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So, you've decided to break up with your client...

Usually this blog is for clients, aficionados, consumers of bodywork, but I had an interesting experience recently that I wanted to share with other therapists.  There can be many reasons to break up with a client:
  • Inappropriate physical or emotional contact.
    • That client that comes to be known as "Mr Gracilis"
  • Chronic tardiness or payment issues.
    • We may enjoy a friendly relationship but this is business.
  • Insensitive or inappropriate comments.
    • Don't confuse your payment for services with permission to get away with being insensitive or offensive.
  • Treatment needs outside your individual scope of practice.
    • Other than for relaxation and maintenance, it may be time to refer out to an other specialist 

Now for the story: 
Being a mobile massage therapist making house calls can put me in situations that are a little more intimate than other independent contractors.  Of course I am in a business relationship with my clients, but I'm usually being welcomed into their private or personal space to do our work.  This requires a more familiar comfort level to our relationship.  I usually make it a policy not to engage in too much conversation regardless of topic during treatment even if my client initiates, but this can also be a part of how some folks connect to others so some clients like to talk.  In my case, my former client and I would have our weekly treatments in their home and over time they became increasingly comfortable having personal or political conversations and making jokes that I found offensive.  It is my job to hold space and facilitate their release and healing which means that I do my best to turn off my ego, my sensibilities, my values and worldview during our time together so that I can truly connect, meet them where they are, and facilitate their healing and release.  In addition to our bodywork part of the treatment that this particular client wanted was a listening and empathetic ear which is what so many people enjoy about my work.  
Since part of what makes my work so effective is being able to connect and be empathetic with people, anything that compromises that ultimately create conditions where I am less able to connect and be present for them.  After our last prepaid session, I informed my former client that I didn't feel that I could do my best work for them given the nature of the comments and jokes they made about people that include my family, friends, neighbors, and lovers.  I let them know that I appreciated being welcomed into their home and respect their space and the freedom to express themselves freely in their own home, but I no longer felt comfortable continuing our work.  I offered to make a referral to other therapists and then we parted ways.  Arguably, this person could really benefit from some healing and coming the truth about the humanity, dignity and intelligence of all people, but I felt beyond my depth and ability to help facilitate that for them. 
Just like any break-up conversation I felt uneasy for the week leading up to our last prepaid treatment, and it bothered me for a couple of weeks afterward too.  I needed to respect my client's home and their privacy within it; I needed to protect and maintain my professional reputation; and be brief and honest with them about why I cannot continue with them.  Part of what we do as healers is to confront truth in the way that subconscious stresses or past traumas show up in peoples bodies.  This also extends to how we live ourselves.  To continue being good at what I do confronting these realities as they show up in peoples bodies, then I also have to confront my own sensitivities and do whats needed to resolve, release, heal, and grow.  That said, there are limits to what I am willing to endure to try to reach someone and facilitate their healing.

As a client or patient, have you had an unfortunate experience of needing to fire your therapist?  No doubt you dealt with it in a way that gave you back your power.  Common reasons and things to consider:
  • Inappropriate physical or emotional contact.
  • Chronic tardiness or pricing policies that suspiciously seem to change all the time
  • Attempting to treat or diagnose outside of their scope of practice or your stated needs and goals for treatment.
We're all entitled to have our own safe space and be respected.  Being able to respect other's boundaries and needs begins with respecting our own.

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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