Ep 80 – Respect Massage: Create a Zero-Tolerance Practice with Joyce Gauthier

Respect Massage zero tolerance logo

Joyce Gauthier is on a mission to empower massage therapists to spot and deter inappropriate client behavior through RespectMassage.com. Join us as she describes how to identify, stop, and get out of a bad situation. From knowing how to properly screen clients to understanding code words and red flags, you’ll be more able to stop illicit behavior before it occurs. Joyce provides verbal cues, marketing collateral for your practice and website, and suggestions for simple security setups. For more information, visit respectmassage.com.

Author Images: 
Joyce Gauthier, founder of Respect Massage
Author Bio: 

Joyce Gauthier is a New York State licensed massage therapist. She owned a successful medical massage practice in a chiropractic office for seven years before following her dream of traveling full time. Her current residence is Gavia, a 42-foot sailing ketch, accompanied by her wonderful husband, Matthew, and a lazy shih tzu named Loki. Joyce is the founder of Respect Massage. The Respect Massage mission is to educate and empower massage therapists so they can easily spot, deter, and escape from clients who are looking for happy endings or “extras.” 


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Full Transcript: 

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0:01:48.4 Darren Buford: Welcome to the ABMP podcast. My name is Darren Buford. I'm the Editor-in-Chief of Massage & Bodywork Magazine and Senior Director of Communications for ABMP.

0:01:56.6 Kristin Coverly: And I'm Kristin Coverly, a licensed massage therapist and ABMP's Director of Professional Education.

0:02:02.4 DB: Our goal is to connect with luminaries and experts in and around the massage, bodywork and wellness profession in order to talk about the topics, trends and techniques that affect our listeners' practices.

0:02:12.7 KC: And listeners, we have some very exciting news. The rebel is coming. Allison Denney, The Rebel MT, is joining the ABMP Podcast Network. Her exciting new podcast focuses on anatomy and hands-on techniques and is fantastic. Tune in this Thursday, March 4th, for the debut episode of The Rebel MT podcast.

0:02:35.9 DB: Our guest today is Joyce Gauthier. Joyce is a New York State licensed massage therapist. She owned a successful medical massage practice in a chiropractic office for seven years before following her dream of traveling full time. Her current residence is Gavia, a 42-foot sailing ketch, accompanied by her wonderful husband, Matthew. Joyce is the founder of Respect Massage. The Respect Massage mission is to educate and empower massage therapists so they can easily spot, deter and escape from clients who are looking for happy endings or extras. Alright, Joyce, I'm gonna dive in here with our first question. I know with regards to your site, and just as you mentioned, that you're doing some continuing education outreach for massage therapists, but there's also some materials that come with the movement. Can you tell me a little bit about... I know there's some stickers. Can you tell me a little bit about the packaging for that and how that might work in a practitioner's practice or office?

0:03:31.9 Joyce Gauthier: Absolutely. So when my husband and I were coming up with the idea... He has a very pivotal role in developing Respect Massage. He's been listening to me for the last 10 years talking about being a massage therapist, so he's basically one himself. So what we originally came up with is, how can we make it super clear that we don't give happy endings as massage therapists? And we came up with, Well, we just hang up a sign. You just have a sign. So we thought long and hard on an appropriate name for this, and a very clear sign that says that this practice is a zero tolerance practice, and we do not offer happy endings. So that's why there is a logo, which is totally free. People can go to respectmassage.com and download the logo for free, so you can put it on your website, you can use it in your social media. And then I also have stickers and window decals. I have social media packets so people can use the Respect Massage zero tolerance logo all over their practice. And even on the website, I've gone a step further where I have a policy that's available for massage therapists to accompany the logo. Within the policy, I've worded it in a way that there's no keywords.

0:04:54.1 JG: So if a massage therapist is using certain keywords, even if it's to deter a sexual solicitation, Google doesn't know the difference. So if there's words on your website or your social media like sex, sexual, happy ending, it's flagging your site when you're just trying to deter it. So that's why I've put a lot of time and effort and teamed up with a very strong editor to make sure that that wording and that policy is spot on. I just wanted to do all this work for massage therapists so they don't have to do it on an individual level. You're trying to heal people. You don't need to be worrying about this stuff. So I did it for you. And if you just go to the website, there's lots of articles. I make lots of... I love making videos and being on camera, so of course there's lots of video. And from anything from red flags, code words, how to screen clients, security systems for massage therapists, ways to deter sexual solicitations, how to get out of inappropriate situations, how to create your space in a way that you can exit quickly. So I've tried to think of every aspect of safety for massage therapists when it comes to sexual solicitations and just make it available to them.

0:06:08.3 KC: Joyce, okay, let's dive deep now into some of the content that supports those two cornerstone concepts of your Respect Massage training. So first is again how to identify and spot and stop a bad situation before it happens, and then that second one is how to get out of a bad situation if you're in it. So starting with that first one, what are some red flags that massage therapists should watch out for to identify and stop a situation before it happens?

0:06:36.2 JG: Okay. So if you have a client that's contacting you to get an appointment and they say, "Other massage therapists were okay with..., " that is a clear red flag of, "Alright, I went to somebody else. They were okay with it. You should be okay with it. You're a professional massage therapist, right? You shouldn't be ashamed of not having draping or my groin injury or this or that," or whatever they're trying to manipulate you into. Because keep in mind, solicitors know that massage therapists are kind and caring people, and if they make them feel in any way that they're not being kind or caring, they know they've got them. And it's usually followed by something about draping or a body part that they want massaged, prostate, lower abdomen, groin, inner thigh, even glutes. I know some of these things are definitely within our scope of practice, but if they're leading with this kind of conversation, your ear should perk up. And either at this point, I would say, "No, thanks," or if you want to continue screening them, you can ask some more questions. So that is a major red flag.

0:07:49.8 JG: Another one is asking what the therapists look like, what nationality they are. Are they male? Are they female? Are they tall? Are they short? Anything... "May we see pictures of the therapists?" That is, nope, we are not going to treat this client, hands down. And then there's other things that are within our scope of practice that are a yellow flag. "Hey, I was riding my bike, I have a groin pull," or something that we commonly see is called the splits. I don't know if you guys have heard of the splits, but it's... An example of the splits is you're walking on the ice, and you slip on the ice and you do a split. So if a client is saying, "I did the splits," it's alluding to a groin pull. So that is another yellow flag. If it's Betty who works at the post office, and she's been your client for two years, and she's like, "Oh my gosh, I did the splits," clearly, she's not looking for a happy ending. If you have some random person texting you on Instagram saying, "Hey, I need a massage. I did the splits," that's a red flag.

0:08:53.4 JG: Also, if they don't wanna talk on the phone, that is a major red flag. If they wanna fly under the radar, "Hey, I wanna pay in cash," So I encourage massage therapists to do things like take a credit card in advance for new clients or to screen them on the phone. You can't screen a client properly through text. If there's anything that a client is doing to try to not be on your records or not fill out an intake form, that's another way, if they don't wanna give you their phone number or their address or their last name. I even know some massage therapists that require a copy of somebody's driver's license to treat them. If one thing comes up, it's okay to ask more questions. If there's multiple red flags all together, just end it. You do not want this person on your table. And if there's anything in your gut that is saying, "This person's intentions are not in line with what my idea of massage therapy is," do not schedule them.

0:09:55.4 DB: Let's take a short break to hear a word from our sponsors. Anatomy Trains is excited to invite you to a new two-day dissection livestream specialty class, The Deep Front Line and Central Nervous System, February 27th and 28th. This advanced dissection livestream educational experience is presented by Tom Myers and Todd Garcia, together in the lab for the first time in a year. In four, two-hour sessions, we will explore detailed anatomy and the fascial connections in the ventral core, what Tom Myers termed the deep front line. Moving on to the brain, spinal cord and fascial membranes that surround the central nervous system in the dorsal cavity. This special dissection livestream format allows us to explore more deeply subjects and areas of interest. Visit anatomytrains.com for details. Now, let's get back to the podcast. Joyce, let me jump in here 'cause you're talking about pre-screening via phone or video, correct? So this is a first-time client and a pre-screen conversation, correct?

0:10:57.8 JG: That is correct. I mean, that is the main goal of Respect Massage, is to screen these people out. They shouldn't even end up on your table.

0:11:05.4 DB: What do you do... I know one of the things that occurs right now, a lot of people are booking electronically. So if that's occurring, are you still reaching out because some people may end up in the treatment room without a conversation?

0:11:18.1 JG: I believe that the technology is there to still continue to screen our clients. So if you have a booking software, I encourage massage therapists to make it so a new client has to call you in order to schedule an appointment. It's gonna weed out all sorts of clients that you don't want. I'm not just talking about people that are sexually inappropriate. I'm talking about those people that are always late, that aren't gonna show up for their first appointment. I think that it's important to make some hurdles for someone to schedule with a massage therapist for the first time to show that it's, A, a good match with this therapist, that it's an ideal client for this therapist, that this client is invested in their health. We're not looking for people that just wanna relax one time. We're looking for someone that wants therapy from massage. That's the goal. So I would say change the settings in your electronic booking to make it so you have to talk to that person right off the bat, and that's a way to alleviate this process, this problem all together.

0:12:20.4 KC: Absolutely. And Joyce, can you give an example of some language? So they're doing the screening, there have been either one or more red or yellow flags, and they're just getting that intuitive hit, "Doubt means no, I need to not go forward with this booking." What language can they use in that situation to stop this process?

0:12:40.1 JG: Absolutely. Well, your client doesn't know how busy you are, your potential clients, so you can say, "You know what, I'm not taking any new clients right now," or, "I do not feel like this is a good match. I feel like you would be better suited elsewhere." When you're saying things like that, please do not send someone that you feel like is inappropriate to another therapist, a chain, a male massage therapist. Don't refer them to anyone, no matter what you think of another massage therapy business because we wanna protect all massage therapists as a whole. So just keep that in mind when you're turning someone down, to not refer them out.

0:13:23.2 DB: Joyce, I wanna circle back around because as Kristin mentioned, with Respect Massage, they're your cornerstones, and the second cornerstone is getting out of a bad situation. So I'm assuming at this point somebody's on your table, and what do you do then if you find yourself caught in a bad situation?

0:13:41.6 JG: You have lots of options. If someone is being blatantly inappropriate, they reach out, they touch you, they're touching themselves, anything that's totally obvious, you can just say no and you can walk out, and then you make sure that you're not alone when they come out. So you get your neighbor, you call the police, you tell your colleague, you pull her out of her session, whatever, just make sure you're not alone when they come out. You don't know how they're going to be feeling at that point. They could be combative. They could be embarrassed. You just wanna make sure you have some backup. So if it's subtle and your gut is telling you something is wrong, and you're afraid that if you say no and you run out of the room, it's going to make the situation even more dangerous, you can say something like, "You know what, I don't feel well. I just have to step out," or, "I'm sorry, I have to go use the restroom," or, "My nose is running, I need to go grab a tissue. I'll be right back. I need to go blow my nose and wash my hands, and then I'll come back just so my hands are clean once again."

0:14:49.5 JG: You can say... They don't know. Their eyes are closed, they're probably face down. And keep in mind, they're the ones that are naked on a table. You have time to escape, to gather yourself, to get some help. And make sure you have your cell phone on you at all times. I understand that a lot of us are energy workers and we don't wanna have that kind of interference in our energy field while we're working, but it's a safety thing. Have your cell phone on you because if you do need to escape quickly, you need to be able to call for help. And if you're fumbling for your phone because it's in your purse in a closet in the front room, you're not gonna be able to get that help.

0:15:30.6 KC: What have you found in working with other therapists in your teaching and training is the piece of information that therapists don't know that they don't know? What is that missing piece of education and information that would be so helpful to protect them and keep them safe going forward?

0:15:49.0 JG: That's a really great question, Kristin, and it's a hard question because this situation, dealing with sexual solicitors, is so individual, and I think that's why it's hard for someone to step up and say, "Here's the black and white answer." I even struggle with that and it's been my passion for the last two years to educate therapists on this, and I've done a lot of research and I've talked to a lot of people. So the missing link for everyone is to look inward and to ask themselves why they actually feel uncomfortable around certain people, and to look at that connection within themselves and say, "Why do I feel unsafe right now? Is this my innate instincts? Is this my lizard brain saying 'Danger, danger, danger, get out.'" That's within your gut that's saying something's wrong or is there something else going on where you've had past experiences, where you've had other sources of education, where what's happened in massage school when you ask that question about an erection and you were blown off by your teacher? Is that what's happening? Why are you questioning yourself in this moment?

0:16:57.8 JG: And that's a very individual journey. So if someone felt drawn to listen to this podcast for the subject matter and they've made it this far into the podcast towards the end, then you need to do that homework. You need to go meditate and really look inward on the subject and what your relationship is with it. And if you're having problems with it, why does this keep on happening to you? Why do some massage therapists not have a problem with this at all, and other massage therapists struggle with this every day? We have to do a lot of introspective work when it comes to this, and I encourage massage therapists to do that work. We're really good at that. We have great intuition. We know our guts. And it's when we start questioning them because of all these outside sources saying, "No, you're wrong, you're wrong, you're overreacting. No, no, no, no, no," and just do that homework.

0:17:47.7 DB: Joyce, I have a couple of rapid-fire questions quickly. One is, should practitioners use a photo on their website and in their marketing materials?

0:17:56.1 JG: Yes.

0:17:58.6 DB: I agree because I...

0:18:00.0 JG: Would you like me to expand? [chuckle]

0:18:02.7 DB: Yeah, I would like you to expand because I feel like their power is being taken away a little bit by these solicitors, right? I hate that. So can you expand on that?

0:18:09.1 JG: Yeah, I agree with you there. Absolutely, we don't want to have to change the way that we look or we appear or the way that we dress. That is not the message of Respect Massage. We are here to empower massage therapists everywhere to be themselves. You having a picture of yourself on your website allows you to attract the client of your dreams, saying, "This is who I am. This is me." So the more specific you can be on your website about who you are, who you're looking for, it's going to call those clients to you. It's that law of attraction. They're gonna come to you, and it's going to be more apparent to sexual solicitors that you're not the appropriate massage therapist for them. It's showing that you're a real person with real feelings, with real emotions. You're not... That's why I tell people not to use stock photography on their websites because it looks generic. It looks like all the massage parlor websites. You don't wanna actually show anything but lotus flowers and rocks, and that makes you look more like a parlor. So I feel like having your picture up there makes you look more like a legitimate business as opposed to... Look, I have a whole YouTube video about that.

0:19:25.6 JG: I say, "Go and look at a massage parlor's website, and how can you differentiate yourself from these websites as much as possible." And having your picture up there with your family or whatever you're comfortable with... I think there's also something to be said about keeping boundaries clear about our personal lives and about our lives as a therapist. And by having whatever you wanna put up on your website, it controls your identity that you're putting out there to the world. I do it myself. I know ABMP does it. Any marketing is just putting out there what you want people to see and you can just not show the rest. Do you know what I mean, Darren?

0:20:07.7 DB: Absolutely. Listeners, if you listened to the Massage Nerd last episode with Ryan Hoyme, we absolutely touched on this as well. And it wasn't necessarily about having the highest quality. Certainly, you can go hire a photographer. Certainly, you can hire a videographer to get a level of quality. Some of it's about the realism of who you are. And our phones, our smartphones, are such high quality that having an image of yourself or a video of yourself practicing certain techniques go such a long way in establishing your professionalism to potential clients out there.

0:20:40.4 JG: Exactly. It shows the type of work you do. It shows who you wanna be... I mean, you can take pictures of you working on clients. Choose your models to look like the clients that you want to work on. We don't want to have these practices where we have these perfect looking models. It's like, let's use some real people, and it makes us look more genuine as massage practitioners that we work with different types.

0:21:05.4 DB: I wanted to have one quick turn again and come back to just when you're in the situation during a session and how to get out of that. Do you recommend a security system or like a panic button?

0:21:19.0 JG: Yeah, I do. I've done a lot of research on that, and it's amazing how inexpensive and available and easy to set up simple security systems like Ring, or you can have a little camera outside of your massage practice. Unfortunately, a lot of us work alone, which is not something that I recommend doing, but I get it. We're independent practitioners. We're small business owners. A lot of us can't afford to hire staff. So to have a security system there, it's like having a third person there when you're left alone. So it allows you to say, "Okay, I'm working by myself. It's just gonna be me and my client." You can lock that door to the outside to make sure no one's coming in while you're in a session. You can have a security camera with a doorbell so if you have a new client coming in or any client coming in, they ring the doorbell, you can see their face, you know it's them.

0:22:16.0 JG: I've heard a lot of stories about massage therapists that say, "Yeah, I lock my door, but I let someone in and it wasn't my client, and then I was in an uncomfortable situation." It's like, "Well, if you just have a camera with a doorbell outside your door and you keep it locked and you say, 'Oh sorry, I don't have any openings today, bye.'" And then there's a locked door. These security systems, they're under $250. To have cameras, panic button... Panic buttons are so cool. It's a button that you can stick right under your massage table, you press the button and it calls 911 or it calls your contact list and says that you need help. Google. If you can... In Google Maps, there's a way for you to share your location with people. This is free. So you're a mobile massage therapist and you say, "Okay, I'm gonna share my location with you, you're gonna see when I get there, you're gonna see when I leave, you're gonna see if I go anywhere that I'm not supposed to be going." The technology is there. I have a lot of information about that on my website as to... I've done the research for you, and it's there for you.

0:23:22.4 KC: Joyce, how can massage therapists get involved in the Respect Massage movement?

0:23:28.2 JG: Go to the website, respectmassage.com. You can download your free logo, you can start using it and spreading the word about what it means to be a massage therapist that's a member of Respect Massage, and start digging through all of those resources. Visit my YouTube channel, read the articles that are in the blog. If you want to order items, if you want to take the course, I think the course is a great way to... It's just all the information is right there for you and you can get some Ethics CEUs as well.

0:23:58.3 DB: And Joyce, do you have a final message for our listeners? This has been an amazing, enlightening podcast, and just as Kristin referenced, we have only touched the surface here. There's so much amazing information on your site, and we love and are so proud of the work that you're doing out there for the field. Any final message for the listeners?

0:24:17.4 JG: Thank you, Darren. That's really... You're gonna make me cry. Thank you, Darren. Thank you, Kristin. Thank you, ABMP. I am very honored. Thank you. So the final message I would like to say is trust your gut. If it feels wrong, just end it. Get out, shut it down. Your gut is there, your instincts are there, your intuition is there to protect you and trust it.

0:24:40.1 DB: I wanna thank our guest today, Joyce Gauthier, for joining us. Listeners, you can find out more information by visiting respectmassage.com.

0:24:48.9 KC: Joyce, thank you so much for everything you're doing for the profession through Respect Massage and for taking the time to be with us today and share this critical information with our listeners. We really appreciate you. Thank you so much.

0:25:00.7 JG: Thank you, Kristin.

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