Code of Ethics

By Allissa Haines and Michael Reynolds
[Blueprint for Success ]

If you’ve ever meandered through your ABMP membership package, you’ve likely seen the ABMP Code of Ethics. It outlines 10 principles of the massage and bodywork profession, provides a framework for our conduct, and is comprehensive as well as aspirational, which is fitting for an organization that serves 80,000-plus members who come from different educational backgrounds and who provide care in an endless variety of environments and with many modalities. Reading through the ABMP Code of Ethics ( also made me think about what I would put in my own code, specific to my business, and how it could be valuable to do so.

What is a Code of Ethics?

A code of ethics is a set of standards of conduct that the members of a group are expected to uphold. For our purposes, it would apply to you as the owner of your business and anyone who works for you as an employee. A code of ethics could also refer to an individual’s personal values or sense of right and wrong.

When you run a small heart-based caregiving business, your code of ethics should be a combination of your values and conduct guided by those values. It should also be a guide of best practices to follow for honesty, integrity, and professionalism.

Should I Create My Own?

When you struggle with a decision or interaction in your business, you should be able to turn to your code of ethics to help you determine the course most in alignment with your values. After all, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day logistics of running a business and forget why we are here (to serve) and how we truly want to do that (with the highest levels of integrity). Creating a code of ethics adds strength and structure to your priorities and can be a way to think through the goals of your business, as well as a way to reiterate your strengths—and remind you of the weaknesses you are working toward solving.

As a business owner, creating and revisiting the code of ethics can help you course-correct (and grow). It takes time to become/grow into the kind of business owner we want to be. A personal code of ethics is a tool to guide that growth. Creating a code of ethics and sharing it openly on your website can also help you attract the right kind of clients for your practice.

Aspirational vs. Practical

Some aspects of a code of ethics may be aspirational. For example, “Commitment to Uphold the Inherent Worth of All Individuals” is somewhat aspirational. This could mean different things in different contexts, with different clients. In one case, it could mean an affirmative reply to validate a client’s experience. In another situation, it could mean you hold your tongue when a client tries to instigate a contentious conversation.

Some statements in a code of ethics are objective guidelines. “Commitment to Confidentiality” is a clear behavioral choice in which you refrain from discussing information about a client or even acknowledging a client relationship without clear and specific permission from the client, and even then only if divulging information is truly necessary for care or safety. Such a commitment would also indicate that you are mindful of keeping any physical records safely under lock and key and any devices that could contain client information password protected.

What Goes into a Code of Ethics?

Your approach to creating a code of ethics may vary, but I decided that my code of ethics should contain three parts that consider my responsibilities to clients, colleagues, and myself. Notice that there is certainly an overlap of the following three areas, but that’s a good thing! There is always plenty of overlap in our small, caregiving massage businesses—that’s just part of who and what we are.

Responsibilities to Clients

• Provide the best possible care given my abilities, and refer out if a client’s needs are not being fully met by my services.

• Work only within my scope of practice as defined by my state regulations and by my training.

• Keep clients emotionally and physically safe.

• Vigilantly protect confidentiality.

Responsibility to Colleagues

• Be respectful in written and verbal communications (both with and about colleagues).

Responsibility to Myself

• Prioritize my own needs regarding boundaries around privacy, time, and income.

• Maintain clear and complete financial records that adhere to business and tax regulations.

• Commit to continuous learning on topics that impact how I connect with my clients and colleagues regarding racism, ableism, and other forms of discrimination faced by marginalized and unserved communities.


The very process of thinking through your priorities for conduct and values is illuminating. The results can guide your future decisions and relationships, and the growth and reputation of your business.

Allissa Haines and Michael Reynolds are found at, a member-based community designed to help you attract more clients, make more money, and improve your quality of life.