Reflexology: Heart & Sole; A Journey to Respectability

Reflexology: Heart & Sole; A Journey to Respectability

(This article serves as an introduction to the history of Reflexology and kicks off a new column for Massage & Bodywork by Marcia Aschendorf of the International Academy for Reflexology Studies. Future columns will address questions from readers and will include specific reflex areas and how they affect different health problems. Please send all comments and questions to Massage & Bodywork Magazine, Reflexology Column, 28677 Buffalo Park Road, Evergreen, CO 80439-7347.)

The field of Reflexology has really taken a beating in the last five years or so. Everywhere you look you will find an article written on the subject or a tape promising to make you an expert if you will only buy it and do what it says. There are books that tell you the authors know all the right places to push and rub on the feet to make you feel better. You can also buy shoes, socks, and other "amazing" gadgets that will stimulate your reflexes for you. It seems that suddenly everyone is an expert on Reflexology. Quite frankly, it alarms me to see this happening. The field of Reflexology is not a circus or side show.

In its earliest history, Reflexology was used as both a natural restorative and a preventative. Current and past research from around the world and the U.S. have likewise shown it to be both. Today Reflexology is used not only in the home, but also in the hospital and in clinical settings in many countries throughout the world.

The field has many people to thank for its development and survival. What we now know as Reflexology has been known by such names as Contact Reflex Analysis, Touchpoint, and Zone Therapy, to name just a few. Even Eunice Ingham Stopfel, one of the most widely known early pioneers in the U.S., called it by another name. After much thought and application, she changed the name to Reflexology. During those early years, she was busy teaching doctors what Reflexology was and how to use it effectively. During World War II the U.S. government hired her to train pilots to use Reflexology to heal themselves when shot down behind enemy lines. Reflexology must have been highly respected and very powerful if the government thought it would help save the life of a pilot when shot down. Suddenly that respect disappeared. What happened? Eunice alluded in The Glands that Reflexology had an effect on the endocrine glands. The medical community told her that her statement sounded a lot like practicing medicine to them and that she could not print that statement in her book. But Eunice knew that Reflexology was a valid therapy because over the years she had seen too many wonderful responses. She rewrote the book, The Glands, and named it Stories the Feet Have Told. She treated Reflexology with the respect it deserved.

Eunice tried and failed many times to get the medical community to continue using Reflexology as a therapy. Unfortunately, she failed in her endeavor. Frustrated with her treatment by the medical community, she took her beloved Reflexology to the public as a lay course. She instructed people how to help take care of themselves using Reflexology. Her nephew, Dwight Byers, continues in her footsteps today.

During the late 70's and early 80's the public really caught on to Reflexology. The groundswell began. Why didn't their doctors know about it and how great it was? The doctors all claimed ignorance. By this time, most of the doctors who had known Eunice and her work were no longer practicing. The new crop of doctors coming up behind knew nothing of the history of Reflexology. The public kept searching for those who practiced Reflexology, and people still took the lay course to learn how to do it for themselves.

There were many talented people who took those lay courses. Some were gifted in touch, others had a good background in the scientific medical world. These people made Reflexology their profession and accepted money for working on others. Students taking the typical lay courses begged and pleaded for more education and training. They accepted the responsibility and showed their respect by continuing their education in the field. By continuing our education, I have earned a Doctor of Reflexology, and my husband is completing his Master of Reflexology.

Since I entered the field in 1989 I have seen many changes. Many doctors and hospitals are now allowing Reflexologists to work in their facilities. Insurance companies are now paying for treatment. I am not alone in having the privilege to work in the hospital setting, network with both allopathic and naturopathic doctors, and get insurance companies to pay for the treatment.

Reflexology is and always has been a valuable form of natural therapy. The Center for Reflexology Research is almost in full swing. It is a center devoted exclusively to the research of Reflexology, the first of its kind in the world. We intend to prove the efficacy of Reflexology by duplicating studies done in other countries and to help integrate Reflexology into all forms of health care. We know Reflexology is a powerful therapy.

Reflexology's journey to respectability has been a long one. The field's history points to a period of interest and respect by the medical community, a waning of that respect, and a resurgence of that respect. As a natural therapy, Reflexology falls under the jurisdiction of Naturopathy. The definition for naturopathy and what it encompasses includes the use of anything natural in the treatment of illness. What is more natural than the Reflexologist's touch?

Lastly, education in the field must change. Reflexology is not a skill you can acquire by just reading a book or taking a lay course. We have had people call asking us to refer clients to them when their only education was that they had a foot rub from someone and decided that "I can do that." My husband and I have had the privilege and opportunity to teach and study in China, where Reflexology is a well-respected natural therapy. We teach doctors and the lay person, both in the university and hospital settings. We have been invited and will again teach in China this year. I have also had the privilege to teach in Medillin, Columbia, South America, with invitations to teach in Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. Reflexology is a highly respected natural therapy in these countries as well.

Our Professional Reflexology training program at the International Academy for Reflexology Studies requires 600 hours of classroom instruction with 150 hours of supervised clinical application. All programs that want to teach a professional, therapeutic course should meet the limited practitioner licensure laws of their state, as we have, and have accreditation from their state's proprietary boards. Only then will Reflexology gain the final step in the journey to respectability.

Recently, the International Massage and Somatic Therapies Accreditation Council (a division of Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals) began accrediting bodywork therapy training programs. This accreditation program has developed a vehicle by which all somatic practices can establish their credibility. We urge all those who are considering Reflexology as a profession to seek out those programs that are accredited. Those who are currently teaching need to examine their motives and their curriculum. Does their curriculum meet the above standards? Those of us who teach have a responsibility to the public and to the field of Reflexology. The lay course thinking and teaching practices of the past, while still acceptable for self-help, can no longer stand as sufficient education for the "Professional Reflexology Therapist."

Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals Inc.

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By Marcia L. Aschendorf

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