The Science of Compassion

The Science of Compassion

A desire to help others is the calling that urges many individuals to pursue careers in massage therapy. As this interesting article from Massage Today discusses, that sense of compassion is a trait that surfaces in a variety of professions and is an important formative component of any RMT’s career. Compassion gives your practice a purpose, and it enriches the treatment experiences of your patients.

But there’s more to compassion than the pleasantness of bedside manner: it may be scientifically significant for outcomes. Emerging research is seeking to better define compassion’s role in patient care. What we do know is that compassion enhances touch therapy, which triggers the release of oxytocin.

Compassion creates a traceable bond between practitioner and patient too, particularly when practitioners and therapists keenly “feel” the pain or discomfort of their clients. This is a more common biological response than we may think. In fact, research indicates that brain responses to suffering pain and watching someone else suffer pain are actually very similar.

When witnessing suffering, those who mediate in pain management of others are more likely to have neurological responses related to feelings like care, sympathy, and a desire to help someone.  For others, witnessing suffering is more likely to trigger less productive sympathetic feelings of sadness and helplessness.

The science of caring has been a much-pursued vein of study. As the article points out, researchers have observed significant decreases in patient anxiety when a doctor takes the time to engage in meaningful, compassionate communication.

All of these findings make the formula for effective patient therapy clear: it involves compassion in speech, body language and touch. And as the author of this article points out, mastering these compassionate behaviours takes practice. Although compassion is a natural quality present in most human beings to one degree or another, it takes cultivation to truly develop into a guiding philosophy for healing and touch therapy.

With the right encouragement however, the article argues that compassion in touch therapy may just have the power to reverse the often cold, clinical and impersonal nature of healthcare. What do you think? Do you feel a genuine connection to your work and a moving compassion for your clients?


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