Socio-aesthetics, or when touch helps to heal

Socio-aesthetics, or when touch helps to heal

“A patient once said to me, ‘You are humanizing something dehumanized.remembers Marie Orieux, socio-esthetician at the University Hospital of Nantes. The treatment I do the most is body massage. Touch is an important sense, some people have never experienced that, a soft touch.

For four years, at the Espace unit of the psychiatric hospital, which receives adolescents and young adults in crisis, often referred after a suicide attempt, the professional care, a former beautician who chose this specialization, works on the reappropriation of the body. Bodies often bruised, mistreated, harmed by trauma, eating disorders, repeated scarification.

When she arrived, the healthcare team was skeptical. How to reach, in the literal sense of the term, an audience precisely uncomfortable with their body, whose symptoms consisted in inflicting abuse on them? Since then, doctors, nurses and nurses have been conquered.

Here, the socio-aesthetic session is done on medical indication, with the agreement of the young person. Doctor Lucie Gailledrat, psychiatrist of the service, observes patients who wish to repeat this time of well-being, adapted to what they are able to give at a moment T of the hospitalization. “With these significant body attacks, there was a distancing of the body. This time is an opportunity to experience another link to one’s body, a gentle experience. These young people want to love each other better, to stop attacking each other physically. Socio-aesthetics is one of the answers for them.”

Create an “alliance”

On the website of the regional association of socio-aestheticians (ARSE) Pays de la Loire-Bretagne, we can read that “socio-aesthetics is a specialization of the profession of beautician. It participates in a bodily accompaniment of suffering and pain by listening and touching for a well-being. By its vocation of care, the practice is free for the beneficiaries.

Marie Orieux has a room of her own in the Espace unit, a cocoon fitted out like a Zen massage room: soothing colors, reassuring atmosphere, elegantly placed pots of cream, fluffy towels. A la carte care, which begins with an exchange with the person, in order to establish a relationship of trust, a “alliance”, she says. For those who have suffered sexual violence in particular, letting themselves be touched by others is a difficult course.

If the socio-esthetician thought at the beginning to realize “especially hand massages”she was surprised by the letting go of these young people. “They learn to feel or re-feel their bodies, other than through invasive gestures and corporal punishment. Many tell me: “I was scared, I didn’t know what you were going to do to me.” Still others are afraid to show their scarifications. “You’re going to be disgusted,” they tell me.

The hospital environment, possible drug treatments, family or individual interviews with psychiatrists or nurses, all of this is complemented by this benevolent approach to the body. Restoring the image of oneself when one no longer has any trace of self-esteem therefore passes through the nascent desire to take care of one’s carnal envelope again. A form of “body revitalization”summarizes Marie Orieux.

The accompaniment by a socio-beautician can include advice on cosmetic or hygiene products, facial treatments or even massages. “We often start with simple things, bring softness, relearn how to cleanse our face for example.”

For patients

Clémence, a nurse in the Space unit, notices that the patients talk to each other about this workshop. “They come to us and say, ‘I heard about socio-aesthetics…I’d like to go.’ We associate it, wrongly, with something feminine, but the hospitalized boys talk about it too. We explain to them why we advise them to do so. They come out relaxed, with a different posture.” And it’s easier to ask the nursing team which creams to treat their scars with. For the psychiatrist Lucie Gailledrat, “there is something very soothing, very mothering. Something of the order of primary narcissism at the level of portage.

“Those who cannot listen
their emotions, which are constantly cerebral, “in their minds”,
it decenters them.”

Lucie Gailledrat, psychiatrist

Caregivers also take advantage of this workshop to work on the notion of consent and listening to their own limits. “Patients who force themselves a little to do this workshop, we can take it up with them, try to understand whyexplains the psychiatrist. And those who can’t listen to their emotions, who are constantly cerebral, “in their mind”, it decenters them.

Célia, 16, is hospitalized in the unit. The teenager underwent arthrodesis in the spine, a heavy operation. When the team suggested the socio-aesthetics workshop to her, she “asked why we [lui] offered this in a psychiatric hospital”. The young patient loved it. “It’s a real moment of relaxation. It clears the head, it’s a moment of relaxation… But Marie also showed me stretches, she understood why my muscles were contracted. By following these tips, I am less tense.” The teenager has regained self-confidence, reconciles with her body little by little, after three workshops. She enjoys body care, feels “every part anew”has “the impression of being in a beauty salon!”.

Take another look at your body to regain confidence

The presence of the socio-esthetician in the Space unit is made possible by the patronage of a laboratory which offers cosmetic products adapted to the care of patients and is managed by the Nantes University Foundation, which wishes to set up clinical research to better observe the benefits of the profession in a hospital environment. A sponsorship recently renewed for three years. “And fortunately for our patients!”insists Clémence, the nurse.

Because the proposed times are not only individual. A collective workshop, made up of four to five patients, also exists within the department. “In general it’s twice individually, twice collectively”summarizes Marie Orieux.

As a group, this is a colorimetry workshop, to learn how to enhance your appearance. Choose colors, understand their symbolism, perceive its assets, exchange clothing advice, acquire, if desired, make-up techniques… “Improve the way you look at yourself, regain self-esteem and confidence, change the way others look, but above all put into words what they feelinsists the professional. Self-esteem can be worked on at any time in life.

The former beautician, a time teacher of German, went through the university degree (DU) of socio-aesthetics of Nantes and militates so that one day, her profession is valued by a real state diploma. She no longer thrived on depilating her legs daily and, above all, wanted to offer free care. She also works at home with people with cancer, whose mantra is “my body no longer belongs to me”because damaged by heavy invasive treatments. “When I meet a person, I have no idea what I’m going to do for them as care. Socio-aesthetics is adaptation to the patient.”

A lost practice
lack of means

The practice, born in the 1960s in the United States, then imported to the United Kingdom, arrived in France in stride thanks to two beauticians, Jenny Lascar in Lyon and Renée Roussière in Tours, who quickly understood that their profession had a lot to give to patients.

“Jenny Lascar had a hospitalized friend. She simply said to herself that she was going to relieve her by taking care of herrelates Laurence Coiffard, teacher-researcher at the UFR of pharmacy in Nantes, at the origin of the fundraising for the creation of the post of Marie Orieux. Then, the practice was a little lost for lack of means. Its rebirth dates from the first cancer plan, under Jacques Chirac. Since then, socio-aesthetics has developed, particularly in all major oncology departments.

In the other departments, the idea is slowly gaining ground. Lucie Cueff, also a socio-esthetician in Nantes, works with carers in the functional rehabilitation unit, for a while “outside working time, supported, which functions as a decompression airlock after their day’s work”.

But the former president of the local ARSE also works in the thoracic transplant unit (UTT), a service for people with heart or lung transplants, who often stay there for several months. Here, the major problem concerns the scars due to the operation, large, deep and lasting marks. We must accept and tame these new physical imprints, tame dermocosmetic products suitable for skin dryness and scarring, “learning self-palpation, avoiding adhesions… It’s a major bodily impact.”

“For some, it even avoids taking medication. It’s a kind
of outer bubble that comes in
their room, with a gentle touch.”

Lucie Cueff, socio-esthetician

Lucie Cueff is quickly spotted, she who walks around without a blouse, with her massage technique called nursing touch, “which soothes the nervous system and helps you fall asleep”. “For some, it even avoids taking medication. It’s a kind of outer bubble that comes into their room, with a soft touch. It’s refreshing for the patients.” Here again, the caregivers suggest to the healthcare professional the people to see as a priority, about fifteen most of the time, whom she meets every fortnight.

The socio-beautician will then introduce herself, explain her activity, discuss pain or restless sleep. “These are tired people, who are suffering. They have few visits to the UTT. You need to have some experience of touch to comfort these very damaged bodies, often streaked with bedsores.

“Some practices are not
not acceptable”

If the relationship to touch frees speech, socio-estheticians, often isolated in their work, leave with a heavy emotional charge. Lucie Cueff remembers this patient in his forties, suffering from cystic fibrosis and transplanted, with whom she spent almost two hours at each session. “His problem was almost palliative care. He had the feeling that he was no longer just treated as a patient when I came.

Today in France, only four schools are recognized by the Committee of Socio-Aesthetics (COSE), made up of professionals from the sector, and deliver solid diploma training in socio-aesthetics. Because the vein also attracts unscrupulous people or schools of aesthetics, which deliver curious training at a distance – where we speak of a profession of touch, on sick or bruised bodies –, or do little case of the quality of the cosmetic products used, while their importance is crucial for care and possible healing.

“It is a profession for which there is a problem at the moment. Some practices are not acceptablerelates Laurence Coiffard, the cosmetology specialist teacher. We know that people advise patients to take or make this or that product. And it’s dangerous.” So, the few professional professionals don’t give up. The researcher would like to develop this activity with migrant, homeless or incarcerated audiences. “There too, the bodies are damaged and the self-esteem assaulted.For that, it will still be necessary to look for money, decidedly the sinews of war, and a solution to well-being.

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