Massage & Bodywork

March/April 2010

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ETHICS AND ETIQUETTE Feedback that front desk receptionists, managers, and owners of massage facilities hear frequently is that the therapist talked too much. Every therapist should know that the session is not at all about the therapist, but a release for the client. It is important to put yourself in the client's place and not allow your emotions to leak through into the session. Questions to ask yourself include: Does the client know more than your credentials, education, and type of work that you do? If a client knows the names of your children, your favorite hobbies, where you hang out in your free time, or whom you are dating, the focus of the session has more than likely shifted to being more about the therapist than the client. Even if a client tries to engage a therapist by asking questions, that therapist needs to stay focused on the client in the session. SEXUAL BOUNDARY Massage should never be sexualized. Usually this boundary is specifi cally spelled out in laws, rules, and regulation. This seems like a given boundary and in the case where a client asks for sex, it is very easy to see that the boundary has been crossed. What may be more diffi cult to see is when human nature enters into the client/ therapist relationship. For example, what happens if you start to feel an attraction for the client? These feelings may be subconsciously conveyed through your hands and body language. The client may pick up on your signals and proceed, or may feel uncomfortable and decide not to come back. If a therapist has feelings for a client beyond the therapeutic relationship, he or she should either get under control or refer the client to someone else. We cannot change human nature, but we can change how the situation evolves. If a client has feelings for a therapist, the therapist needs to explain his or her professional boundaries or refer the client to a different therapist. Exercise Use this as a personal journal to explore where you are today with your boundaries. 1. I know I will never __________________ with a client. 2. I know I will always __________________ with a client. 3. I think I will never __________________ with a client. 4. I think I will always __________________ with a client. PROFESSIONAL BOUNDARY Many entities have guidelines and expectations for therapists' professional behavior including associations, states laws, and employers. All therapists are responsible for knowing these guidelines, fully understanding them, and abiding by them. When in doubt, call the originators of the expectations. For example, if a state law mandates that a therapist have proper training in a modality before performing the work, but does not specify the hours or training that is expected, the therapist should contact the state board for clarifi cation. Another professional boundary that should be respected is discussing other therapists or professions. A client may tell you about other treatments or professionals. It is important to respect the fact that the client is here with you now for a reason. Talking unprofessionally about other therapists is not appropriate or helpful to the client. AN ONGOING PROCESS Maintaining boundaries is an ongoing process for all therapists. On any given day, a therapist or client could intentionally or unintentionally cross a boundary. In many situations, educating the client on your scope of practice and your offi ce policies will be suffi cient and the therapeutic session can continue. If a client chooses to push your boundaries, then the therapist must either end the session or relationship, refer the client to someone else, or decide the client is no longer a suitable client candidate. If you, as a therapist, have crossed a boundary, it is important to look within and think about the services you are meant to provide. Has the relationship been more focused on your needs and not the clients' needs? If necessary, work with a mentor or other professional and refocus your sessions on the clients. Being a professional massage therapist is an everyday lesson in learning. You may learn a new way to approach a treatment plan or a modality. Just as important is learning new and effective ways to negotiate boundaries. Clients will know you have their best interests in mind and will feel safe. As a therapist, you will feel more secure in knowing where your boundaries lie. massage therapist for 18 years, working both in private practice and medical settings. She began teaching massage techniques and ethics 12 years ago and became program manager at Allied College in St. Louis, Missouri, nine years ago. She is the author of Ethics for Massage Therapists (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2006). Contact her at tyardleynohr@ Terrie Yardley-Nohr, LMT, has been a connect with your colleagues on 107

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