Submitted By Sharon Gibson, LMT
When I first began practicing massage therapy, back in the mid-70s, when legitimate therapeutic massage wasn’t so commonplace as it has become, I had a young male client who assumed he was there to receive more. When this became apparent, quite soon into the massage, I very calmly and professionally explained to him the difference between what he expected, and the nature of what I had to offer. Fortunately he didn’t force the issue and accepted the massage on my basis. He had never actually experienced a professional, therapeutic massage prior and was so impressed he left me a very generous tip. I did not try to embarrass or humiliate him in any way and just dropped his initial improper assumption.
If you were confronted with the same situation again, how might you handle things differently?
Response from Sharon Gibson, LMT
I feel I handled the situation as best I could and it worked out well, as was clear by the outcome, so I don’t think there’s anything I would change.
Response from Institute for Integrative Healthcare Studies
Unfortunately, the perception of massage has often been misconstrued by some to mean a bit more than a therapeutic bodywork session. The implication of sexual favors as a part of massage reached a peak in the mid-1940s and seems to have persisted despite the efforts of professional organizations as well as massage therapists.
The best thing we can do is to help educate clients as to what to expect. This can be done by having various handouts explaining what therapeutic massage is all about as well as having them fill out an intake form requesting contact information and a health history. Having a professional demeanor, perhaps incorporating some kind of uniform attire and a décor with clinical touches helps to convey the therapeutic quality of a massage session.
Many people, like the young man above, are simply misinformed. The way it was handled, in this case, relayed the message well and, as a result, there is one less person who has the wrong idea about massage therapy. Hopefully he spread the word!