A massage therapist comes into direct contact with the physical body of his or her clients. The close relationship they have requires the setting and maintaining of certain standards. In professions, such a set of codes or standards is called ethics. Sometimes, a board or association will supply the code of ethics for a certain profession. The various medical associations everywhere follow a variation of the Hippocratic Oath. Massage therapists, as workers in the caring industry, use a similar ethic code. This is particularly true of those under the governance of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA).
The Code of Ethics for the AMTA consists of 7 main points. They address public and private issues. While almost identical to the Hippocratic Oath, the code of Ethics drafted by the AMA is more specific in instances of sexuality. It also includes a reference to following the various laws of the land. In essence, however, the Code of Ethics addresses the basic issues of behavior, confidentiality, respect, well-being and professional improvement. Written down or not, these are essential to maintaining a professional relationship with a client.
First and foremost, remember you are a PROFESSIONAL. You must conduct yourself accordingly. You need to dedicate yourself to your profession. This means behaving with your patients on a professional level. You do not judge their behavior. You also do not allow their ethics, race, ethnic background, religion or sexual preference to interfere with your treatment. They deserve the best you can give them during their session.
As a professional, you should not neglect your craft or those who practice it. Demonstrate respect for your colleagues and teachers. Continue to learn. Do not ignore the latest techniques or types. Study and learn from them. Continue to educate yourself on massage therapy and other related fields. Take part in the community. Give back in your field and to the larger world.
If you are a massage therapist, you are in a position of trust. As a result, you respect the right of your clients to privacy. You do not talk about their problems or retell their information to anyone. This includes other massage therapists. You can only discuss their personal and medical problems if you receive permission to do so.
When treating a client, pay attention to their needs. Give them the best you can. Yet, before you even touch their body, be sure they are aware of your boundaries and you know theirs. Massage therapists do not engage in sexual activities with their clients. They do not indulge in inappropriate touching. They listen to the physical, personal and emotional boundaries the client expresses. If a client does not wish you to manipulate a part, you do not do so. If they request you stop in mid-massage, you follow their instructions.
In turn, the therapist explains in detail the treatment, what it entails and his or her own role. A therapist has his or her own standards of behavior and acceptability. This includes keeping private and professional lives separate. A professional massage therapist does not date or accept gifts from clients.
A client and the therapist are in a partnership. Each involved individual needs to know what the other wants to happen and what is the scope or intent of the massage. This is the only way the client can make an informed decision. This is the only way the practitioner can provide the services and obtain the goal of massage. It is also a means by which the therapist can keep control of his or her own boundaries.
An informed consent includes both professional and private material. The client receives information on cost, purpose, length, type and possible benefits of the treatment. A therapist should also explain to the client the specific technique and category of massage therapy. This increases the level of information and helps inform the client about therapeutic massage. It is also part of the overall duty of the professional therapeutic masseuse – to inform and educate the public. This is another part of the code of ethics.
In the case of massage therapy, it is very important to inform and educate the public. There is so much misinformation about the role, goals, types and possibilities of massage therapy. The existence of sexual massage parlors does much to erode public confidence. You can inform the public, but the best example is an exemplar one.
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