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Posted by: Roger Douglas Low, 29 Apr 2010 7:39PM
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Male/female massage etiquette,

As an 'experienced' masseur with over 35 years experience of a wide variety of clients I would like opinions on the approach from both client and therapist on how best to achieve a comfortable and satisfactory relationship particularly relating to nudity/exposure.


Sue Hannaford
29 Apr 2010 8:18PM

Basic rule is that both therapist and client should feel totally comfortable about the amount of clothing to be removed and draping with towels or sheets etc should be professional. With your 35 years 'experience' I am intrigued to hear your views?
Roger Douglas Low
29 Apr 2010 8:52PM

Thanks for the prompt response. I have always tried to be constructive and professional, which is the way we are taught which you rightly point out. I must stress that I have never been accused of going 'over the top'but there are occasions where I have found it important for the client to get the best results, particularly with regard to Sports massage, that bare skin is better! This raises the issue of voyeurism? As you suggest, it is important to maintain an atmosphere of mutual trust and I usually find a good sense of humour relaxes both parties. I think it helps that I now am older and therefore don't present such a threat, or so the theory goes! Has anybody got an opinion on a touchy subject?
Andrea Clarke
30 Apr 2010 8:57AM

Hi Roger, yes it can be difficult at times, but most clients are well aware that some undressing will be required. I think you are quite right around the sense of humour, it often breaks the ice and relaxes people. I have had bad experiences both as a therapists and as a client, but those experiences have just made me more aware of setting clear boundaries. If I am working with a male client that I have not met before, I do a phone vetting first and make it quite clear through the questions that I ask that my skills are for therapeutic massage only. Problem areas can be working the psoas - definitely a sense of humour needed here - for men and women, and pectoral work - much easier to work with male clients here. When you say "bare skin" - which areas are you referring to? For me if it's a "sensitive" area, I work through the towels with soft tissue releases - this feels comfortable for us both. Also, telling clients what you are going to do/what it is for/the reason for it, often reassures them as to why you are doing what you are doing All the best Andrea
Grace Boateng
30 Apr 2010 9:21AM

I always ensure that clients are draped in a professional manner so that they do not feel exposed. For clients with lower back pain issues I will let them know that I need to include work on their glutes and will ask them to not have underwear on. Going back to the draping I only uncover the area that I am working on. Working on the PSOS I wlll sometimes do it on the skin or through the towel. I always explain why I am working on these areas and will show them a diagram or point out the area on my own body. Communicating with the client is important and if a client seems uneasy I can alter what I am doing.
Frances King
30 Apr 2010 10:48AM

I always insist clients wear underwear, this is written in my leaflets, and on my website to try to give a clear message that modesty is protected and expected. Having said that, when I know the client better, I find we can then discuss (for sports massage) if results would be better, treatment easier without undies, though I still cover all areas of the body not being worked on, and will work through the towel sometimes to limit sensitivity/embarassment etc. For a female working alone, I think clear bounderies avoid "mis understandings" between therapist and potential new male clients in particular
Theodoros Michaelides
30 Apr 2010 5:20PM

Hello Roger, and all that have posted a reply. I was a student at the british school of Osteopathy and learnt alot about clienty practitioner relationships. I have a balanced mix between male and female clients. I must say that all the comments i have read are 100% spot on. At the British School Of Osteopathy the general rule was "a firm hand portrays a professional interest" On a personal note, when working on an area that is close to erogenous or sensitive areas I keep the anatomy in my head, and work with my eyes up and facing towards the clients head (if they are prone i will talk them through it) The more you can call on your anatomical knowledge the more relaxed you will be and the client will feel exactly what you are trying to acheive. I rarely work through the towels and always keep the area i am not working on covered. There is one thing that you could try looking into which might help you. its called "intention" this is the sense that is exchanged between client and practitioner during touch. hope this is helpful, along with all the other great comments that i have read above Theo
Roger Douglas Low
1 May 2010 10:05AM

Thanks to all for the positive feedback /advice. We all try to do our best for or valued clients and if that comes over in an honest and sincere way respect from both parties ensues. I have lots of female colleagues who tell some hair-raising stories. We all have had some dodgy ones Its just a case of spotting the signs first, such as: unkempt appearance,body odour,not paying attention to you,surveying the premises,not smiling,what they bring in to the room. anything that makes you feel ill at ease. Keep the comments coming.Thanks Roger
Sue Hannaford
1 May 2010 10:15AM

Yes, I agree, lots of positive stuff. And I also agree that most people have had some dodgy experiences. What I have learnt over the years - as I make all my own bookings - is to trust my instincts - always turned out to be right. In the early days had a few "interesting" experiences but, thankfully, nothing nasty, unlike, as you say, some other colleagues. I also agree with using intention - if the situation becomes uncomfortable, talking anatomy and focusing on the treatment usually works, whether the client is genuine but feels uncomfortable, or whether you realise that they are dodgy! I also do home visits and say that, for men, their partners have to be in the house. If necessary I explain that it's for my protection AND theirs - genuine people are quite happy - and those that aren't soon end the conversation! Good thread Roger.
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