Posts Tagged ‘Ethics’

I just wanted to take a moment to address the sexual misconduct involving one of the giant massage therapy chains that has been in the news recently.  I am horrified and disgusted that someone in my profession has violated the sanctity of our collective healing space.

People come to massage to find a safe place in which to let their mind and body relax and begin the healing process. Obviously, it’s not to be assaulted. While it is impossible for an employer to control individual employees’ actions, it is deplorable that virtually nothing has been done to address the now hundreds of complaints that have been filed against these employees. The company owes their clientele better and I will be surprised if there’s not repercussions for not removing predators from their employ in a timely manner. I am saddened that so many people are now having to deal with the trauma of being assaulted when they rightly believed they were safe.

All that being said, I just wanted to make sure that you, as a consumer of massage, know exactly what to expect when you schedule a massage. And I want to give you some straight talk about what to do if ANYONE or ANYTHING ever makes you feel uncomfortable while receiving massage with any bodyworker, anywhere.

As a massage therapist and bodyworker, my main goal is to help you feel better. I strive to create a safe, comfortable space for you. You will find this is a common thread among people who practice a healing art. We know receiving massage can be an incredibly vulnerable experience. Most of the time you will be unclothed to some degree, possibly lying face down, and someone you may not know yet will be touching you. I never want you to feel unsafe or uncomfortable so read on and know that you are always in charge when you are receiving a massage.

A Bodywork Client’s Bill of Rights

  1. If you’re uncomfortable for any reason, tell us. It’s not going to hurt my feelings if you don’t like my music, if you feel cold, if the sheet feels scratchy or if I’m actually hurting you.
  2. If you feel unsafe for any reason, tell us. It’s not going to hurt my feelings and I need to figure out what’s wrong so you can feel safe again.
  3. If you feel like you want to stop the session and leave for any reason, tell us. It’s not going to hurt my feelings and I don’t want to subject you to an experience you don’t want.
  4. If you feel like you need to cry, let it out. You might startle me, but I’m not going to run away.
  5. Your massage is your time. It may be the only hour you get this week, month, or year to be perfectly yourself and let your mind and body enter into a healing state so please tell me if there’s something I need to do to help you have the best massage experience possible.

What To Do If You’re Assaulted During a Massage

  1. If you’re able, stop the session and leave the establishment immediately.
  2. Once you are safe, go directly to the police department or the emergency department (depending on the severity of the assault).
  3. Expect to make a police report on the incident.
  4. After making a police report ask the police if it is okay for you to call the business and make a formal complaint against the therapist. This is assuming this happened in a multi-therapist office.
  5. Make a formal complaint against the therapist with the state Board of Massage Therapy.

I hope this never happens to you. I hope it never happens to anyone and I am horrified that it has happened at all.

How To Prevent Assault During a Massage

Unfortunately, in our world as it currently stands it is impossible to prevent someone from doing harm if they are intent on committing assault. Even if you’re willing to use deadly force to protect yourself there’s no guarantee you won’t still be hurt in the process. Such a sad and frightening prospect, but there are a few things you can do to try to protect yourself.

As a massage therapist in the State of Alabama, I am required to maintain a massage therapy license with the state. In order to do that I have to agree to and abide by a whole host of laws that deal with the ethical treatment of my clients. Many of those laws specifically outline boundaries and forbid me from assaulting a client. Not that I need a law to know that it’s just wrong to assault a client… So when considering going to a new massage therapist make sure they are licensed. And there are a few other things you can do, here’s how to tell if they’re legit and agree to ethical boundaries.

I hope you have found some helpful information here. And while I would have preferred to never have to address this situation, please know that Harvest Moon Massage Therapy will always be a safe space where you don’t have to worry about your personal safety.

Sharon Bryant Harvest Moon Massage Therapy is Decatur’s Exclusive Provider of Ashiatsu Barefoot Massage!

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David's FuneralAnd as you may have gathered since I’m writing about it here, I recently had a client pass away. He was not my first client, but he was the first one to pass. I can’t say it was expected, but then again, I can’t say it wasn’t totally unexpected. I need to tell you some of his story in order for you to understand.

I last saw him December 7th for his regular appointment. He came once a month, sometimes more. He was very exciting and talked almost our entire hour and a half about the trip he and his wife were taking to visit their daughter who is in the military and currently stationed in Korea. He was a Vietnam war vet and this was a trip back to his past that would be different this time. He called a few days before his trip wanting to see if he could get in for a massage before he left, but I was so busy and decided not to squeeze him into the schedule as I knew he had a massage scheduled in January.

If I remember correctly, they flew on the 22nd of December. On Christmas Day he had a stroke. I found out a few days later when I got a text message from him saying he had to cancel and that they didn’t get to come home because of the stroke. He would call when he got back to the states. I was concerned, but thought perhaps it wasn’t so bad since I thought it was him texting me. I didn’t hear anything after that until a different client asked if I’d heard what happened.

They were still in Korea and David had very little body movement. It was mid-January and they were trying to figure out how to get him home and into the local VA hospital. Then on January 25th I received another text telling me David had passed. They had brought him home and he’d had another massive stroke. I’m not sure of the details except that he had spent a few days unresponsive in the hospital.

I was shocked. This was a strapping man who was of retirement age, but decided against it because he loved his job and his wife wasn’t yet ready for retirement. He could talk the bark off a tree stump and loved life and everyone in it with him.

I went to his funeral and managed to hold myself together until the 21 guns volleyed. Then I lost it completely and ended up in the bathroom weeping uncontrollably.

One of the things they don’t teach you in massage school (or at least the one I went to) is what to do when a client dies.

I have agonized over how much to share here. Where do privacy issues leave off with the client/therapist relationship?

I have decided that for me, privacy issues, the true one’s, where he lives and other personal information, persist. I have decided to be a little freer with the issue of whether he was my client or not. I am hurting and I need the support of my people and the ability to talk to them about him so I can heal from this loss.

I also need to open a dialog with my current clients about what I expect from them and what they expect from me in the event of a critical illness or, god forbid, their death. Do I expect their family members or friends to contact me? That would be nice so I can visit them or express condolences to the family if appropriate. Should I send flowers, a card, or do they even want me to come to the funeral? These are things I never thought about before David.

And if I send flowers for this one, do I need to make it a policy and do it for every client? Or only regular clients? And if I do that am I straying into favoritism territory? It’s a lot to decide. I went with my heart and sent flowers, went to the funeral, and afterwards wrote his wife a letter. If that is favoritism, then so be it. It’s hard not to become attached to people who frequent your life and care about you right back.

I know some of my MT friends have “countertransference” bouncing off the insides of their heads right now. I respectfully disagree. We enjoyed no relationship outside of our therapeutic one. If I ran into him at the grocery store I would say hello and introduce him as a friend if he approached me first, but otherwise I think I do a pretty good job at keeping a professional distance as much as is possible while still working so closely with someone. As a helper/fixer/healer, I don’t really think there is a way to prevent our hearts from getting involved while doing this kind of work. I think heart is what makes massage and bodywork so profound and all the good ones use their hearts during their sessions.

There are tasks that we are forced to do in this lifetime and I would have rather never had to make these decisions, but since I did I am so grateful that it was him to guide me through this. It is so fitting for the relationship we enjoyed with each other. I will still miss him horribly when his Friday morning appointment rolls around. I will probably cry again, probably more than once.

Rest in peace, David, and know that you are loved still and will be remembered in many, many hearts.

Sharon Bryant Harvest Moon Massage is Decatur, Alabama’s Exclusive Provider of Bamboo-Fusion Massage

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Finding a massage therapist online is not hard if you have a little time and are the curious type. My first step and the most straightforward is a search engine. We’ve all done it so I won’t belabor the point of how to do a Google search. The larger question here is how to know if the massage therapist you’ve searched for and found is legitimate. One of the downsides of the Internet is that anyone can position themselves as an expert. Unfortunately, massage therapy is not immune to this phenomenon.

Is Your Massage Therapist Legit?

Anyone can stand up a nice-looking website with enough willpower or cash so searching the internet is a good start, but you need to take another step to ensure the person you’re thinking about booking with is who they say they are and has the necessary training and qualifications. So let’s talk a little bit about how to verify that you’ve found a licensed and properly trained massage therapist.

If you live in the State of Alabama, like I do, it’s pretty easy to find out if the therapist you’re thinking about booking an appointment with is properly trained. The state board of massage therapy does that for you. All you have to do is go to the Alabama Board of Massage Therapy’s website and do a Licensee Search for the massage therapist in question. If the name shows up there, you know that the state has done the legwork for you, assuring that the therapist has completed the minimum educational requirements, has passed the National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB)or the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) for massage therapy and jumped through all the appropriate legal hoops to be legally offering massage therapy to the public.

What if you’re not in Alabama?

Going back to Google and performing a quick search on text for “massage therapy board Oregon” pops up the massage board for the state of Oregon. I just picked Oregon randomly because I have a dear friend who lives there and I’ve been thinking about him a lot lately.

Getting back to the subject at hand, Oregon is apparently a licensing state and they have a License Verification option. Oooh… I like the information they list on therapists, especially the part where “there has been no discipline on this license”. That’s a good piece of information to know when trying to choose a new massage therapist. I wish Alabama had that little bit of technological information included in their licensee search.

What States License Massage Therapists?

Sounds like a simple question, but as with everything where politics are involved, it’s not. There are states that have a massage board that regulates the massage therapy business and licenses therapists. There are states that have no massage board, but local municipalities regulate massage therapy businesses. There are states where you don’t have to be certified, but you must be registered and vice versa. It’s a complicated question because we’re not regulated at a federal level. And I’m not suggesting that we should it’s just important to know that this is why it’s so hard to identify a lawfully compliant therapist from one who is not. After a little noodling around online, I found this website that has compiled a list of massage license requirements by state. I can’t vouch for the correctness of all of the information here, but it will give you something to start with if you can’t find what you’re looking for with a search engine.

What if My State Doesn’t License Massage Therapists?

If the state doesn’t have any type of licensure requirements you still have a couple of options in locating a suitable therapist. The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) offers a Find a Massage Therapist locator service. All therapists listed in this service are insured members of AMTA who meet minimum educational requirements and must agree to abide by a Code of Ethics. Good stuff, folks, I would go to anyone who I found using this service.

The Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP) organization offers a similar locator service to AMTA. I have never been a member of ABMP so I can’t say a whole lot about their organization except that they also insure their members who meet minimum educational requirements and also agree to the ABMP Code of Ethics.

And finally the National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage and Bodyworks offers a locator service for those of us who are Board Certified through their organization. This is a good service, but not all states require NCBTMB or MBLEx exam passage to license the massage therapist and the test is expensive so most folks don’t take it unless it’s required.

And when all else fails, there’s Yelp and it never hurts to ask your friends and co-workers if they know someone good. Usually this is the best way to find a great therapist.

Now, get out there on the information superhighway, find a massage therapist, make an appointment and go. You could use a massage today, I promise.

***Harvest Moon Massage is Decatur, Alabama’s Exclusive Provider of Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy, Ashi-Thai and Bamboo-Fusion Massage

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One of the things I’ve been trying to do in order to keep myself in balance is trade massages with other therapists that I know. When I’m really on the ball I try to buy a massage from a therapist I don’t know in order to introduce myself and widen my circle of associates.

In recently trying to set up a trade, some questions came to the forefront of my mind and I haven’t had the opportunity to run them by a more experienced therapist so I thought I would put them here and see if anyone would like to offer their thoughts on the matter.

As a therapist, if you arrange a trade with someone and then are offered the opportunity to work with a paying client, what do you do? Do you cancel the trade? Do you focus the paying client to a different time slot?

My thoughts are that you should schedule the client to a different time slot. Is this a common practice? Or is it more common to re-schedule the trade and take the paying client?

I’m just wondering how other folks do it and why. Leave a comment.

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