Holistic Massage School Comments on Ethics and the Client/Practitioner Relationship

“Every few months or years there is head line news about reports of unprofessional conduct by people in positions of perceived power, authority and trust” said Paula Curtiss, Director for Healing Hands School of Holistic Health (HH).  “For Massage Therapists who work so closely with clients, it’s imperative they maintain high standards of professional conduct with firm boundaries, even when the client becomes provocative.  Failure to comply with the industry’s code of ethics can not only jeopardize a therapist’s professional reputation, it can jeopardize their career as well”, she added.

The trust factor is essential to any client/practitioner relationship. For a client to receive the full benefits of a therapeutic massage, they need to feel safe enough to completely relax.  It’s up to the practitioner to ensure that their clients don’t misinterpret their words, motives or touch as being sexual in nature.  It is also their responsibility to address any issues that could potentially jeopardize professional ethics. If boundaries become unclear for the practitioner, it is their responsibility to consult with a respected colleague or manager who can help identify potential problems and solutions. The following is a list of common warning signs that can help practitioners recognize when something is not right in the client/practitioner relationship. 

  1. Accepting unwanted touch or gifts.
  2. Feeling overwhelmed by a client.
  3. Neglecting your personal value system.
  4. Feeling drained of all your energy from 1 client.
  5. Falling in love with your client.
  6. Realizing that boundaries have been crossed – after the fact.
  7. Touching a client without permission (failure to obtain informed consent).
  8. Allowing others to make decisions for you.
  9. Letting others define who you are or what your goals are.
  10. Feeling a sense of dread toward massaging a client.
  11. Not being able to clearly define your scope of practice – believing that you can do more than you are educated to do.
  12. Expecting a client to anticipate your needs as a practitioner.
  13. Allowing your feelings and emotions to get in the way of your massage.
  14. Wanting someone to “rescue” you.
  15. Fear of saying no because you dread the consequences.
  16. The environment feels unprofessional.
  17. Your “gut response” tells you something is wrong.


As a professional massage practitioner who provides therapeutic services to the public, it is important that you understand your legal rights, obligations and risks while practicing good ethics. For more about Ethics and Professionalism for Massage Practitioners go online to www.ncbtmb.org/code-ethics.

Serving residents through three regional campuses, HH is considered a trail-blazer for Holistic Health Education in Southern California.  To date, HH has prepared more than 7,000 students for rewarding careers in Massage Therapy and can do the same for you! To find out more about our 80+ massage and holistic health classes, visit us at www.healinghandsschool.com  or call us at (949) 305-2722 in Laguna Hills, (760) 746-9364 in Escondido, (858)505-1100 in San Diego.