Massage Therapy Ethics and Communication 101
Continuous awareness of ethics and communication is extremely important and essential to the licensed massage therapist.
Knowing these facts is extremely important for every aspiring massage therapist. Read on to learn more.
Many states including the state of Washington require licensed massage therapists to get enrolled in continuing education courses to renew their license. Many continuing courses teach other areas beside the human body and its muscles.
Curriculum includes marketing, bookkeeping, and moreover, how to get to know your clients professionally and avoid complacency and staying within courteous boundaries.
For license renewal in Washington State, you need to complete 24 hours of continuing education after every couple of years.
Most continuing education requirements mandate at least 8 hours of supervised massage skill training and at least 4 hours of lecture on communications, professional ethics, and massage laws and regulations.
Also hours usually include lectures on professional boundaries and roles of massage practitioners.
The curriculum of a licensed massage therapist’s continuing education should include training on emergency service, CPR, first aid, etc. The candidate should attend an international, national, state, or local program for continuing education on the subject.
He/she should also engage in self-study using various publications and multimedia devices.
Things You Must Know about massage therapy ethics, body language and Communication
Continuing education must teach these massage therapists a thing or two about “ethics” and “communication”. Ethics and communication are two strongly linked terms when it comes to massage therapists. That’s because to run a massage practice ethically one must be a proficient communicator.
For these professionals, the term “communication” is not restricted just to responding and talking. It also involves observing and reading people’s body language.
About the patient’s body language:
To read an individual’s body language, you should first notice how close to you he or she is standing. The closer the person is to you, the more intimate and engaging they want you to be.
Motions such as head tilts also says a lot about a patient’s wishes. At times, head tilts are signs of confusion, while at other instances they might indicate openness or softness.
You may gather some valuable information even through eye contact. The patient’s eyes can reveal his/her level of interest, level of confidence, and level of trust. The person’s eyebrows, on the other hand, can help you identify emotions like skepticism, curiosity, joy, and interest.
Learning to read your patient’s arms is also extremely crucial. For instance, crossed arms tend to indicate defensiveness. If you see a patient adjusting his or her eyeglasses, it’s probably because the person is listening to you carefully or trying to examine you closely. Nervous gestures are usually indicators of flirtatiousness (examples include a woman playing with her hair).
Observing the position of toes, feet, and knees of patients is equally important. If they remain pointed towards you, it means the person in question is interested.
About your body language:
As a massage therapist, you must also learn how to use your body for enhancing your mood.
Our body language tends to have a strong impact on our mind. Developing the skill of using your body language to enhance your mood and boost your confidence level would automatically make you a more successful massage therapist. It would change the way patients and other people look at you.
Researchers have found that holding a high power posture for a couple of minutes increase testosterone production and decreases cortisol production in the human body. As a result, we start feeling less stressed and more confident.
Low power postures have been found to offer the exact opposite results. For more effective massage therapy communications ethics courses will teach you various high power postures.
About ethical dilemmas:
You have to understand that ethics is rarely an uncomplicated and straightforward matter. So, it’s extremely important for you to remain diligent and alert for recognizing possible ethical hazards. You must never fail to reassess your ethical status from time to time.
Below are some of the areas you may face ethical dilemmas when operating as a massage therapist
Use of power:
It’s important to maintain the right balance of power. As a therapist, you must first acknowledge that the job of maintaining balance is pretty complex.
Massage therapists often end up overusing power and thereby cause ethical dilemmas. Actions indicating overuse of power include inappropriate touches, late arrival for the patient’s massage therapy, not listening to the questions and concerns of the client carefully, etc.
You should also avoid under using power. In fact, in case of a therapeutic relationship, that can be as damaging and irritating as overuse of power. Actions that indicate under use of power include failing to establish boundaries when offering services to your clients, failing to address your clients’ problems, not having clear practice policies, etc.
Setting and maintaining boundaries:
For practicing ethically, a licensed massage therapist must know how to maintain boundaries. Here, it must be noted that boundary issues tend to vary from one client to another. So, it’s crucial that you set your own boundaries and maintain them irrespective of who you are offering your services.
Experts suggest that you should stay away from doing anything that might provoke you to break the bounds. Examples include, discussing personal matters with your clients, thinking too much about a particular client, and so on.
Knowing the scope of your practice:
To work ethically, massage therapists must be aware of the scope of their practice or professional limitations. For instance, they should know the right time of terminating treatment and referring out.
It’s crucial for these professionals to recognize their limits and admit when they can no longer help their client. Depending on your understanding, you should refer the person to another massage therapist or ask him/her try some other form of treatment.
Understanding terms and conditions:
Ethical dilemmas might also result from office policies and contracts if the clauses are not spelled out clearly. So, you must know how to communicate your policies to the clients.
You should also be aware of the kind of terms of conditions you must include. Some examples include policies governing late arrivals, cancellation fees, missed classes, etc.
You can abide by all the crucial massage therapy ethics by practicing self-awareness. For that, you will have to answer a few basic questions; they are:
Am I exhausted? Am I suffering from stress or panic attack? Have I been drained out emotionally? Is my social network supportive enough?
Answers to these questions would help you understand whether you are in need of emotional support. Such needs often force people to step over boundaries.
So, to operate ethically and offer the best possible services to the clients, a massage therapist must take good care of their personal emotional needs.
You must not refrain from taking a few harsh steps. For instance, you might need to get rid of a difficult client, who is making you work more than what you can actually afford to do.
How to stick to ethical principles?
Licensed massage therapists should learn sticking to ethical principles irrespective of what kind of circumstances they are in. For that, you must understand the language clients and therapists use for communication.
Massage therapists and their clients use different kinds of paraverbal (speed and tone in which the words and spoken), nonverbal (comprised of body language and gestures and usually convey emotions and feelings), and verbal (comprised of spoken words) signals for communicating with each other.
Whatever might be the kind of language you use, you must make sure that it is kind, respectful, and professional in nature. Never refer to any body part using a slang term. However, also make sure that the terminology and words you are using are understood easily by your clients.
Code of Ethics set by the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (or ABMP)
ABMP, the leading massage therapy association in the United States, requires its members to abide by the following principles when operating as licensed massage therapists:
Bodyworkers should be committed to offer high-quality care:
It’s mandatory for the therapists to offer the highest possible quality of service and bodywork to their clients. They remain obligated to build and maintain a healthy, safe, and effective therapeutic bond with their clients.
They should be committed to not cause any harm:
These professionals are required to note the health history of each of their clients and evaluate the information carefully for ruling out possible contradictions or determining suitable session adaptations.
They should refer their clients to a qualified healthcare provider or physician whenever they suspect or spot signs of an undiagnosed health problem that massage might not be suitable for. In such cases, the therapist should offer his/her services only after getting the healthcare provider’s approval.
Therapists should be committed to work within their scope of practice:
Massage therapists should never use techniques and offer treatments for which they don’t have credible credentials and are not fully trained.
They should be ready to evaluate the requirements of every client carefully and refer him or her to another therapist or health care practitioner if the client needs services beyond their capabilities.
These professionals should never use the symbols and trademarks of a particular group or system without an authentic affiliation. They should also refrain themselves from exaggerating the advantages offered by massage therapy when advertising their services.
Practitioners should be committed to endorse the actual worth of every individual:
Massage therapists should be prepared to demonstrate respect, tolerance, and compassion for others. Additionally, they should do the needful for decreasing misunderstandings, prejudice, and discrimination.
It’s true that certain situations might require therapists to decline their service to clients. This might happen due to a health problem the client has been diagnosed with, as well as, for the therapist’s personal safety.
However, a therapist should never refuse service to a client due to his/her disability, gender, ethnicity, physical build, sexual orientation, political, national, or religious affiliation, economic or social status, and marital status.
Practitioners should be committed to respect the basic rights and dignity of the client:
Massage therapists are required to respect the rights and dignity of all their clients. They should organize the sessions in a comfortable, safe, and clean environment.
The therapists must use skilled and appropriate draping procedures for providing the clients recourse whenever they are dissatisfied with their services.
They should be committed to take informed consent:
Massage therapists must know that every client has the right to decide how his/her body should be handled. A therapist should understand that clients might incur physical and emotional injuries if he/she (the therapist) don’t listen to them (the clients) when planning the therapy.
It’s the duty of these professionals to fully inform the clients about their choices and offer detailed information about limitations and policies that might have an impact on their care.
A massage therapist should never begin a session without getting an informed consent from the client in question (or from an advocate or guardian of the client).
They should be committed to maintain confidentiality:
Massage therapists must keep all client information and communication confidential and should never share them with any third party without written consent from the client.
It’s their duty to provide the clients with a setup environment where any personal health related facts cannot be seen or overheard by others.
Should showcase professionalism of highest levels:
A massage therapist should maintain honest and clear communication with their colleagues and clients. They should never use alcohol or recreational drugs during or before massage sessions.
These therapists should leave no stone unturned to offer the best possible results to their clients.
In addition, they should never look to steal clients from another massage therapist, disrespect a colleague or client, and malign allied professionals or other therapists willingly.
Body workers should be committed to maintain professional and personal boundaries:
Massage therapists should refrain themselves from doing things during their massage practice that might be considered to be sexual. As a rule, they should never date any of their clients or get involved with them sexually.
Following the above suggestions is a must to operate successfully as a licensed massage therapist. The continuing education courses would surely help you learn more about these ethics and communication regulations.