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Personal Safety and Massage Therapy

How has the news of sexual assault charges and civil suit against therapists at the massage chain Massage Envy affected your attitude about massage?  Have your feelings of safety with your therapist changed? Have you been victimized during a body work session?

In no way is inappropriate touch ever a victim's fault, period.  Your therapist's only intent should be to hold a safe space for you, to meet you where you are at your comfort and safety levels. Anything less than that from your therapist violates your trust.  Because we each have different comfort levels and safety needs, here are some tips to help you feel safe, establish your boundaries, or end and exit a session:

  • Are there areas of your body that you do not want worked, or work that makes you uncomfortable?
    • Most health intake forms provide at least a body diagram to detail areas you want focused work on, these can also be used to detail areas you do not want work as well.  
    • Do not rush to lie down on the table, take the time to discuss with your therapist what you do not want, or what makes you feel unsafe.

  • Has your trust or safety been violated before?
    • Regardless if you've experienced your trauma in a treatment environment or not, our memories also have a life inside our tissues.  Being touched in specific areas, even parts of our body not directly related to our trauma can trigger us.  Be very clear with your therapist of any areas you're uncomfortable with.  
    • If you feel comfortable, tell your therapist that you've experienced a violation and what you need from them to feel safe during your time together.

  • Is there an element of safety you experience receiving bodywork from some one of the same gender, or even a different gender? 
    • If you're visiting a spa, clinic, or healing community, be clear when scheduling your treatment about your preferences.  It could be helpful to explain why, but in no way are you obliged to, this is your safe time and space.

  • Has the particular technique been explained to you by your therapist?
    • Regardless if you know how the technique is applied, has your therapist explained the technique?  What parts of your body will be worked, how, and for what beneficial outcome?  Have they explained the draping?  Have they answered your questions?  Have they also confirmed back to you that understand your needs for safety?
    • There are many beneficial reasons to apply different soft tissue techniques to more private areas of the body, however, I recommend finding a specialist for such techniques.  Regardless of your interest or need for techniques applied to sensitive or intimate areas of the body, your specialist should fully explain how the technique will be applied, to what part of your body, and for what benefit, and proceed only after you consent.  No therapist should try to aggressively talk you into a treatment you're not comfortable receiving from them.

  • What does your intuition/gut/sixth sense tell you when you enter the treatment room or meet your therapist?
    • If you've entered into a treatment area or have just met your therapist and do not feel safe, take a moment to ask yourself why.  It is important to trust our first impression at the very least as a signal to something we should be aware of.  
    • If the treatment space does not provide the privacy you need, or the equipment to be used does not protect you, you are not obligated to start treatment.  Ask for accommodation: ask for the door to be closed, ask for additional draping to be used.  

  • I feel uncomfortable with what I've just experienced, what do I do?
    • Clearly tell your therapist immediately that you do not feel safe with what you've just experienced and tell them to stop.
    • If you're feeling like the therapists has your safety and best interest in mind but you still feel uncomfortable with what you've just experienced, immediately tell them you want the technique that triggers this to stop.  
    • If you need to physically remove yourself from the space, grab the sheets and wrap yourself up, get out.
    • In a spa or clinic, tell management that you do not feel safe or comfortable with the treatment you've received.
Holding a safe space for your healing is the primary function and most sacred honor your healer can be bestowed with.  You deserve this safe space.

Follow me on twitter @markcfreeman on Facebook, or Instagram.  Email me at mark@markcfreeman.com with any questions about bodywork techniques, modalities, or if there are any blog topics you want to know more about!

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