It turns out that while I was expanding the role of breathwork in my life and treatment room, my father was struggling to breathe at all, and as a result, has passed on. The crisis required me to take extensive and last minute trips home. Why am I sharing this with you? Because as long as I have been a massage therapist, there has been an ongoing dialogue about how personal we should become with our clients and once again I am facing the very real challenge of establishing appropriate boundaries.
I think we can all agree there is a fine line between connecting with people and turning appointments into our personal counseling session. A major factor is that clients are polite people and are compelled to show the same interest in our lives that we, professionally, show in theirs. How we respond to this interest is where the dance begins. The main reasons I struggle constantly with the line of appropriateness (erring on the side of too personal) is that most of my clients are frequent and longstanding, in other words, we spend a lot of time together and put simply - I adore and admire them. Even though I’m not always sure of my success in this arena, I do know how grateful I am for these relationships, since during this chaotic and difficult time my clients were incredibly supportive and made very practical offers of help.
I am back in my treatment room to the work I love. Now my goal is to respond to client’s condolences with heartfelt gratitude and yet smoothly return the focus back to them. My strategy is simple: I am scheduling a little extra time with each person so that we can have this conversation in the reception area before entering the treatment room, were the shift will be clearly to their needs. I have also designed a small display of my father in the reception room with vintage photos and the lovely notes clients sent me. It is important for me to acknowledge their kindness but I want to, again, corral it in an appropriate space. As fortune would have it, my quest for a Mindful practice is also coming to my aid.
My March focus is Meditation and I am currently introducing it into the treatment room as a new enhancement. By downloading various guided healing and relaxing meditations into my music selections, clients have the option to have these integrated into their session. In addition, I am featuring a custom aromatherapy massage oil that is blended to aid in creating a specific ambiance. It is composed of three simple Eos, Orange for centering, aiding in focusing on the here and now; Lavender for calming, helping ease the tensions encountered before entering this space; and finally Sandalwood which is traditionally known for its ability to facilitate a deeper meditative tone. This synergy will be great for client’s mind body connection and will help keep me focused and on an even keel, since naturally, I will be inhaling it as well.
Be Well, Do Good Work, and Write to share your experiences with client-therapist boundaries- remember we are all in this together.