THE ETHICS OF PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE
As massage therapists, we consider ourselves to be health professionals. But because some still associate massage therapy and the sex industry as one in the same a high standard of ethics is required for the industry.
Care should be client centered. Clients needs must be explored and addressed before and during the massage. Through clear and open communication we must find out what they are hoping to achieve from the massage. We must also let them know what we expect from them. All clients must be treated with respect and compassion. Communication with clients should be clear, letting them know what we will be doing during the massage, how to undress and lay on the table. Informing them that they will always be draped in an appropriate manner except for the part of the body that is being massaged at the time. They should be told that they have control over the massage and can stop it at any time. They should be asked if they have any parts of their body that they want us to avoid. Verbal permission must always be obtained when a therapist is wishing to work on the gluteus.
As massage therapist we must be aware that there is a power differential, with us being seen by most clients as the experts. This is a situation that could be abused by a therapist who does not have good morals. Clients can be vulnerable and open to suggestion during the massage process. Care must be taken when making decisions at this time, that it is in the clients best interest and that no harm will be done. Our clients need to know that we are massage therapists and are not able to help them with other medical problems. We are able though to refer them to another health professional if we think it would be helpful to the client. Ethically we must only perform massage techniques that we have been appropriately trained for. If you have been trained in only relaxation methods, deep tissue work should not be attempted as injury could occur.
We should show our client how we take notes and record treatments and outcomes. They should be told that they can view their notes at anytime, that they are confidential and no-one else will see them without written permission from them. Benefits and likely after effects of massage should be explained to them along with appropriate massage research.
The relationship between massage therapist and client should be professional. This can be achieved by the therapists image and behaviour. A complaints procedure should be explained to all new clients which will give them the confidence that they have somewhere to go to if there is a problem that they cannot discuss with the therapist. We need to be aware that sometimes clients can become very dependant and needy and want more than a professional relationship. In this case we must maintain clear boundaries and if it becomes unmanageable we must consider referral to another therapist.
We as massage therapists also need to look at our feelings towards our clients. Are we expecting to be able to fix everything, have our clients adore and be grateful to us. If so we are in this profession for the wrong reason.
Good ethics is essential for the massage therapy business to move forward.