Thursday, May 10, 2012

Sex and Massage Part 2: Code of Ethics

"In the first place, if the dogma was never broken,
the stigma would never have risen."

- Anonymous     

Acknowledge-Ignore, Terminate-Proceed

I am fortunate to have learned a clearer knowing of what the signals are for whatever people are looking for in a massage - how to separate someone who are looking for more of a sexual massage than a therapeutic session! I avoid them as much as I can, sometimes I refer them. But truth is, you get or eventually will get a sincere client on your  treatment table/mat who you are/ you can be attracted to; OR who are attracted/ can become attracted to you. AND believe it or not, if the feeling is mutual, sexual tensions can arise no matter how decent and sincere both your intentions are! It is a difficult situation to be in and you can both sense it somehow! So what would you do?

Well, on my side of the equation, I put my sexual issues and feelings to the shelf and ignore them when they arise. If they are too strong, and I cannot, then I end the professional relationship, and refer the client out. Then I go back to "ye olde codes and standards" and see what and how it permits me to proceed, or how it permit "us" to proceed. Make it simple: You acknowledge that you have the feelings, then you ignore them - if you cannot, then terminate the professional relationship and then proceed to what the code and standard permit!

Remember the PD classes back in school? Yup, those! They are the same Codes of Ethics and the same Standards of Practice for the Professions stated in different manners, evolved for different fields. Different professional organizations say it in different ways, different states modify them according to what their own constitution or laws permit. They are the same and here is a brief abstract:

The Massage Therapy Code of Ethics varies from one organization to another, from one state to another, but they all can be summarized based on their commonality that: a Massage Therapist (also referred to as a Licensee or Certificant) should refrain, under all circumstances, from initiating or engaging in any sexual conduct, sexual activities, sexualizing behavior involving a client, even if the client attempts to sexualize the relationship;

The Massage Therapy Standard of Practice are not the same amongst different jurisdiction like the code of ethics, but they all agree that: the Massage Therapist (also referred to as a Licensee or Certificant) should refrain from participating in a sexual relationship or sexual conduct with a client, whether consensual or otherwise, from the beginning of the professional client/therapist relationship and for a minimum of [time frame] after the termination of the professional client/therapist relationship. Time frame differs between jurisdiction, usually established to be six months to two years.

The code and the standard are meant to guide us and remind us not to cross the professional protective boundary (see Part  6) between two human beings - the client and the therapist. As professionals, we should not go there, but it does not mean that nobody crosses and nobody will (see Part 7). We are humans after all and sex is innate yet complicated. And massage can elicit sexual responses (see Part 5) . On my take of things: if you cannot help yourself (whether you are the client or therapist), end the professional relationship first - abide by what the code and standard permits - then you can go for it. We go back to what I have mentioned above: Acknowledge-Ignore; Terminate-Proceed.

If you wanted to learn more about the details of the Massage Therapy Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice, I gather below the guidelines from the State of New York and New Jersey, and the Guidelines from the Multi-organization and Nationally-recognized Massage Therapy Body of Knowledge (MTBOK). Sexual Misconduct, Sexual Conduct, Sexual Contact, Sexual Harassment are just the few among the many topics that are covered in details. Click below to follow their respective links:

Board of Massage Therapy
Guidelines for Practice

New Jersey Board of Nursing
Massage, Bodywork & Somatic Therapy Committee
Laws and Regulations: Scope of Practice

Massage Therapy Body of Knowledge
MTBOK Section 140
Field Scope

-Leo Feraer-Oporto     

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