resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
Epigenetics: The Western Science Supporting Essence
Since the days of Darwin, western medicine has touted that our genes were set in stone, that our genetics were our destiny. We were told that the diseases that ran in our family were likely coming to us as well.
Green Tea Catechins Lower PSA, Other Biomarkers in Men With Localized Prostate Cancer
A 2006 study (Cancer Research) was the first human investigation to show that green tea catechins (GTC) are highly effective in reversing premalignant prostate lesions (high-grade prostate intra-epithelial neoplasia), an established precursor to prostate cancer.
Creating Child-Friendly Clinics with ABT
The Zurich Dojo was scattered with toy ducks, dolls, trains, exercise balls and teddy bears during my recent pediatric workshop.
News in Brief
Hamm Elected New President of the ACA; WFC / ACC 2014 Education Conference: Call for Papers; F4CP Recognizes Standard Process as $1 Million Supporter; Texas Chiro. College Begins Search for New President; League of Chiropractic Women Hosts Women's Success Summit.
Flexion-Intolerant Lower Back Pain (Pt. 3): Mobilization & Soft-Tissue Treatment
What is the biggest challenge to the chiropractor in treating discogenic pain? You have to completely reframe the purpose of your manipulation. It is rarely about unlocking a stuck segment at the disc involvement level; it is not about putting a joint back in alignment.
Why DCs Need to Understand the Principles of "Inclusive Design"
In the past few columns, I've written about the negative effects of prolonged sitting at work. I've attempted to make the point that prolonged sitting (or prolonged standing) takes a toll on workers. Now let's discuss a related issue: the concept of "inclusive design."
Successful Strategies in Integrating Acupuncture and Shiatsu in a Hospital Oncology Program
Colleagues from the Network of Researchers in Public Health in CAM recently published an article of interest to our Traditional Asian Medicine community.
Stress in the Modern Age: Impact on Homeostasis and What You Can Do (Part 1)
In 1926, Hans Selye first used the word stress in a biological context, referring to the nonspecific response of the body to any demand placed upon it.
Risk Factors for Heel Problems
Heel pain and gait disability are common occurrences in adults, often the result of thinning heel pads and a lifetime of exposure to heel-strike shock. One condition experienced by many people is plantar fasciitis.
AAAOM – The Beginning of the End (Part II)
In 2012, the AAAOM board members met in Chicago for their annual meeting. The goal was to come to a consensus on a long list of issues the AAAOM needed to work on including a functional board and budget.
Steven Rosenblatt: Birthing A Cross-Cultural Acupuncture Profession
The existence of a cross-cultural acupuncture profession in the United States, one that is legalized, licensed, supported by formalized, academic training and inclusive of non-Asian practitioners, is an important part of the medical landscape in this country and is responsible for improving the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans.
Are You Guilty of Paternalism in Your Approach to Patient Care?
Einstein is purported to have said, "When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute and it's longer than any hour. That's relativity." In some way, everything is relative to one's point of view.
What is a Discipline in Medicine?
In my now prolonged dialogue with physicians, one question emerges with enough regularity to deserve mention and naming: what is a discipline?
Get That Shoulder to Move: Restoring Internal Rotation
How many times have you mobilized, performed ART, Graston, FAKTR and PIR, and stripped a patient's posterior capsule, yet on re-exam, discovered it was still blocked?
One and Done: Keeping Patients From Vanishing After Just One Appointment
What happened to my 3:30 p.m. ROF? They may have rescheduled, but there are two common answers no one wants to hear: 1) "She called to cancel. I tried to get her to reschedule, but she refused." 2) "She no-showed.
Collaboration for a Cause
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act strongly encourages the formation of multidisciplinary practitioner teams called Patient Centered Medical Homes (PCMHs) and Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs).
AAAOM – Making Promises They Can't Keep
When the AAAOM first formed in 2007, their mission was clear: to support the profession through education, resources and legislative advocacy. The first years of the organization were filled with promise and hope.
Leaving a Lasting Legacy: Donna Liewer
For the past 31 years, Donna Liewer has been on a personal mission "to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." In her role as executive director of the Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards, Liewer has accomplished that and much, much more.
Monoculture of the Mind: Part II
Cases are built within boundaries. Such bounds may be a program, event, activity or individuals. In this instance, a medical case has boundaries that include clinical interactions that are comprised of history, signs, symptoms, diagnoses, treatment plans and treatments.
Resilience is the New Longevity
Sometimes we must enter a room through one door and not another, even though they both lead into the same space. I am talking now of the recent cachet with the concept of "resilience" regarding health, chronic pain and longevity.
Chiropractic Prevents ADHD? Research Shows...
Now that I have your attention, let me tell you what the latest study actually states. As you may have noticed, research over the past few years has begun to reveal that acetaminophen (the primary ingredient in Tylenol) is not as safe as once thought.
The Healing Properties of Light: An Interview With Researcher Anna Cocliovo
This interview is with Anna Cocliovo, a light researcher and Acupuncturist in Arizona. During my own research in light, I came across the article she published for the American Journal of Acupuncture and sought her out as a result.
September, 2010, Vol. 10, Issue 09
When a Client Crosses the Line
By Cherie Sohnen-Moe
The sexual assault allegations against Al Gore has elicited much commentary about clients crossing the line sexually. Regardless of the veracity of this particular claim, it is an important topic to explore in-depth.Some clients may "test the waters" about sexual services, while others blatantly cross the line. Massage practitioners must know how to appropriately deal with those situations.
A sexual boundary can be challenged physically, verbally or both. Many factors influence the impact this behavior has on a practitioner, such as the length of time the practitioner has been working, the practitioner's ability to manage boundaries, the practitioner's history of abuse, the setting in which the boundary challenge occurs, and the client's prominence.
Boundary Crossings vs Boundary Violations
Boundaries are contextual because they can change depending on the situation. Behavior that is deemed appropriate at one time may be highly offensive in another setting. A boundary crossing is a transgression that may or may not be experienced as harmful. Often it is a minute difference in degree that makes an action shift from being considered a boundary crossing to a violation. It is also relative: what is a mere boundary crossing to one person may be a major violation to another. A boundary violation is a harmful transgression of a boundary. Differentiating a boundary crossing from a violation needs to be done on a case-by-case basis taking into account the context and facts of the situation.
For instance, just because a male client has an erection doesn't necessarily mean that he has any intention of sexual misconduct. Men experience erections even when they are not necessarily emotionally desirous of sex (e.g. when they need to urinate). Touch, itself, on any part of the body can stimulate a physiological response that results in a partial or complete erection. In a therapeutic setting spontaneous erections are often uncomfortable for practitioners and clients. The difficulty lies in that many practitioners (both men and women) are uncomfortable or fearful when a client has an erectile response during a session.
Both male and female practitioners often either ignore or overreact to an erectile response, becoming passive or aggressive with the client in discussing the condition. Each of these responses puts the practitioner in a vulnerable position. If a practitioner is verbally aggressive about the erection or hurts the client physically to quell the erection, the practitioner is abusing the client. Worse, many practitioners learn in school to discourage erections by "pressing hard on certain points." There are more respectful, clear and safe ways to deal with erections in men and arousal in women, which we will discuss.
With a sexually inappropriate client the number and intensity of behaviors usually escalate. What starts out as "innocent" boundary crossings can easily become violations. Clients might tell a sexual joke, ask overly personal questions, talk about their other massage experiences (with innuendos of sexual interactions), discuss their sexuality, or repeatedly expose themselves (accidentally removing the draping). One or two episodes may be an accident, poor boundaries, or a lapse in judgement. Or this could be a prelude to a boundary violation. While these actions may truly be innocuous, they should not be ignored, particularly when combined with other verbal or nonverbal requests or innuendos.
It may be helpful to distinguish the context surrounding the behavior. What were the client's verbal and physical cues? Did the client watch to see the practitioner's reaction? Are the behaviors increasing in frequency or intensity?
If a client (male or female) is obviously sexually aroused, and shows no signs of discomfort or embarrassment through verbal and nonverbal cues, it's usually not necessary to talk to the client about the arousal. Sometimes a simple action of moving to a different part of the body is all that's needed. However, if the practitioner feels uncomfortable or the client displays other verbal or nonverbal behaviors that could indicate sexual intent, ensure safety by obtaining sufficient information to discern the intent--whether it is merely a physiological response to touch or part of sexual desire. Identifying sexual arousal in a woman can be difficult, yet practitioners also need to keep good boundaries with their female clients. Documented cases exist where female clients have crossed the line.
Actions to Take
The first thing to do when a client crosses the line is to break physical contact. If possible make eye contact. Make sure the client is properly covered. Stand in a relaxed yet grounded manner and use a firm voice. Maintain safety. If the client's behavior feels intimidating do not stay too close to the table and position yourself so that you have easy access to your exit door. Leave immediately if the client actively threatens you.
Talk with the client. Describe the inappropriate behavior, ask the client for feedback (this helps to clarify the client's intent), and set (or reset) your boundaries and requirements. The steps taken totally depend on the client's responses. For example:
Practitioner: This is the second time that you've moved in such a way that caused the draping to improperly expose your body. Can you tell me about it?
Potential Client Responses:
Corresponding Practitioner Responses:
If the client agrees to your request, the session can continue. If not, the session should be terminated. Sometimes after going through all the above steps, a client's intent is still unclear. If that's the case, tell the client that you will continue this session but will stop if s/he behaves in any way that does not work for you.
Keep in mind that your safety is of primary importance. Sometimes the most appropriate action to take is to end the session immediately without going through the above steps. Store your belongings (including a cell phone) in an easily accessible place in case you need to make a hasty escape. If you feel threatened, leave the room and call the appropriate authorities. If you are in a spa or clinic, then go directly to the front desk. If you are in a private office, leave the building. If you are doing an outcall session, leave the premises--you can return later, accompanied by someone, for your equipment and supplies.
Document the Incident
Always document incidents of sexual boundary crossings and violations, even if the incident was resolved through conversation. Describe what happened, what you did to address the matter, and the client's response. This is for your protection just in case the client decides to lodge a complaint against you. This might seem bizarre, but consider that if a client is willing to cross sexual boundaries, who knows what else that person might do. There are cases where massage practitioners have been accused of sexual misconduct when in reality the client acted inappropriately. The practitioner refused to provide the requested sexual services and the rebuffed client complained to management that the practitioner made a sexual proposition.
Healthy boundaries are vital to managing sexual boundary crossings and violations. Sometimes strong boundaries can help prevent the "testing of the waters" from escalating into a sexual violation. Other times healthy boundaries include knowing when to leave.
One of the best ways to develop boundary skills in this area is to role-play scenarios. This is particularly important if you have a history of sexual abuse as practicing can help you avoid going into a dissociated state and "freezing."
Work through a variety of situations from the flirtatious client, to the client who makes questionable comments, to the client who asks inappropriate questions, to the sexually aroused client, to the client who is attempting sexual congress. If you are a student, this should be part of your training. If you are no longer a student, get together with colleagues and role-play. The more you practice dealing with these situations, the more adept you will be if they occur.
Next time, we will explore prevention techniques and ways to desexualize the touch experience.
Editor's note to readers: Tell us of your experiences in dealing with clients who have crossed the line. Let us know what happened, how you handled the situation and/or what you wish you would have done. Your letters and e-mails will be reviewed for possible publication in Massage Today print and online editions. If you would prefer to be left "anonymous," please indicate this in your letter. E-mail us at or mail to Massage Today, 5406 Bolsa Avenue, Huntington Beach CA 92649.
Click here for previous articles by Cherie Sohnen-Moe.
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