Above All Else, Do No Harm
A licensed massage therapist's sacred trust is to provide therapeutic bodywork in an environment that fosters trust. That means, without exception, it is our responsibility to create and enforce boundaries for our clients, in which they can feel completely safe.
Without a clear understanding of what "appropriate boundaries" are for non-sexual massage, and without an absolute standard of enforcement of those boundaries, a massage therapist cannot create a trusting, professional relationship with their clients.
It is, simply, impossible for clients to relax and receive true healing from massage without 1) the practitioner setting and respecting clear boundaries, and 2) the client agreeing to also respect the clear boundaries and professionalism of therapeutic massage.
What that means for practitioners is this: we set the tone for safety and trust. We clearly communicate in our intake forms that therapeutic massage is strictly non-sexual, and that any illicit or sexually suggestive or inappropriate comment or action will result in immediate termination of the session. And more importantly, we don't just communicate it; we guard and keep those boundaries. Absolutely.
It is no secret that 1 in 4 females and 1 in 6 males are sexually molested before the age of 18. That includes a friend making uninvited "innocent exploration" advances at a grade school slumber party, a date forcing us to go farther than we wanted to, or a documentable, full-on rape. The level doesn't matter: it is all psychologically damaging when our sense of safety and personal control is violated on the most intimate level.
Each person comes to me, as a bodywork practitioner, with a different history. I don't assume anything. But based on these statistics, I know that women and men walk into my massage studio bearing scars from their personal experiences being inappropriately handled.
Most people's first massage session is scary for them, even if there is no history of abuse. You don't know what to expect. And you're letting a stranger touch you.
"I'm supposed to take off my clothes, cover up with a sheet, let this person put their hands on my body, and it will be totally safe? Totally non-sexual? And not weird?" It is hard to imagine a safe, respectful, completely non-sexual and therapeutic massage if you've never received one.
If you're one of millions of us who have experienced a school friend, date, babysitter, relative, neighbor, spiritual leader, camp counselor, or teacher crossing our boundaries and violating our sense of personal safety, the idea of massage may stir up traumatic memories and great anxiety. We may avoid the experience altogether, passing up the opportunity for healing because the risk of re-injury is truly just too great.
I get this.
Healing from the experience of having your personal boundaries and your will overridden is a delicate process. It may take years, a lifetime. Discovering a sense of restored personal safety and security is a hope some people can't even imagine. But it can be found. Safe, therapeutic massage with a trusted practitioner can help with this restoration process.
In my next post, I will describe how I approach a first session with a client who has never received massage. I will explain in detail what happens in a session and what to expect. Having the right therapist for your first session can be very important, especially if you're personal boundaries have been crossed.
It is important to think about what will make you feel safe. Should you choose a male therapist, or female? Should you go to a spa/public setting, or the home environment of a trusted person? Should you take someone with you? Should you stay fully clothed? Should you start with a chair massage?
All of these decisions are important. Your safety matters.
The most important consideration is that YOU feel in control the entire time. A skilled, aware therapist will allow YOU to call the shots, will encourage your honesty and check in with you for feedback, and will make it easier for you to say "I'm not comfortable not keeping my shirt on," or "That's too much pressure."
Therapeutic touch can be a powerful agent for healing trauma of any kind.
For me personally, studying therapeutic massage has been transformative. The journey has brought me personal security and a healthy sense of control I did not imagine I could know. From this ever-expanding place, I am grateful to be able to offer healing massage to others.
Friday, May 25, 2012
Sunday, May 13, 2012
This blog will not be a place for promoting my business. You can link to my Facebook page or my website for that.
This blog will be a place where I write about the healing I experience and witness through massage therapy and other avenues of healing I discover.
I will also blog about what massage is like for those who have not experienced it, in hopes that what I write might help you feel more comfortable and try it.