What is a power differential? A power differential is a concept used to describe a relationship between two people who are not considered peers and thus hold different amounts of power within that relationship. This is often seen in professional relationships where a highly trained professional is advising or helping a person without the same level of knowledge in a given field. Examples would be: Lawyer/Client, Doctor/Client, Massage Therapist/Client, etc.
In the field of massage therapy we consider the power differential between therapist and client to be necessarily present because of the type of relationship developed, however we also understand it as something to be diminished to the level where the client is able to take-on a large degree of the responsibility for healing themselves.
Most in the field recognize that bodywork is a very productive method of helping another human being, but that it is also up to each individual to put forth the effort and time to make changes in their lives that will help them to be happier and healthier individuals. Part of this effort and time may be devoted to receiving bodywork, however if this is all that a client is willing to do then they cannot expect to see as dramatic a change in their lives as they would if they were making other changes and efforts in their life.
The Client Centered Approach is a useful concept that helps to set a therapeutic context within which the power differential between massage therapist and client can be significantly reduced.