The Ethics of Massage Therapy (Part V)

Any professional massage therapist will tell you that boundaries are important things for a therapist to establish and maintain. My last two entries have focused on why these boundaries (professional, legal, and personal) are important. Today, I want to focus on some specific examples of personal boundaries being crossed; next week I will offer some specific ideas about policies that therapists can adopt to make sure events such as the ones from today’s blog do not happen.

I mentioned at the end of my blog last week that when a therapist or a client crosses a personal boundary it is called transference.  Transference is something that can take place very easily as clients can come to a massage session with expectations of what services massage therapists offer (again, see my entry from last week)

More importantly, most clients come to massage therapists looking to receive service for something that they cannot do on their own. This puts the therapist in a position of power, which can lead to situations where clients believe that therapists know more about themselves and their condition that the clients do themselves. Add in the fact that most clients are naked when receiving a massage and misplaced feelings of vulnerability, affection, and obsession can occur.

Thus, transference is something that can be highly probable in the field of massage therapy. Fortunately, it is usually precluded by small intrusions on boundaries, either stated or unstated, that therapists and clients can pick up on. It is important that, if something like the following scenarios occurs, therapists take a step back and explain to their clients that their relationship is a professional one and that the client should respect the professional/personal boundary. Some common examples of transference occurring are when clients start:

1. Giving gifts to the therapist

2. Needing/demanding extra time on the table

3. Buying products the therapist sells only to please the therapist

4. Calling the therapist at home

5. Wanting to date the therapist

6. Wanting an extremely reduced rate (they want the therapist to show them that they are special and deserving.)

7. Discussing personal issues with the therapist ( the therapist is only qualified to do massage)

8. Expressing more affection than the therapist feels comfortable with

9. Making any sort of sexual advances, direct or indirect

These example were taken from TheBodyWorker Web site. Check the site out for more specific examples of transference and a general background on the ethics of massage therapy. Of course, you can also read more explanations of the blurring of personal/professional boundaries, inappropriate actions, and the importance of boundaries themselves at the linked JoyLife Web sites.

Again, next week’s blog will focus on actions to take to avoid the scenarios of today’s blog, or at least to nip them in the bud when they do take place.

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