk about loss of intimacy and loss of sex. And I hope that people who are not social workers and physicians and nurses who attend this symposium will be able to say, "Well, so, who in my practice is struggling with this?" And not that you go back to your practice and suddenly start asking everyone, "So, how's your sex life?" That's not... But that you can subtly make it clear that it's okay to talk about it and to bring it up and that you can expand the boundaries of what you can hold.

Allissa Haines:

So I'd like to talk logistics about the symposium and I'm purposely baiting this so that we can talk about something else that pisses us off.

Cal Cates:

Yes.

Allissa Haines:

So logistically, talk to me about the pricing. And I think this was really important to talk about because Healwell has beautiful equity pricing model, so tell me about the pricing.

Cal Cates:

So we have an equity pricing model, as you said. And so basically, for almost all of our offerings, there are three levels of pricing. There is an equity price, which is the lowest of the three prices, there is a "regular price," and then there's the pay it forward price. And the verbiage about each of these is the equity pricing is so that if paying for this would be a barrier at the regular rate, we still want you to be there. And honestly, if you can afford the equity rate and you still want to be there, just reach out to us, we will make it happen.

We never want finance to prevent people from accessing opportunities to learn. And we have to figure out how to pay for keeping the doors open and so there's a balance there. And then the pay it forward is for people who can afford the regular rate and want to help people who can't be able to have that access. It's sort of like a mini reparations program so that we can balance the scales and that everyone can have access to these opportunities. Right now, for the symposium, it's $75 for the equity rate, a hundred dollars for the regular rate, and 125 for the pay it forward rate.

Allissa Haines:

Website says 150 for the pay it forward.

Cal Cates:

Oh, it was 150.

Allissa Haines:

Yeah.

Cal Cates:

That's right. And that's the early bird pricing, so that ends on September 1st.

Allissa Haines:

Oh, good to know. I have my other screen open with half of my registration information complete, I need to finish that. So I see here that this event is approved for 7.5 CEs from Continuing Education Institute of Illinois for healthcare providers. Are there CEs available approved for massage therapists?

Cal Cates:

So funny, you should ask. There are not. And we reached out to FSM TV and they said that they don't approve conferences. Period. So it wasn't the topic, supposedly, it was just this isn't a thing that they do. NCB took quite a while to get back to us about our application. And when they did, they said the content in the symposium does not align with accepted course content for NCBTMB. And I believe that, and I believe that accepted course content through NCB needs a lot of work. And I do think that NCB is trying, but I think they're still trying to make their providers happy.

And in another program that I reached out to them for support about recently, they basically said we can't endorse this because it will appear to our other recognized providers that were sort of favoring you over other providers. And I really struggle with... That doesn't sound to me like it's about elevating [inaudible 00:38:19] me, it's about maintaining loyalty to the people who pay your bills, which as a business owner, I understand. And if your charter is to elevate the practice of massage therapy beyond the basic standard, I don't see how addressing this huge issue in human health is not in alignment with what massage therapists need to be effective practitioners.

Allissa Haines:

I'm going to tell you, as someone, my business is... Massage Business Blueprint is a provider approved by NCB for a few of the courses that we offer. I would have no problem with them... In fact, I feel like there's a whole bunch of courses they have that are much more problematic and do very little to elevate the industry and the profession over CE about how to have hard conversations. So they might be getting a little bit of email from me.

Cal Cates:

Okay.

Allissa Haines:

So thank you for sharing that with us. And I'm totally comfortable going on record that's saying while I understand there is good intent with a lot of people there trying to do really good work, I also feel that certification and board certification is just a pile of expensive bullshit that nobody should be spending their money on. And it bothers me to send them a check to be a provider and to have our courses be approved, but it is something that some of our members really need. So we do that for them, even though it makes me feel a little bit dirty.

Cal Cates:

Yeah.

Allissa Haines:

And so there's that. And I think I've just always wanted to call them bullshit on my podcast. So this has been a really nice opportunity to do so.

Cal Cates:

Totally.

Allissa Haines:

And nothing makes me happier than knowing that their test is not the one that's required for various state licensures anymore, that it's MBLEx, because I would rather give my money to that. I don't know how corrupt they are or aren't, but I know they're not NCB, so that's fine. If I ever have to move and take a test, I was NCB for a while because it was required when I got licensed in Rhode Island a million years ago.

Cal Cates:

Yeah.

Allissa Haines:

But-

Cal Cates:

Well, and to be clear, the licensing exam is about public safety, and that's what FSM TV does. NCB never had any business doing licensing exams. But if you're going to do board certification, make it matter. And if this symposium and many of our courses, actually, are approved for other healthcare providers, which includes nurse practitioners, licensed practical nurses, registered dieticians, social workers, occupational therapists, physical therapists, acupuncturist, counselors, teachers, NCB can't figure out how this is applicable to... I mean, there's so much overlap with what we do and what all those other disciplines who are going to get CEs for this event do. So we are actually going to generate a form letter that any massage therapist who does attend, if they feel like the symposium was valuable and they want CE for it, we want to give them the verbiage they need to reach out to NCB and say, "Listen, you guys got to get with the times and this is part of how I want to get my CEs and I really wish that you would recognize this and events like it."

Allissa Haines:

Good for you. Thank you for doing that. Because sometimes, I want to do the advocacy, but I just don't have the tools or the energy to put into any specific things. So once you give me that letter, I will send it and share it among the Blueprint community as needed.

Cal Cates:

Awesome.

Allissa Haines:

You know I will. I'll be your bitch.

Cal Cates:

Awesome.

Allissa Haines:

Okay. We have covered a lot. I don't want to overload people's brains. I have seven different topics I want to have you on to talk about-

Cal Cates:

Awesome.

Allissa Haines:

... in the future, because I did not get to tell my client's prostate surgery story, which I do want to tell at some point. Actually, I might make an upcoming podcast about that, so I might just cover that. Why not spend a whole episode talking about my client's prostate and because he's given me permission to do so.

Cal Cates:

That's awesome. Well, we might need to have a subcast that's just called Callissa, and you and I just get on once a month and rant about whatever the heck it is and...

Allissa Haines:

Oh, God, help us.

Cal Cates:

Yeah.

Allissa Haines:

Okay. I'm going to flip back to my actual notes so that I can say things that sound smart. Once again, you can go to our show notes massagebusinessblueprint.com/podcast. Just click on the little podcast button, you can see all of our episodes, you can find all of the links, healwell.org/intimacy-2022. Super easy to find, you can totally... This is how I found it. You Google Healwell and intimacy and you will find this conference information, this symposium information. I will be there. I don't know that I'll be in their live the entire day, but I will be there at least for the bulk of the day, and everyone should do this.

Cal Cates:

And I want to tell you guys, it's Saturday, September 24th. We would love it if you're there live, because we're actually hosting it on a new online platform that's going to allow us to have breakout discussion groups with our speakers, with each other, really engage and dig into what's coming up. But if you can't be there that day, if you register, you can watch the content afterwards. So you don't have to be there live. If you don't want to give up your Saturday, that's cool. You can chunk it up and watch it over a period of time, but you got to register to have access to the recordings.

Allissa Haines:

Thank you so much, Cal Cates-

Cal Cates:

You're welcome.

Allissa Haines:

... for joining us-

Cal Cates:

My pleasure.

Allissa Haines:

... on this podcast and in this episode. And if there is anything else, I feel like that's everything. So if you want to tell Cal or I how wrong or inappropriate or blasphemous we have been, you can reach... I'll just forward it right along so you can reach us both at podcast@massagebusinessblueprint.com. If you want to tell us how smart we are, we would love to hear that as well. I'm not posting the video of this, so you cannot tell us how good looking we are, but thank you. Thank you for sticking in with us this far. Thank you Cal for joining us on this episode and we will see everybody next time.

Cal Cates:

Thank you.

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