ETHICAL MASSAGE Ethical Massage Being a licensed massage therapist for the past eight years in the State of Florida, I have been required to take an ethics course every two years in order to maintain and renew my therapeutic massage and bodywork license. We are required to take continuing education courses which earn us CEs, totally 24 every two years in order to successfully renew our licenses. So, having taken an ethics course several times since my licensure, I am very familiar with the ethical issues that massage therapists and their clients face, along with the Code of Ethics in which massage therapists strive to follow. While there are several ethical issues that massage therapists face in practice, including patient rights, billing and coding, conflicts of
interest, one of the most common, and most troubling to me, is relationships, particularly relating to dual relationships and sexual misconduct. Every ethical massage therapist strives to achieve the virtue ethics stated by Aristotle and all massage associations‟ Codes of Ethics reflect these virtues in their detail. Ethical massage therapy should be a two-way street between the therapist and the client, each seeking an experience that is not only safe and healthful, but also sacred and respectful. By adhering to virtue ethics, the massage therapy community and their clients can achieve what is morally right in order to attain true happiness. In virtue ethics, “ethical behavior is a result of developed or inherent character tries or virtues. A person will do what is morally right because they are a virtuous person. Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) was a famous exponent of this view. Aristotle felt that virtue ethics was the way to attain true happiness.” Among his commonly accepted virtues, the ones that massage therapists strive for in conducting a morally ethical massage include autonomy, beneficence, confidentiality, finality, justice, nonmaleficence, understanding/tolerance, respect for persons, universality, and veracity. None of these virtues support any kind of sexual misconduct, but
ETHICAL MASSAGE instead, strive through each and every one of them, to do the exact opposite – they strive to respect the rights of each person, including the therapist, and the professionalism that each
healthcare professional seeks to obtain with their clients. As Ginny Merriam states in her article, Ethics of massage, “You don‟t go to your dentist for sex, you don‟t go to your RN for sex, you don‟t go to your chiropractor for sex, you don‟t go to your massage therapist for sex.” (Merriam, G., 1999, para. 5) She goes on to say “Professional, therapeutic massage should never be sexual, and clients should never be nervous about their therapists‟ behavior.” (Merriam, G., 1999, para. 1) “I want women to be able to get up and say, „That doesn‟t feel right. I‟m out of here,‟” she said. “I‟d like women to feel empowered to say, „That feels uncomfortable.‟ Anything that goes against the grain, anything that the client doesn‟t want, that should be honored.” (Merriam, G., 1999, para. 9) The same goes for men. “It‟s not just women,” she said. “I‟d like to see a man feel he can say, „I don‟t want you to work my chest area,‟ or „I don‟t want you to work my thighs.‟” (Merriam, G., 1999, para. 11) The NCBTMB Code of Ethics also states that certificants will “provide draping and treatment in a way that ensures the safety, comfort, and privacy of the client.” (National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, 2008, Code XII.) It also states that the certificant should “exercise the right to refuse to treat any person or part of the body for just and reasonable cause.” (National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, 2008, Code XIII.) The popularity and history of massage has contributed to the sexual implications that have continued to endure in some clients‟ minds, even in this day and age. There was a time...