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Massage And Consent – 6 Ways To Know If You Are Working With A Safe Body Worker

Written by: Giada Labrecque, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

It sucks that I have to write about this. That it isn’t just common knowledge and common practice. This article may not be the most positive or uplifting, and actually, maybe potentially triggering to people who have suffered similar abuse and injustices. But still, I have to say something. In the space of one week, I was told by two separate people about two separate instances of sexual assault by a bodyworker, and it has left me upset and needing to speak up.

Professional young masseur standing behind a massage bed and gesturing sign good

I am upset that there are people out there taking advantage of people in such vulnerable states. I am upset that they are preying on clients who are putting so much trust into them to be a solution to a problem, and are then just creating more problems. I am upset that these practitioners are giving massage a bad name, and that they are so bold as to behave this way which is completely inappropriate and dare I say, criminal. I don’t know what to do about it other than call it out for what it is and inform people on how to be safe in pursuit of therapy. So, in my problem-solving ponderings, I thought to write this, because there isn’t much else I can do otherwise. As a massage therapist and bodyworker, I take the utmost care in clear and concise communication with my clients. Even though I am a woman, I still make sure my clients are fully aware of what will happen during the session, and give them full control of their treatment by empowering them to speak up if anything feels wrong or uncomfortable.

Why is this important?


Well, receiving a massage is an incredibly vulnerable activity and has a certain level of intimacy. I myself have experienced treatments at the hands of a few practitioners in my time that left me feeling unsafe, unheard and frankly…kind of “icky”.It can and does happen, so I am writing this to maybe help anyone in the future coming across unsavoury circumstances in the world of body work.


Most of these factors I will mention are generally benign on their own. It is when 2, 3, and 4 are in question that you should really think about whether this practitioner is in fact the right one for you. So here we go.

Here are 6 ways to know if you are working bodywork with a safe body worker.


1. They have an abundance of positive social proof.

Everything from Google reviews to social media following is social proof. It may not always be an exact indicator, but it is a good place to start. When a practitioner has an abundance of authentic, positive evidence for their quality of service, it is pretty safe to assume that they are sound. I will say, however, that an absence of social proof might not necessarily indicate that they are unsafe. It might just indicate that they are just starting out, or not great at social media. So try not to judge them immediately on this variable alone. I chose this as the first way to know, because it is a way that you are able to suss them out without ever having to step foot in their premises.


2. They make communication a priority and are professional.

As someone who loves to try new therapies and meet new people, I am increasingly more curious and aware of a therapist of interest before I even meet them. I gauge this by their communication and professionalism in setting up the appointment. When setting up the appointment, I want to make sure the person seems friendly, responsible and professional. I do not need them to answer right away or be overly chummy, but I want to know that they are happy to receive my call/message and are grateful for the business. I have had one too many appointments where the practitioner was rude, unappreciative and callous for seemingly no apparent reason other than they are just a miserable person. In today’s awakened world, life just seems a bit too short to give my time, energy and money to someone who is going to treat me that way.


Sure, everyone is entitled to an off day, but if there is no self-awareness and the person just IS that way with no explanation, then NO thank you. There are too many good therapists out there that are worth spending your hard-earned money on for some sour puss to win out.


3. They set clear expectations and discuss the treatment plan.

Getting treatment from any healthcare provider can seem a bit open-ended and confusing when the provider doesn’t set clear expectations. I have had it happen countless times where the therapist doesn’t say how the treatment will go or what will be prioritised and worked on, and it just kind of leaves you in a mini-shock when some things do or do not happen. There have been treatments I have received where I walked away angry and incredibly triggered because the therapist spent the entire time on one area instead of addressing what I requested, they left somethingunfinished, or they did something completely different than what was advertised. There are a lot of ways healthcare providers can come up short, so it is best to discuss what exactly you can expect from the treatment, so there are no misunderstandings or unmet needs. What is even better, is if the therapist is willing to adapt their treatment to your priorities, within reason of course. As opposed, let’s say, to them just doing their same run-of-the-mill treatment that might not address your area of concern. Anything can be discussed and mostly negotiated within the parameters of treatment, so long as there is one key thing agreed between you and the therapist, and that is consent.


4. They ask for consent.

In the 21st century, there are a number of loaded words, and this one is no exception. Consent is a word and concept that pretty well everyone has heard of and should understand by now. Consent, as triggering as the word can be, is also extremely important to be discussed in a treatment. In my opinion, the most and really only appropriate forms of consent are informed and on-going consent – meaning that the practitioner has outlined to their client exactly what it is they are consenting to, and that the client has the ability at any point to withdraw their consent to the treatment if they are uncomfortable or if it isn’t going as discussed. Consent is especially important in the realm of bodywork. However, it is not the only place necessary. Anything under the therapeutic umbrella should come with some form of consent discussion and agreement, ideally on the back of a conversation about treatment plan and expectations. This conversation should ideally be had before the therapy takes place so as not to make the client feel pressured when asked in the moment to alter the course of the treatment. In some cases, such as working on sensitive parts of the body (i.e., breast tissue), it is important for the therapist to request written consent. A therapist should never EVER assume that working on a sensitive area such as the breasts is okay, especially not without prior clear discussion and consent. There is no room for vague generalisations when it comes to this, and there should be no tolerance for assumption or abuse of power.


5. They respect your privacy and boundaries.

A good therapist honours and respects the privacy of their clients.Full stop. This means that they are stepping out of the room while you get dressed and undressed. It means that they are knocking and waiting for your response before entering the room. It means that they are not discussing any of your details with others or even discussing sensitive information with you outside of the treatment space. A good therapist does not spam you with messages, nor do they contact you at inappropriate times of day/night.


A therapist with healthy boundaries does not blur the professional line with unprofessional topics of conversation, nor do they respond to calls or messages sent after a certain hour of the day. A therapist who respects you requests permission to share things with you or about you, including even publicly sharing your testimony or publicly discussing things you’ve said. For example, I would not have written this at all had I not gotten informed consent from my client whose experience inspired this article. A therapist who respects their clients does not go on and tell the client’s personal stories, or if they are telling someone a relevant story or experience of a client, they definitely do not name the client or give any clues as to who that client is. That is, of course, unless there is informed consent. A client with solid professional boundaries will generally avoid working on both members of a couple or multiple members of a family. If they do work with both or more than one member, they will never betray the trust and share information about the significant other / family member or what the significant other / family member has said in the past. I personally find it best practice to not actually hold onto most of the things my clients tell me. Whatever is relevant to their treatment goes into their treatment notes. Otherwise, what is said is said, and then gone forever. That does not mean for a moment, though, that I am not listening.


6. They listen and act accordingly.

A good and safe body worker hears what you say and acts accordingly. This extends to mean that they are making eye contact, asking relevant questions and designing the treatment plan around what it is that you need. This includes but is not limited to pressure tolerance, areas of concern, no-go areas and skin or scent sensitivities. Anybody therapist worth their salt will know that these are all things to be aware of and hyper-vigilant about, otherwise, they will likely not see that client again.


Having said that, it does happen where therapists don’t fully hear what you have said because maybe they were distracted by something like writing notes. It is fair to remind them again, but once you have given them one, even two reminders, and they continue doing what you requested them not to, it is probably best you find another therapist.


Sometimes therapists don’t always check back on their notes from previous sessions, so if you do have something particularly quirky, like, you don’t like having your scalp touched, for instance, it is best for everyone involved if you remind them again for the first few sessions together. By the 3rd or 4th session, the therapist should remember this about you or have it in their notes in a visible place.


As I said before, no one of these things on their own are the mark of a “bad” or unsafe therapist.

Some are red flags. Some are more yellow. However, in combination, they are a clear sign that this bodyworker or therapist is not operating at their highest quality of client care and are

probably better to be avoided.


Every day more and more people become qualified in all kinds of wonderful therapies, so unless you live in a really small town, it is absolutely acceptable and possible to leapfrog from therapist to therapist until you find the one(s) that suits you best.


What works for some might not work for others, that is very normal and to be expected. What matters is that you are listening to yourself and to your own body. If your gut and your instincts are telling you to be cautious or avoid someone, it is pretty well always best that you listen. Even if the person has a lot of social proof, it does not mean that they are going to be the right

therapist for you.


It is always important to do your research, ask questions and pay attention to the answers.


Self-Care and remedial therapy is always worth the effort, but please, stay alert, and stay safe.


Follow me on Instagram, and visit my website for more info!


 

Giada Labrecque, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Giada Labrecque is an enthusiast and advocate for all things holistic and natural. As a massage therapist, she helps people every day with their aches and pains, offering real time help, remedial advice and practical self-care strategies. As a bus accident survivor, Giada has a great understanding of pain and rehabilitation. She has a great interest in natural pain relief, as well as natural immunity and stress relief solutions. Giada is the owner and operator of two massage based businesses in Galway Ireland, named She Kneads and Office Kneads. She is also the author of "Self-Care Solutions @ Work" and a public speaker.

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