Hey my friends,
This is a personal letter to you that I've taken to my blog to open a discussion around this very sensitive recent issue.
The "P" word and the "G" word in professional therapy? Never.
(Penis and Genitals)
This "PPBA" is a working document that I want your thoughts on -- is it necessary? Would it help? How do we word it best? What do we put in and what gets left out?
Big news (not so new) is that Sexual Assault is occurring in clinics and businesses around the country. It is being carried out by Massage Therapists, Physical Therapists, Yoga Instructors, Personal Trainers, and many other providers.
The latest story is regarding massage therapists working at Massage Envy chain of clinics across the US.
The unfortunate reports of sexual misconduct and assault that has occurred over the years at the Massage Envy has now been brought out into the spotlight and we must do something to protect ourselves AND our clients and patients!
The ME chain has tried to bury it under the rug rather than take matters seriously and put policies and procedures in place to prevent it from happening again to their customers.
I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for Massage Envy, NOR our professional organizations to come up with a 'plan' or official statement. It doesn't really matter, because what does matter is what we (you) can do now to protect ourselves and our clients and patients.
This link is for California Consumer Affairs, on "Professional Therapy Never Includes Sex". There is something similar for every state, and country.
I'm providing this post as a forum for us to see if together, we can wrap our heads around the best way to handle the justifiable concern over inappropriate touch in the massage industry.
Obviously it is a disastrous experience for clients to go in for a relaxing massage only to have a horrible experience.
If you know me as a business coach, I'm always speaking about setting expectations for clients so we and they can have the best experience. It starts at the very beginning of our professional relationship and through the on-boarding process of our new client.
From the very first encounter, we want them to be comfortable and trust that we will act with the highest level of integrity and professionalism.
I'M NOT SURE IF A "PPBA" IS THE ANSWER, BUT...
I've created a document that is pasted below. I'm calling it a Professional Physical Boundary Agreement. (PPBA)
Providing patients and clients with a PPBA MIGHT be a way to start. It also MIGHT be non-effective, or even wrong and set up weird dynamics if not presented to clients well.
But I believe it is best to brainstorm all ideas and then systematically rule options out.
Take a look at the working document below and let's fine-tune it. You are welcome to take this and use it however you wish in your own practice, with my blessing!
Professional Physical Boundaries Agreement
Between Therapist and Client
Client Name:________________________________ Date:__________________
- As your therapist, it is my goal to provide a completely safe, stress-free environment and for you to feel heard and respected during our time together.
- This Professional Physical Boundaries Agreement is a statement of agreement between me, as your therapist, and you, the client/patient.
- I am a trained professional and take my job to provide you with highly effective therapeutic services very seriously.
- Due to the sensitive and intimate nature of receiving a manual therapy session we each must be very clear in advance of the boundaries and the expectations for both of us.
- Prior to your therapy session we will discuss your goals for the session and I will advise you of the areas of your body that I would like to apply manual therapy, and I will explain my clinical reasoning to support it. I welcome your questions at any time.
Understanding of Expectations specified in this PPBA:
- My goal is to give you the absolute best therapeutic session possible, each and every time we work together.
- You may choose to invite another person to accompany you to be in the room with you during our session time together.
- You will always be respectfully draped with a top sheet or cover, or clothed.
- You may leave as much clothing on as you feel comfortable, including underwear, pants and shirt and I will do my best to provide your session by pressing through the cloth or work around the area.
- If at any time you feel at all uncomfortable during the session please tell me so I can address your needs. You may stop the session at any time or ask me to adjust the pressure, the style, the temperature, the music or any other variable of your session.
- For conditions such as sciatica, hip, and pelvis issues I may need to provide therapy to the areas surrounding your pelvis, buttocks, and hips. At no time whatsoever will I ever provide therapy to (or touch) your genitals.
- It is understood at no time whatsoever will I touch your breasts. The only time it might be beneficial to massage close to your breast tissue is if/when the muscles of your chest need to be released due to tightness of those muscles below your breast tissue. (Pectoral muscles)
- I may need to remove the covering of only the area of your body that I need to address, while the rest of your body stays covered. At anytime during the session, you can adjust the drape or ask for an additional blanket or sheet to provide more coverage.
At the end of the therapy session, you will complete the checklist below to confirm that you received a session where you felt safe, cared for, and respected.
As stated before, this agreement will insure both of us are protected.I look forward to serving you at the highest level!
Areas To Avoid In Today’s Therapy Session:
⃞ Abdomen (belly) ⃞ Face ⃞ Breasts ⃞ Gluteals (buttocks)
⃞ Leg from Knee up ⃞ Leg from Mid-Thigh up ⃞ Feet ⃞ Hands ⃞ Back
⃞ Neck ⃞ Shoulders ✅ Genitals ✅ Nipples
⃞ By asking you to avoid the above areas, I recognize I may compromise my clinical results.
Post Therapy Session Checklist:
⃞ I felt safe during my session
⃞ I felt my privacy and comfort was respected
⃞ I felt a professional trust from you as my therapist
Client Signature___________________________________ Date:_____________
YES, This is blatant!
Yes, this can intimidate some people!
Yes, you can take out the "nipple / genital" parts if you choose to use a PPBA!
I'm NOT A LAWYER, and I do know using a PPBA won't protect us legally or eliminate the chance that someone could accuse us of sexual assault.
I have no idea how this can/will be construed from a legal point.
SET YOURSELF APART:
What I DO KNOW is if you provide a PPBA to your clients at the start of each session until they feel completely comfortable with you -- it will be an effective way to send an absolutely clear message to your clients and patients that you ARE DIFFERENT from the therapists who would NEVER DREAM of providing a PPBA to their clients!
Only ethical, responsible, professional males (and possibly females) would have the confidence to confront the issue head-on.
Just as each of us use our own individualized Intake or Health History form and collect different data points in our practices, this PPBA can be modified for each person or clinic's use.
I think a PPBA is a good idea and will be using one in my Diamond Pain Relief & Wellness Center in San Francisco once I'm happy with the document structure and wording and run it by an attorney.
I believe if/when this sensitive topic is presented in the right way to a new client -- it will help them feel secure and safe rather than wondering if you're gonna be a sexual predator.
Let's use the comments below to discuss to figure out if a working PPBA document is appropriate for us as professionals to use in our solo clinics and possibly even have the franchises incorporate their own version of it, too.
If you like the PPBA as it is, now, PLEASE copy it
and use it in good health, with my blessings!
I look forward to collaborating with you on this so we all can contribute to making our industry safe for everyone!