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Ethics and Boundaries for Massage Therapists

Written by Cindi Franklin, AOS, RMT, TTT

Ethics and boundaries quickly become blurred by relationships, emotions, attitudes, and beliefs. Decisions would not be as gray if massage therapists would get back to the basics. These basics are found in the Professional Code of Conduct and the Scope of Practice of Massage Therapy. The foundation of the Professional Code of Conduct for all medical practitioners is to DO NO HARM.

The Ethics Behind Massage Therapy

Massage Therapy DO NO HARM covers:

Massage Ethics
  • Do not work on people or areas that have contraindications no matter what your client or your boss says. Contraindications are medical issues that would be dangerous to the client’s health if they received a massage.
  • Communication with honesty and integrity
  • Boundaries are established and clarified for the protection of the massage therapist and the patient/client.
  • Illegal activities are not an option.
  • Conversations or actions (sexual or inappropriate) are not allowed because somehow and in some way it will most likely cause harm to someone.

The Scope of the Massage Therapist

  • It is governed by our individual states by licensure or certification.
  • Do not apply modalities you are not trained to complete.

The Boundaries of Massage Therapy

Boundaries are established to uphold the Professional Code of Conduct and the Massage Scope of Practice. It is imperative for massage practitioners to educate themselves about these issues. Boundaries must be acknowledged by the practitioner and clearly notified to the client with integrity. It would be beneficial for massage therapists to practice verbal boundary notifications to pretend clients so they will have the expertise when faced with difficult situations. Suggested boundaries would include:

  • Business and personal relationships must be clarified.
  • Business hours are for business. Practitioners should not let clients misuse or push those limits.
  • Time is money. Policies should be in place and visible to clients for missed appointments or late arrivals.
  • Sexual suggestions or actions are never allowed. The practitioner needs to practice a verbal, and factual statement quoting the Professional Code of Conduct.
  • Boundaries need to be in place to uphold DO NO HARM.

As a massage therapist, it is your duty to always choose professional ethics and create clear boundaries within the Scope of Practice for Massage Therapy. This action safeguards your personal emotions, beliefs, and attitudes in order to represent your field of expertise and self in a professional manner. Always ensuring the use of boundaries and proper ethics protects not only the massage therapist but the clients to accomplish the goal of DO NO HARM.

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