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L i s te n to T h e A B M P Po d c a s t a t a b m m /p o d c a s t s o r w h e reve r yo u a cce s s yo u r favo r i te p o d c a s t s 31 It is highly likely you will have a client who is significantly different from you. It is important that these differences do not affect the therapeutic relationship. It is a violation of a client's intellectual boundaries to use any type of spiritual approach without permission. This would include praying, chanting, using crystals, telling clients about visions you had during the session, etc. It doesn't mean to not do these things at all. It means you should say to your client, "I offer [energy work, crystal healing, mantra chanting]. Is that something that interests you? If not, I can easily forgo those approaches and still deliver quality work that meets your needs." • Wear a neutral, professional uniform. For example, a plain-colored shirt instead of a shirt with words or images on it, even if they seem positive to you. • Do not discuss your personal perspectives and opinions with clients. A general rule of thumb: If it doesn't directly relate to your client's therapeutic goals, it is off limits. If a client makes a comment about something that is not in alignment with your perspectives, leave it be. Don't comment or respond. Simply roll right past it and redirect the conversation to the therapeutic goal. • Last, but not least, get honest with yourself about your own biases. If you find yourself judging your client, it would be wise to address the bias in a safe and confidential environment. Journal about it, talk to a trusted colleague, or talk to a therapist (especially if it triggers posttraumatic stress in you). If you feel bias toward your client, it is highly unlikely you will offer work that has therapeutic value. These suggestions are not meant to create a stale, cold, or impersonal environment. You can offer a peaceful and nurturing environment in which clients feel your warmth and care without imposing belief systems. HOW TO RESPOND WHEN A BOUNDARY IS CROSSED Intellectual boundary violations can be genuinely unintentional. If a client is expressing an opinion, even one that you agree with, you can simply not respond and continue to do your work. If a client is really pushy or aggressive even after you have attempted to dial down the situation, you have every right to terminate the session. Following are examples of minor and major boundary violations and how you might handle them. Minor Violations If a client is expressing a strong opinion, you might say, "It sounds like that's really important to you. Where do you feel that experience in your body? Can you take some deep breaths into that space and release or disperse it just for this time so you can allow yourself to retreat from it?" If they continue or ask you if they have offended you, simply say, "My opinions, both those that are similar and different from yours, aren't part of the session. It's best if we stay focused on [insert the therapeutic goal] and really allow your nervous system some space to shift into healing mode." Likewise, if a client reacts to something you say, you can respond with, "I genuinely did not intend to upset you. I apologize. Are you comfortable continuing the session?" However, the likelihood of upsetting a client is greatly reduced if you follow the previously stated recommendations. Major Violations Your safety is as important as your clients' safety, so if you feel threatened you can say, "I'm not comfortable with the tone of this conversation. It is not supportive to our therapeutic goals, so I'm going to end the session now." You also have a right to not work with that client further. If they try to rebook at any time, you can say you do not feel you can offer the quality of care they need or that you are not comfortable with the interpersonal dynamics, but you will gladly offer them contact information for two or three other therapists they might choose from. Keep it simple. There is no need for argument from either side. CREATE A REFUGE We all have varying histories, experiences, triggers, and valid reasons for responding to stimulus in the ways we do. Ultimately, our boundaries are ours to determine and maintain. The most important part is for this to be done with purpose and professionalism, which involves always respectfully honoring boundaries— our clients' as well as our own—and remembering that the treatment room is not the place for social commentary. It is, instead, a refuge. Since 2000, Cindy Williams, LMT, has been actively involved in the massage profession as a practitioner, school administrator, instructor, curriculum developer, and mentor. She maintains a private practice as a massage and yoga instructor. Contact her at

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