At ABMP, we know that it’s a priority for our members to connect one-on-one with clients. The recent Massage Envy sexual assault incidents reported by BuzzFeed can make for difficult conversations with clients. We’ve received feedback, as well as requests, for further information about how best to proceed with clients in the aftermath of this story. Following are some suggestions:
• Begin by assuring your clients that legitimate massage therapists have a no-tolerance policy for sexual misconduct—for both therapists and clients, regardless of gender.
• The ABMP Code of Ethics specifically includes a commitment to personal and professional boundaries:
I will refrain from and prevent behaviors that may be considered sexual in my massage practice and uphold the highest professional standards in order to desexualize massage. I will not date a client, engage in sexual intercourse with a client, or allow any level of sexual impropriety (behavior or language) from clients or myself. I understand that sexual impropriety may lead to sexual harassment charges, the loss of my massage credentials, lawsuits for personal damages, criminal charges, fines, attorney's fees, court costs, and jail time.
• Print out and prominently place the ABMP Code of Ethics in your space and/or post it on your professional website or professional social media pages. It can be found online at www.abmp.com/abmp-code-ethics.
• This is a perfect time to review your protocols. Hone your draping skills. Check in often with clients to assess their comfort levels and preferences. Maintain your professionalism before, during, and after the session through appropriate behavior, conduct, and attire. Keep conversations professional and directed toward therapeutic massage.
• Focus on why you chose this healing profession and be the very best massage ambassador possible.
Following is a collection of articles from Massage & Bodywork magazine that serve as reminders of professional conduct.
• “Massage Therapy and Sexual Misconduct: Protecting Our Clients, Ourselves, and Our Profession,” by Ben E. Benjamin, PhD, September/October 2017, page 56.
• “Broken Trust: I Was Victimized by My Bodywork Practitioner,” by Emma K., September/October 2015, page 76.
• Laura Allen’s Heart of Bodywork columns also in Massage & Bodywork magazine.
- “The Right to Refuse a Client,” November/December 2017, page 31
- “Scope of Practice,” July/August 2017, page 37
- “What Happens If You’re Accused of an Ethics Violation?” May/June 2017, page 35
- “A Red Flag: Bending Our Own Boundaries,” March/April 2017, page 35
- “The Nuts and Bolts of Boundaries,” January/February 2017, page 33
Ultimately, you are the best ambassador for what reputable, therapeutic massage therapy can and should be—session by session and client by client. ABMP is here to support you. Together we can all make a difference.