Massage & Bodywork

September/October 2008

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Page 126 of 163

RED FLAGS: EXCEPTIONS Most of us understand that we're running a business as well as helping people heal their bodies. We know that businesses need policies to keep our practices within boundaries and allow us to do our best work. For instance, perhaps you charge $70 for an hour, don't work after 8 p.m. or on Sundays, and you reject clients who make sexually inappropriate remarks. But, if you're like many massage therapists, every now and then you make an exception and you may give a client a $10 discount or schedule a Sunday afternoon massage or let it slide when a new client flirts. They seem like such small exceptions—what could be the problem? When you make an exception to your policies, it could be no big deal or it could turn into big trouble. It depends on why you made the exception. You create your policies for good reasons— for instance, to make enough money to live on, to give yourself enough down time, to protect yourself and your reputation, or to honor your values. The way you set up your practice provides a safe structure for you. When you make an exception and step outside that safe structure, you need to have a good reason for doing so. There are some good reasons for making an exception to policies you've established: you might give discounts to students or senior citizens who are on a fixed income or you may work during your normal off-hours for someone who is in town for only a short time, see a client in crisis during your off-hours, or excuse a regular client who tells an off-color joke if you think he means no disrespect. There are also some not-so- good reasons for making exceptions, reasons that send a wrong message to the client and that should send up a red flag to you: "Warning! I'm about to get into a world of trouble." The rest of this article concerns itself with those reasons. In my own practice, both minor and major disasters have resulted from making special arrangements for a client without good reason. At the time, I justified those exceptions in my own mind, but I was usually just making excuses for not setting limits well, for not taking good—for you and your clients 125

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