resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
Healing With Hope
Ella is a Gulf War veteran and a survivor of military sexual trauma. Like hundreds of veterans, Ella was on 11 different medications for depression, anxiety, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome and chronic pain.
Getting Athletes Back in the Game: Low-Level Laser Therapy for Sports Injuries
Sports injury rehabilitation is all about getting back in the game quickly and with optimal health. A relatively new tool for the treatment of sports injuries is finding global success, and it is doing so in a fast, efficient way.
Deciphering The New CMS 1500 Claim Form
Q: I am confused on using the new 1500 form, particularly Block 14 and Block 15. What is required and how do I properly fill these out? And do I actually have to use this new form or may I continue using the old version?
Talking to Skeptical MDs: "Just the Facts, Ma'am"
The first lesson in public speaking is to know your audience. This is particularly applicable when talking to skeptical medical doctors about chiropractic. You have to understand where they are coming from and speak the language they understand.
Healing With Simple, Healthy Food
When it comes to your health, there is no better way to take control and create positive outcomes than by focusing on diet and lifestyle. As chiropractors, you know the power that regular self-care has for your patients.
Best Practices for Website Success
If one asked 10 years ago whether a website was relevant I was the first to suggest no. Yet as the world moves increasingly towards electronic information there is a dire need to have a website for your practice. Your website is actually your electronic calling card.
The Acupuncture Success Express
Time is passing very quickly these days. We are atoms half the way through the year of the horse. You could call it "horse racing season" for this profession. Perhaps it is time for reinvention during this time.
Primary Lateral Sclerosis: A Condition With a Chiropractic Connection
Primary lateral sclerosis (PLS) is a slowly progressive, adult degenerative disease of the upper motor neurons characterized by progressive spasticity or stiffness. It is a clinical diagnosis that has been avoided because it is (largely) a diagnosis of exclusion.
The Kidney Official
The Kidney is known as the Official Who Controls the Waterways. In Western medical terms, a major function of the Kidneys is to filter the blood. Every day, a person's kidneys process about 200 liters of blood to sift out about two liters of waste and excess water.
Super Bowl Chiropractor
With opening night of the 2014 National Football League season only a month away, what better time to talk to Dr. Jim Kurtz, team chiropractor for the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks?
Post-Concussion Patient Care: Relevance of the Chiropractic Adjustment
There is a widespread understanding within the profession of the general guidelines for care of the concussion patient. These include guidelines for physical and cognitive rest, return to normal activities and so forth.
Spotlight on Acupuncture Research at IRCIMH
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine were well-represented at the International Research Congress on Integrative Medicine and Health (IRCIMH)- 2014 which took place in Miami from May 13–16.
Looking For Answers In Many Places
I am sure we have all heard the old adage: "When the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail."
Medical Qigong for the Heart: Part II
Chinese Medicine is rich in commentary regarding the emotions and how they affect our qi.
Hazards in the Environment Making Your Patients Sick
Working both separately and together, Western and Chinese medicine have many successes in the treatment of the myriad diseases that afflict human beings in modern times.
Advice for Young Doctors
When I began practice, I was just shy of my 25th birthday. I was young and I looked it. I had been told this would be a problem when starting a practice – and it was. Older patients often paused when they entered for care.
Looking Back: Abstracts From Chiropractic History
D.D. Palmer's Technique for the Posterior Apical Prominence; An Early Attempt to Achieve Consensus on Subluxation; Chiropractic Subject Headings: Past, Present and Future; Mabel Palmer: A History of Chiropractic That Almost Wasn't.
Offline Marketing Techniques: Opportunities to Help Grow Your Business
In a world becoming increasingly dominated by connected devices, when we think of marketing, we often think of online and social media marketing. Considerable attention is given to Facebook and Twitter, as well as CPC [cost-per-click] advertising.
The Gluteal-Knee Connection
The underlying causes of knee pain and dysfunction are rarely isolated to the knee. The knee is a relatively stable joint with limited intrinsic ability to adapt to aberrant motion.
Inside Liver Failure, Cirrhosis and Cancer
The Liver belongs to Wood in Five Element Theory and is in charge of Dispersing and Expanding which means all the processing and detoxifying of harmful substances such as medications and chemicals require the efforts of the Liver.
F4CP: New Campaign to Promote Chiropractic as a Career
The F4CP has announced a "targeted cooperative campaign" that will engage doctors of chiropractic and chiropractic students, as well as chiropractic colleges, chiropractic media, state associations and vendors, to encourage DCs to recommend a chiropractic career to patients, family and friends.
Not Another Typical Drug Company Lawsuit
It's becoming more common to see drug manufacturers negotiate "false claims" settlements for millions and billions of dollars.1-2 Most of these settlements have to do with violations in the marketing of the drugs they produce and sell.
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.
Join the conversation
Comments are encouraged, but you must follow our User Agreementcomments powered by Disqus
Keep it civil and stay on topic. No profanity, vulgar, racist or hateful comments or personal attacks. Anyone who chooses to exercise poor judgement will be blocked. By posting your comment, you agree to allow MPA Media the right to republish your name and comment in additional MPA Media publications without any notification or payment.