By Laura Allen
[Heart of Bodywork]

Clients should have the expectation of privacy, beginning with your first phone conversation and continuing throughout the entire relationship. Gossiping (or complaining) about clients to others is a violation of confidentiality. If you talk to your clients about other clients, they’re going to wonder if you’ll be talking to the next client about them.
The internet—and social media in particular—has exponentially magnified the issue of client confidentiality. There are open groups on Facebook where people chatter away about clients—open being the key word. That means anyone, not just massage therapists, can see everything that’s said in the group, including past, present, and future clients, although the latter is apt to be scared off by some of the things they see there.
Many times, social media posts about clients take the form of bragging. Hardly a day goes by without me seeing a massage therapist bragging about some celebrity they’ve given a massage to. Hopefully, you wouldn’t put it on social media that you massaged Mary Jones from down the street, so why would you think it’s OK to say you massaged someone who everyone knows? It isn’t. This seems to be a particular trend whenever there’s a major sporting event, like the Super Bowl, World Cup, or US Open.
If you massage a celebrity, and they take a selfie with you, give you a written testimonial or post a public review, or tweet that they got a massage from you and it was great, then carry on. Otherwise, keep your lip zipped and your fingers off the keyboard. Many of these violations take place without mentioning the client’s name, but when it’s someone who has a public persona, it’s still a clear violation. I’ve seen people on Facebook saying they massaged the Crown Prince of Dubai, the CEO of the Miami Dolphins, the winner of the Stanley Cup, Beyoncé’s manager, or owners of big corporations, and anyone can look up that person’s name in an instant.
The same holds true in a rural area or small town: everyone probably knows the eccentric 85-year-old who drives a Porsche, dyes her hair purple, and has 50 cats. You don’t have to say her name for everyone in town to know who you’re talking about.
Observing confidentiality is in the code of ethics in every regulated state. A massage session is a personal, private experience, or, at least it should be. If any
client, celebrity or not, chooses to brag—or complain—publicly about the massage you gave them, that’s OK; they’re the client. It’s OK for them to say it; it’s not OK for you to say it.

Commitment to Confidentiality
Of the 10 points in ABMP’s code of ethics, number seven specifically addresses confidentiality: “I will keep client communication and information confidential and will not share client information without the client’s written consent, within the limits of the law. I will ensure every effort is made to respect a client’s right to privacy and provide an environment where personal health-related details cannot be overheard or seen by others.”
To read all 10 points in ABMP’s Code of Ethics, visit

Laura Allen is the author of Nina McIntosh’s The Educated Heart, 4th edition (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2016) and numerous other books. She has been a massage therapist for 19 years. Allen lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina with her two rescue dogs, Fido and Queenie.