What if you really really really fall head over heels for a massage client and go on to date them?
What is happening is called counter-transference and it happens in every relationship really and is called projection in other relationships. Because you are meeting someone under the premise that you will provide massage therapy for them for a fee you have other obligations to be professional and create boundaries to protect the client at all cost. In a regular relationship where you meet someone in a coffee shop or at a party it is an equal relationship where both exchange information freely in order to get to know each other. When there is a client paying money for a service and one person is the health care provider or a person trained in something like massage therapy – it creates a power differential. The main focus of your massage sessions should be about meeting the needs of the client and NOT your needs to be liked or even loved.
There is a power differential in the relationship between the massage therapist and client where the client will put their trust into the hands of the massage therapist and will look to them for help with their health issues.
All of the excuses are just that, excuses for inappropriate behavior.
- You can’t stop love.
- It is my life.
- You can’t tell me who to love and not love.
- We are getting married so it will be OK.
Some states even have laws around it that often will give a time frame for when dating would be allowed. How they can put a time frame on it is beyond me. What time does it take to get through the counter-transference issues and be clear on your motives and clear your heart? Even if there is not a state law, dating clients is just one big NO.
The consequences of dating a massage client could come back to hurt your massage therapy business/career. If the person was just divorced or the divorce happened as a result of the new relationship, the ex-partner could take legal action against you especially if there is a law regarding dating in your state. If the relationship ends badly at a later date, the client may finally realize that you took advantage of them when they were in a vulnerable state and try to sue you or put claims against your license for inappropriate behavior and ethical violations.
If you as the massage therapist find yourself falling in love with your client in a way that you want to date them you need to get professional help and figure out what you are doing to create that situation. It usually starts with talking too much to the client and telling them about YOUR life rather then focusing on the client and their needs. Massage therapists work in such isolation that it is easy to fall into the trap of becoming friends with clients and telling them your problems. People who come in weekly for massage sessions for a long period of time also provides time to get to know clients.