Avoid Making False Claims

By Laura Allen
[Heart of Bodywork]

Making false claims and inflated promises to clients about our work is unethical, sets the client up for unreasonable expectations, and can come back to haunt us. We’d all like to think we can help every client who comes through the door, but that simply isn’t true. Promising a client you can “fix” their issues can backfire on you, in spite of your best intentions.

You can make a statement such as “Many people with  have experienced relief from massage,” but assuring them that massage is going to “fix” any condition is wrong. There are numerous reasons people experience pain and dysfunction, including the possibility they may have an undiagnosed pathology they (and we) know nothing about. Leading clients to expect too much out of a treatment is never a good idea. As massage therapists, we should stick to expressing we hope massage is going to benefit them and we’ll do our best to help them feel better, instead of promising them it will.

False claims sometimes go beyond having too much confidence in our own ability to help someone and into the realm of making medical claims out of our scope of practice—or worse, claims that have no basis in reality. We are obligated to receive education in anatomy, kinesiology, pathology, and physiology to obtain a license, and yet, many therapists ignore those sciences and make up their own versions of how the human body works. Making such claims is unethical.

Imagine the following scenario: A new client mentions to you during the massage that she’s hoping to start a family soon. You jump right in and tell her you will release the adhesions around her ovaries and align the uterus so she can conceive. She suddenly sits up, tells you this session is over, informs you she is a medical doctor, that she will be reporting you to the board for violating scope of practice, and will furthermore be spreading the word on social media and online review sites that you are a charlatan.

How do you know she has adhesions around her ovaries or that her uterus is “out of alignment?” You don’t. Making false or inflated claims to clients can harm your professional reputation, result in disciplinary action, or even end your career. Stick to the truth, and avoid making unethical claims.

Laura Allen has been a licensed massage therapist since 1999 and a provider of continuing education classes since 2000. She is the author of numerous books and articles, including the fifth edition of The Educated Heart, which Nina McIntosh entrusted to her before her passing. Allen resides in Western North Carolina with her husband, James Clayton, and her two rescue dogs, Fido and Queenie.