Due to the intimate nature of a massage, it is likely that a close relationship arises between therapist and client. The client relaxes and trusts the therapist, and might even reach a point where they confide and a form of friendship is created between the two. Sometimes the relationship might even turn to deep friendship, or even a romance.
This can become an issue as the expectations and dynamics of the of the relationships are very different. If the nature of the client and therapist relationship changes, so does the expectations and intents of the massage.
As a professional it’s important to set up boundaries and rules as to what interaction is acceptable. There’s 100% confidentiality between client and therapist. Nothing that the client does, says or shows must leave the massage room. Of course a therapist may professionally discuss specific cases, but only in general terms and never so that the client can be recognized. As a massage therapist we lie under the same confidentiality expectations as a doctor.
This also means that when the client is on the table, he’s in focus. It’s 100% about him and his needs at the moment. The therapist listens to the client, gives the client a great massage and deals with what massage-related issues there might be. Should the client confide in the therapist or discuss his life and problems, the therapist can listen and offer empathy and care, but unless specifically trained, she shouldn’t begin to counsel.
When massage sessions are so intimate physically and mentally, it of course places restrictions on the relationship outside of the massage room. The therapist should ideally not discuss personal issues with the client, as this might lead to a shift in the professional relationship and disallow the client from letting go and receive.
At some point things might change and a genuine friendship arise from the professional relationship. It’s then very important to have very clear limits and expectations. As the relationship started out as unequal, it’s important that it becomes equal and balanced. That the client doesn’t depend on the therapist in any way. In many cases it might be best to completely cease the professional aspect (the massage therapy) and solely focus on the friendship. Once it’s clear that the friendship is balanced and equal, massage might be considered again. I’ll discuss massage of friends and family next week.