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. Once again, I am facing the genuine 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 sessions. A major factor is that clients are polite and 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. I constantly struggle with the line of appropriateness (erring on the side of too personal) because most of my clients are frequent and longstanding. In other words, we spend a lot of time together, and put - I adore and admire them. Even though I’m not always sure of my success in this arena, I know how grateful I am for these relationships since my clients were incredibly supportive and made very practical offers of help during this chaotic and difficult time.
I am back in my treatment room to the work I love. My goal is to respond to the client’s condolences with heartfelt gratitude and smoothly return the focus. My strategy is simple: I am scheduling a little extra time with each person to have this conversation in the reception area before entering the treatment room, where the shift will be clear 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. I need to acknowledge their kindness, but I want to corral it in an appropriate space again. 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. Also, I am featuring a custom aromatherapy massage oil blended to create 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 the client’s mind body connection and help keep me focused and on an even keel since naturally, I will be inhaling it.
Be Well, Do Good Work, and Write to share your experiences with client-therapist boundaries - remember we are all in this together.