Ethics defined

Ethics is about creating a strong foundation for your massage business or job so that you can build a career that will allow you to last a long time and be wildly successful as a massage therapist.   I bet you never really thought that ethics could get wild!

Studying ethics and learning about your own values and needs is what will help you create the boundaries that will help you throughout your career.    When you can set boundaries that support you,  your chances of having a long and rewarding career increase significantly.   It is about living and working in integrity with your values.   This is the real law of attraction at work.  Your marketing plan, website and everything you do will be supporting you every step of the way.

You also have to be aware of the many things that can happen for a client who is on the massage table.  Touch has a way of bringing up many old patterns of relating to people.  When people are in pain and under stress, they often are not thinking clearly.  Understanding transference will help you help people more.  The clearer you are about yourself and your boundaries, the more possibilities there are for healing at a deeper level than just the physical pain.  While we don’t deal with the emotions as a massage therapist, they can not be denied or ignored.

Ethics defined

Ethics is defined by Webster as the study of standards of conduct and moral judgment; this system or code of morals of a particular person, religion,group, profession, etc.

Ethics for healthcare providers takes on an additional meaning and responsibility and is more about moral decisions. Does our behavior effect others in a negative way? Ethics of care for healthcare providers  is about the importance of empathetic relationships and compassion.  It goes beyond – do no harm and takes it to compassion for people we work with.  It is more about a moral dilemma than about justice.

Since each person is unique with their own experiences and beliefs, ethics can be difficult to define. There is no concrete answer.  As a professional, we are responsible for the comfort and safety of our clients.  We can serve them best when we understand their needs and rights.  We can serve them best when we have examined ourselves and worked through our own issues. We can serve them best when we focus on the development of ourselves.  We can only guide the client  to places that we have been willing to go ourselves.  The healing process can begin only when we realize that we are just facilitators in the process itself.  The healing is the responsibility of the client alone.  They must be given the information to determine what is right for them and what they are going through.

Informed Consent

Clients need to be able to make a decision as to whether they want you to work on them and what they want you to do. Tell the client what you’re doing and why. This is informed consent.  They must be given enough information, such as : what are the goals and purpose of the session, what are the possible consequences of the treatment, what risks are involved,  what are the possible benefits of a treatment, how much time will the treatment take, how much money will the treatment cost and how will it be paid for.  With this information, a client will be able to determine if they want the treatment for themselves or do they refuse the treatment.

Informed consent is the process in which a fully informed client can make conscious decisions about their health care or massage therapy session.  An informed consent statement does just what it says: informs clients to make them aware of your services so they can actively consent or participate in the service or not.

Informed consent for doctors usually is about protecting them in case things go wrong in their treatments that are much more invasive or even life threatening.  For Massage therapists, informed consent is more about letting people know of possible contraindications and keeping them safe.  It does not release the massage therapist if harm is done as in the case of doctors.

Writing a Statement of Informed Consent is crucial to the success of a massage practice.

Many massage therapists overlook this process.

An informed consent statement can include:

  • list of services that you offer
  • scope of practice
  • a specific definition of what those services are
  • your intentions for the massage
  • your philosophy on healing, massage and health
  • treatment plans and goals
  • risks involved in treatment/session
  • guidelines for receiving massage

After informing a client of your services and philosophy it is necessary to confirm that the client understands what you mean.  Often, clients will just agree without hesitation because they don’t want to make waves.  You can specifically ask a client to tell you what they understand will be happening.

Being direct with a client sets up proper boundaries for creating a therapeutic relationship.  When a client is informed, they have the opportunity to be more engaged in the process of massage and healing.

The client or therapist can end the session at any time.  This is especially helpful in cases where men request ‘extra’ favors or with clients who are continually late or don’t show for their appointments.

Articles online on Informed Consent:

Informed Consent Heart of Bodywork By Nina McIntosh, Author of  Educated Heart,  Massage and Bodywork MagazineInformed Consent,  Elaine Stillerman, Massage TodayHeating up your Practice Safely Part 1, Dixie Wall Massage Today,  How to use hot stones safely and use informed consent

Examples of Informed Consent:

AMTA Informed Consent Agreement

Informed Consent Forms for Massage, Acupuncture, for Minors at in .doc, PDF, wpf, and rtf format that you can edit and make into your own form.

Right of Refusal

Clients have the right to refuse the service for any reason at any time.  If they determine that the session should be stopped right in the middle, their needs must be respected.  Be aware that a session interrupted before completed may also cause a problem in the financial agreement.  Does the client owe for the whole time?
This same right also applies for the practitioner. You can end a session at any time, for any reason. The bottom line is to work on only people who are nurturing to you and do not drain your energy. If your mother just died of lung cancer it may not be advisable to work on someone who smokes.


A clients information, both written and verbal belongs to the client.  Conversations that occur during a session, should not be repeated or included in the chart notes unless it is describing their physical condition. A client may also not want to be approached outside the treatment clinic.  If you see a client walking down the street and stop and say hello, this may violate their right of confidentiality, as they may not want it be known that they are seeking treatment.