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Defining a Field

(Document originally created by Kevin and Barbara Kunz for Ontario reflexologists in Fall, 1997)

The process of professionalization includes the process of obtaining the sanction of the community as a valued and needed service. While reflexology practitioners have achieved the informal sanctioning of the community, reflexologists in many areas are currently involved in the process of obtaining official (governmental) sanctioning for their professional practices.

Kunz, Kevin and Kunz, Barbara, Reflexions, Vol. 18, No. 3, Summer/Fall 1997, p. 1

Official Sanctioning and Definition

At the core of issues involving any profession is that of definition. A definition can serve a number of purposes ranging from that of focus for informal discussion to that of legally mandated scope of practice.Listed below are views of definition from sociologists and lawyers about the role of definition in the formal sanctioning of a profession and a professional:

 

"A professional is not merely skillful. His basis of judgement on how and when to act is grounded in a body of knowledge that is internally consistent; in short a theory.... "(The community grants professional authority to a profession) only to the area the professional is trained in.... "Formal approval may come in the form of legislation, licensing and an examination system." (Schneider, Jill, "A Definition of a Profession and Some Notes Pertaining to Reflexology," Reflexions, Vol. 6, No. 2, Jul./Aug./Sept., 1985, pp. 3-4)

 

"No profession survives without formal sanctioning of a 'legal scope of work.' One must be created to ensure the survival of the professional practice.

(Luecks-English, J. A., Health in the New Age, A Study in California Health Practices, University of New Mexico Press, 1990)

"Malpractice liability protects patients' expectations that providers will shield them from harm by following the standards of diagnosis and treatment accepted by their profession. Legislatively defined scopes of practice ensure that practitioners confine their interventions to those they are trained to offer. Informed consent obligations ensure that providers let patients know of the risks involved in specific treatments before they give consent to treatment."

(Dumoff, Alan, and Cohen, Michael H., ed., "Malpractice Liability of Alternative / Complementary Health Care Providers, Part One," Alternative and Complementary Therapies, June/July, 1995)

Kunz, Kevin and Kunz, Barbara, Reflexions, Vol. 18, No. 3, Summer/Fall 1997, p. 1

Creating Definition / Building a Profession

In exchange for the formal sanctioning of the community, the profession and the professional accept the role of protector of the public good in relationship to the professional practice. Through their expert opinions, professionals create definition and ethical structure to safeguard the public. To some extent, definition serves to create boundaries within society for a profession. It also creates a niche of expertise unique from all others.

Kunz, Kevin and Kunz, Barbara, Reflexions, Vol. 18, No. 3, Summer/Fall 1997, p. 1

Examples of Definition and Registration

Examples are available of a definition process for reflexologists and a state registration process for alternative practitioners.

Kunz, Kevin and Kunz, Barbara, Reflexions, Vol. 18, No. 3, Summer/Fall 1997, p. 1

Example: Defining Reflexology in the US

The process of defining reflexology in the US began in 1982, following the conviction of an Illinois reflexologist for practicing medicine and podiatry without a license. In response, Kunz and Kunz researched the issue of professional reflexology practice. Specific concerns included (1) an attorney's opinion that reflexology could not be practiced legally subsequent to the decision and (2) increasing questions about the differences, if any, between reflexology practice and massage practice. A definition was created following a review of written works and reflexology practices in the US by Kunz and Kunz. See below.

Kunz, Kevin and Kunz, Barbara, Reflexions, Vol. 18, No. 3, Summer/Fall 1997, p. 1

Examples of Definitions Adopted in the US

1. Kunz and Kunz, 1983:

"Reflexology is the physical act of applying pressure the feet (and hands) with techniques that do not utilize cream, lotion or oil, assessed on the basis of zones and areas with the premise that such work effects a physical change."

2. California Conference of Reflexologists, 1989

Foot and hand reflexology is the physical act of applying pressure to reflex areas and zones in the feet and hands with specific thumb, finger and hand techniques performed without oils, lotions or creams; with the premise that a physiological change can take place in the body."

3. North American Reflexology Conference, 1989

Foot and hand reflexology is a scientific art based on the premise that there are zones and reflex areas in the feet and hands which correspond to all body parts. The physical act of applying specific pressures using thumb, finger and hand techniques performed without oil, lotions or creams results in stress reduction causing a physiological change in the body."

4. American Reflexology Certification Board, 1991

"Foot and hand reflexology is a scientific art based on the premise that there are zones and reflex areas in the feet and hands which correspond to all body parts. The physical act of applying specific pressures using thumb, finger and hand techniques results in stress reduction causing a physiological change in the body."

5. Reflexology Association of America, 1996

"Foot and hand reflexology is based on the premise that there are zones and reflex areas which correspond to all glands, organs, parts and systems of the body. The physical act of applying specific pressure using thumb, finger and hand techniques to these reflex areas results in the in the reduction of stress which promotes physiological change in the body."

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