resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
Don't Trust What Your Patients Say
When a patient presents to the office for care, they typically have a specific complaint – lower back pain, whiplash, sinus congestion, sciatica, etc. They are often not interested or engaged in what they consider "unrelated" personal health history.
News in Brief
D'Youville Vet Program Gets High Praise; A Moment of Silence for Dr. Paul Reginald ("Reg") Hug.
The Search for the Origin of the Wiggle Technique
When Bob had adjusted me previously, most of the time I knew what he was doing. But this time, he had me lie on the treatment table in the usual side-posture position, and he "wiggled" my sacroiliac with the fingers of both hands, while stabilizing my pelvis with his forearm.
Deciphering the New CMS-1500 Claim Form
Q: I am confused about how and when to use the new 1500 form, particularly block 14 and block 15. What is required and how do I properly fill out these fields? And do I actually have to use this new form or may I continue using the old version?
We Get Letters & E-Mail
Imagine What More Could Be Achieved With Your Support; A Lesson in Hygiene: What Do You Do in Your Office? Open Letter to the Profession.
Wellness: A New Buzzword at the Aging in America Conference
Aging in America is "the nation's largest gathering of a diverse, multidisciplinary community of professionals in healthcare, social service, government, business and philanthropy with expertise in providing services and products for older adults."
Shared Mechanisms Between Computer-Assisted Mechanical Adjusting and Contemporary Acupuncture?
Can contemporary acupuncture provide clues to the mechanisms responsible for pain relief provided by computer-assisted mechanical adjusting instruments, and clarify whether certain mechanical frequency combinations are superior to others for modulation of acute peripheral pain?
CRREW Rallies for Ongoing Acupuncture Relief Effort in the Philippines
On November 8, 2013, Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) made her way through the Philippine Islands, leaving in her wake at least 7,000 people dead, millions homeless and complete communities destroyed.
Employers Need Chiropractic First and Sooner
From the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine comes a study that gives excellent direction to employers (and insurers) regarding the management of low back problems (LBP).
The Boston Benevolent Chiropractic Clinic: Standing Up for the Needy
Our chiropractic assistant, Bridget, greeted an arriving patient at the Emmanuel Church in downtown Boston. She said, "Hi, Michael, good to see you. It's been awhile. Have a seat and Dr. Ken will see you soon."
Working With The Yuan-Source Level: Resonance and the Extraordinary Vessels
How do we stay fresh with our medicine? As healers, how do we balance our medical selves with creative artistry? Chinese Medicine is not a fixed dogmatic entity, but a living system, reliant on a mysterious force called "resonance."
"Doctor ... Always Do the Right Thing"
So says "Da Mayor" in the iconic Spike Lee movie. As a fresh grad questioning in-network versus out-of-network, it struck me that some doctors have explicitly skirted the issue, while others have argued adamantly for the latter and "sticking it to the man."
Low Melatonin Linked to Risk of Advanced Prostate Cancer
Epidemiological and experimental studies suggest the hormone melatonin, which plays a role in regulating the sleep-wake cycle, may play a role in the development of prostate cancer, as lower melatonin levels have been associated with an increased risk of prostate (and breast) cancer.
Vibrational Medicine: Frequency Micro-Current and Color Acupuncture
Vibrational medicine involves the application of various forms of energy frequencies to the body for pain relief, healing and rejuvenation. Vibrational medicine will become a major growing trend in our medical systems for the following reasons:
Halt Allergies With Moxibustion Therapy
An allergy is an immune system disorder in which the body is hypersensitive to normally harmless substances in the environment.
News In Brief
Pacific College of Oriental Medicine obtains grant funding from NIH; Yo San University of Traditional Chinese Medicine Announces New President; Kentucky Gets Licensed; PCOM Receives Approval from WASC to Offer FPD.
The Importance of Knowing Mainstream Lingo
There is a secret lingo within mainstream medicine of which the vast majority of acupuncturists and Chinese medical professionals are unaware.
Home Sweet Medical Home
While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has received its fair share of praise and criticism since its adoption, few question the value of its emphasis on collaborative, patient-centered health care.
Don't Trust What a Patient Says
When a patient presents to the office for care, they typically have a specific complaint in mind – lower back pain, whiplash, sinus congestion, sciatica, etc.
Medical Qigong for the Heart: Part I
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, affecting people of all ages and backgrounds. Coronary heart disease, in just the United States alone, costs close to 109 billion dollars a year.
Changes in Herbal Medicines from Ancient Times to the Present
The classical literature of Chinese medicine remains highly relevant in the modern era, as many of the basic theories and herbal combinations emphasized in clinical practice were first established in texts that are nearly 2000 years old.
Medial Knee Pain: 11 Potential Causes (and Corrections)
We have all seen patients with medial knee pain that either has no traumatic origin or lasts well beyond when it should be resolved. How can we help these patients? Here is an overview of clinical scenarios and how we can provide conservative care.
Replenishing and Restoring Jing
I learned an important principle from my great Taoist Master Sun Hak. He taught me that all people "leak" Jing, and that we can mitigate or stop this leaking, and as a result strengthen our life force, develop enhanced adaptability and lengthen our life.
New Leadership Era at the WFC
The World Federation of Chiropractic recently announced not only a new president, as is customary every two years, but also an incoming secretary-general, marking the first time since the WFC's inception in 1988 that someone other than David Chapman-Smith, Esq., will serve in that capacity.
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.