The Ethics of Client Communication
(How Do You Say “No” When Your Client Says “Yes”?)
by Ruth Werner, LMP, NCTMB

I have the privilege of writing columns about massage and pathology for two publications: Massage Today! and Massage and Bodywork magazine. Because of this public exposure, I get a lot of questions for massage therapists all over the country about health issues: sometimes about their own health (“Did I get hepatitis C from that client?”), but usually about the health of their clients. Here are some examples of situations people have sent me:

What do you do in these situations? What do you say? How do you handle it when your client says, “yes,” but your instinct says, “no, no, NO”?

In response to questions like these, I have developed a class on communicating with people about their health. This class addresses these tricky conversations, which must make room for client safety, therapist safety, scope of practice issues, confidentiality, and HIPPA laws: a complicated mix indeed!

After some brief review of massage red flags and medication guidelines, we will jump right into communication skills, using real-life scenarios provided by previous workshop participants. The bulk of the class is conducted as small “role play” scenarios, giving participants a chance to try new skills (or brush off old ones) in a setting that is safe and welcoming. What we inevitably find is that while there are a few ways to do these incorrectly, there are infinite “right” ways—and each practitioner can find his or her own voice in these situations.

Participants find this class to be a valuable review of core information, but more importantly, it is a fun and supportive time to share their concerns with other massage therapists. We usually work in tiny, private bubbles of space; this class is a chance to break out of our bubbles and share our successes and challenges with like-minded therapists.

We hope you’ll come and play with us!

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