Avoiding Unethical Behavior: The Dangers of Becoming “Friends” with Your Massage Clients

Have you ever been presented with the dilemma of a client stepping over the boundary of professionalism? Or, have you yourself been guilty of doing so?

The American Massage Therapy Association addresses this issue in an article by Christian Bond, and reminds therapists that following ethical protocol is especially important for massage therapists. Considering the sensitive nature of your work, it makes sense.

Understanding when an ethical dilemma is presented is the first step to avoiding them, but, according to Bond, not always easy.

Some things to consider in your practice – and to reconsider if you’re ever in doubt of whether a relationship with a client is about to move into being “unethical”– include:

Remembering there is a balance of power.  The relationship you should have with your client is one of teacher-student or doctor patient: balanced by not equal. You are the one that must be responsible for maintaining the standard of what is “professional” – and help your client understand what their role is in the relationship.

Knowing what your client’s boundaries are, as well as your own. Boundaries are different for everyone, but setting your own very clear boundaries as to what you are in the room to do is a priority. Making sure every client you treat – whether they are friends, family, or you are meeting them for the first time – is clear that their role is the role of client, and you are there to help them reach a better state of physical health.

Be aware of what your scope of practice is. In other words: stay in your lane. Know your professional limitations and when you need to refer your client somewhere else for treatment.

Read the following blog on one massage therapists way of dealing with this dilemma.

Image courtesy of: dominicatorumstudiorum

“This week I had to have a tough conversation with a client. She wanted to become friends outside of the massage room. I made a mistake and met her for coffee a couple of times. It eventually turned into her emailing me morning and evening which started to make me feel very uncomfortable.”

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