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Ethics ...

Starting a practice
Professional Boundaries
Projection and Transference
Self Care Tips
Grounding Exercises

Intro to Massage
Massage Modalities
Massage School Notes
Anatomy & Kinesiology
The Muscles
Massage Sequences
Swedish Massage
Deep Tissue Massage
Alignment Therapy
Reflexology Massage
TriggerPoint Therapy
Trigger Charts


Informed Consent

Right of Refusal






As a massage professional you are taught that you should be aware some clients might suffer strong emotional release during massage. You need to be able to recognize signs of such sublimated emotions and to know how deal with such issues when they arise in your massage practice.

First for some background...
Unresolved emotions can become anchored in the body as a result of physical and emotional traumas. Think of the body as maintaining `physical memories' of such emotions in the tension of muscles. The condition is especially common with those who suffered physical or sexual abuse as children. It can be that over time, the body becomes habituated to the unbalanced muscle tensions. Eventually, patterns of body usage and posture are changed in an unconscious attempt to compensate.

Massage can bring anchored emotions and associated memories back to conscious awareness. Not surprisingly some psychotherapies involve forms of bodywork intended to focus the patients attention on tension in their body. While the re-awakening of emotions is a process that can contribute greatly to re-integration and healing, it is important as a massage practitioner not to assume the role of emotional therapist or become caught up in listening to verbal stories.

It is equally important, however, to bring focus and awareness to bodywork sessions. A massage professional should be aware of their client's overall way of inhabiting their body. I often watch how my clients hold themselves, walk and gesture. Projections of being overly rigid, collapsed, or inanimate / dissociated can be indications of past abuse.

Abuse survivors can have trouble `owning' their bodies. They may feel loss of breath or voice. If their physical memories are triggered, such clients may remove all of their conscious awareness from their body. An example could be saying yes while shaking their head or retreating slightly from your hand. Such incongruence in presentation is a subtle indicator of the incongruence between their conscious and unconscious thoughts and feelings.

I have found it is important to remember that my goal is neither to `fix' the problem nor to add my own emotional reaction to the client's process. Instead I assume a role of offering the quiet acceptance and support that will enable the client to reach an acceptable level of equilibrium by the end of the session. Often this will include gentle grounding work around the head, neck, shoulders, or feet and ankles. Reminding the client to breathe. The most important thing you can do is to quietly convey to the client a sense of connectedness and support.


General Principles of Ethics

Additional Reading:

Starting a practice • Professional Boundaries • Projection and Transference • Self Care Tips • Grounding Exercises • Regulation

Massage as in any other profession is a contract between the practitioners and the public so that the public can get a reliable, trustworthy service we must consider ethics.  There are two possible relationships between the massage therapist and the

  1. Where the therapist simply carries out the client's wishes, with no significant decisions, providing the treatment as requested.
  2. Where the client transfers all decisions to the therapist, so that the therapist determines and carries out the treatment in consultation with the client.

The primary responsibility of the therapist is ensuring the health and safety of the client. Work must be carried out with due care and diligence.

Ethics is defined by Webster as the study of standards of conduct and moral judgment; this system or code of morals of a particular person, religion, group, profession, etc. 

As a member of Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals, I have pledged to abide by the ABMP Code of Ethics as outlined below.

Client Relationships

  • I shall endeavor to serve the best interests of my clients at all
    times and to provide the highest quality service possible.
  • I shall maintain clear and honest communications with my clients
    and shall keep client communications confidential.
  • I shall acknowledge the limitations of my skills and, when
    necessary, refer clients to the appropriate qualified health care
  • I shall in no way instigate or tolerate any kind of sexual advance
    while acting in the capacity of a massage, bodywork, somatic therapy or
    esthetic practitioner.


  • I shall maintain the highest standards of professional conduct, providing services in an ethical and professional manner in relation to my clientele, business associates, health care professionals, and the general public.
  • I shall respect the rights of all ethical practitioners and will cooperate with all health care professionals in a friendly and professional manner.
  • I shall refrain from the use of any mind-altering drugs, alcohol, or intoxicants prior to or during professional sessions.
  • I shall always dress in a professional manner, proper dress being defined as attire suitable and consistent with accepted business and professional practice.
  • I shall not be affiliated with or employed by any business that utilizes any form of sexual suggestiveness or explicit sexuality in its advertising or promotion of services, or in the actual practice of its services.

Scope of Practice / Appropriate Techniques

  • I shall provide services within the scope of the ABMP definition of massage, bodywork, somatic therapies and skin care, and the limits of my training. I will not employ those massage, bodywork or skin care techniques for which I have not had adequate training and shall represent my education,
    training, qualifications and abilities honestly.
  • I shall be conscious of the intent of the services that I am providing and shall be aware of and practice good judgment regarding the application of massage, bodywork or somatic techniques utilized.
  • I shall not perform manipulations or adjustments of the human skeletal structure, diagnose, prescribe or provide any other service, procedure or therapy which requires a license to practice chiropractic, osteopathy, physical therapy, podiatry, orthopedics, psychotherapy, acupuncture, dermatology, cosmetology, or any other profession or branch of medicine unless specifically licensed to do so.
  • I shall be thoroughly educated and understand the physiological effects of the specific massage, bodywork, somatic or skin care techniques utilized in order to determine whether such application is contraindicated and/or to determine the most beneficial techniques to apply to a given individual.
  • I shall not apply massage, bodywork, somatic or skin care techniques in those cases where they may be contraindicated without a written referral from the client's primary care provider.

Image / Advertising Claims

  • I shall strive to project a professional image for myself, my business or place of employment, and the profession in general.
  • I shall actively participate in educating the public regarding the actual benefits of massage, bodywork, somatic therapies and skin care.
  • I shall practice honesty in advertising, promote my services ethically and in good taste, and practice and/or advertise only those techniques for which I have received adequate training and/or certification.
  • I shall not make false claims regarding the potential benefits of the techniques rendered.


 Professional Boundaries -  Projection and Transference

Pictures of my old office (a good example of how a treatment room should be set up)
notice there is a separate reception area to do general business, a changing area, the table is clean with freshly pressed sheets and there are extra towels to provide additional covering for modesty and warmth.


I highly recommend visiting www.thebodyworker.com for more information about ethics.


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