Saturday, December 9, 2017

"What if something embarrassing happens during my massage?"

Originally published January 6, 2013, on a now defunct blog, this post was recently recovered and edited for clarity.

This tends to go hand-in-hand with the feeling of, “I can’t get a massage because I’m self-conscious.”

There are lots of things that could happen and be considered embarrassing during a massage:

  • Breaking wind.
  • Leaking breastmilk.
  • Getting an erection.
  • Draping snafus.
  • Needing to use the restroom.
  • Cell phones ringing.
  • Animals jumping on the table (usually in mobile massage, not at the office).
  • Etc., etc.

And if any of these things were to happen during a session… so what?

We’re all human, here. (Except for the animals.) Bodily functions keep on happening whether we want them to or not. Accidents happen. People forget to silence their cell phones — in which case I feel perfectly justified in dancing to their ringtones.

In my experience, I’ve seen more of my clients than I cared to (thus my steadfast draping rule) and I’ve become inexplicably ill while giving a session. And yet, life goes on.

I’m not going to judge you. Any therapist worth their salt won’t judge you, either.

  • If you loudly break wind, say, “Excuse me.”
  • Let your therapist know if you’re breastfeeding so that we can put an extra towel on the table.
  • Ignore erections.
  • Sometimes I mess up on my draping, and so I will do my best to apologize if the sheet slips. Please respect my need to use proper draping.
  • If you need to use the restroom, please say so. Going before the session is preferable because of the long, video-monitored walk to the restroom at my current office.
  • Remember to turn off or silence your phone prior to getting on the table. I will dance to your ringtone.
  • Keep pets and small children corralled during your session. They usually don’t bother me, but they can be difficult to work around.

I look forward to working with you!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Vulnerability in Massage, Part II: Addressing Industry Accountability

We need to talk about massage and safety.

If you haven’t already heard, Buzzfeed recently broke a story about abuse occurring in Massage Envy franchise locations. There has been a lot of conversation about the story online and in the news, which you may have seen. What you probably haven’t seen (unless you’re a part of our profession) is the uproar it has caused in the massage therapy community. Horror is a common emotion: who would do such a thing? Sadness: for the people who will be too fearful to receive the bodywork they need out of fear for their safety. And anger. Plenty of anger.

To be clear, this anger isn’t for the thousands of ethical massage therapists, managers, and support staff at Massage Envy. Whether you care for their business model or not, the vast majority of Massage Envy employees are out there doing their jobs, caring for clients, and earning a living, and they deserve our support. The anger is for the perpetrators who violated the faith placed in them by trusting clients; the franchise owners, managers, and employees who allowed it to happen; and the organization that provided neither sufficient guidance nor real consequences for the people they allow to work in their name.

We want you to know that we, as a community of massage therapists, are trying to do our best to hold ourselves and our organizations accountable, and work for changes at Massage Envy and elsewhere to make sure this never happens again.

But we also want you to know that we care about you -- as a client and as an individual -- because you have a right to feel safe while getting a massage. This goes whether you’re receiving a massage in my office or anywhere else.

So here are some promises to you:

My Promise

I will be vigilant in my hiring -- should the opportunity arise. This includes extensive reference checks as well as basics such as double-checking claims regarding certifications and licensure.

I will give you access. To check the license of any massage therapist in the state of Maine, you can use this link from the Regulatory Licensing & Permitting website (search under "Regulator: Massage Therapy"). If you need help finding information on out-of-state therapists as well, you can ask and I will direct you to the appropriate resources.

I will be proactive and regularly solicit feedback from clients about their experience. Big or small, positive or negative, I want to know your experience so that I can do my best and stop major issues before they start.

I will have formal processes in place for handling ANY complaint of therapist misconduct, and share this process openly with you.

And as part of this, you have my word that:

  • I will investigate any report of misconduct.
  • I will not permit a massage therapist under investigation to work with clients until the investigation has concluded.
  • I will maintain written records of every report and investigation.
  • I will report the incident to the licensing board, law enforcement, and other agencies as appropriate.
  • I will publicly post information on clients’ rights and the procedures for reporting an incident.
  • I will support clients in whatever course of action they choose to take. 

The Power is Yours!

There is a natural power differential when a person decides to get a massage. When one person is trained, familiar with the environment, standing up, and fully dressed, and the other has none of those advantages, it can be easy to feel like someone receiving a massage has no power at all. But it’s important to know that, no matter how much of an expert a person may be in massage, you are the expert on your experience. And as the expert on you:

  • You have the right to tell your massage therapist to change or stop what they are doing for any reason.
  • You have the right to end your massage session at any time for any reason.
  • You have the right to stop seeing your massage therapist, or to choose a new massage therapist, for any reason.
  • You have the right to report any misconduct to your massage therapist’s supervisor, to their licensing agency, to law enforcement, or to all three.

Again, you have a right to feel safe while getting a massage.

And since we’re having an open conversation about safety, we also need to be clear about one more thing: massage therapists also have a right to feel safe while giving a massage.

Ensuring the safety of massage therapists from clients who would harass, assault, or otherwise harm them is another conversation that you might not always be privy to as a client, but is a major point of discourse in the massage therapy community. For whatever reason, there are still people out there who confuse (or choose to conflate) massage therapy with sex work, and feel free to act on that impulse regardless of the wishes of the therapist in question.

If this is obviously problematic to you, like it is to 99% of the people in the world, then you don’t really need the following reminder.

But if you’re in that 1% and believe you’re owed sexual favors by virtue of existing and rely on that sense of personal entitlement while preying on massage therapists, especially those who are inexperienced or economically disadvantaged, here’s a wake-up call for you:

Your Massage Therapist Also Has Rights

  • Massage therapists have the right to refuse to provide any service they feel would be inappropriate, out of their scope of practice, uncomfortable, or unsafe.
  • Massage therapists have the right to end a session at any time if they feel unsafe with a client.
  • Massage therapists have the right to no longer see a client they feel unsafe with or unqualified to treat.
  • Massage therapists have the right to report a client’s inappropriate behavior to their supervisor and to law enforcement.
  • Massage therapy business owners have the right to stop scheduling a client for inappropriate behavior, to ban them from the premises, and to warn other local therapists about them. (And massage therapists do talk to one another. It’s a small profession.)

In the end, everything is better off in the light.

It’s better to have a major exposé in the news than for abuse to go on unaccounted-for. It’s better to ask hard questions before choosing a new massage therapist than to go into a session anxious or afraid. And it’s definitely better for massage therapists to address the issue of safety head-on, rather than pretending the concern doesn’t exist.

We all have a right to feel safe.

Hopefully, if we continue to work together to shine light into the dark corners of the world, all of us will.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

What Are Your Policies?

  • All clients are required to complete an intake form, sign a liability release, and to comply with the State of Maine draping policy: all genital areas will be covered by a sheet, towel, clothing, etc., while the massage therapist is present.
  • Massage is contraindicated (inadvisable) for certain medical conditions; always check with your primary care physician if you have any concerns. Massage therapists are prohibited from diagnosing any medical health issues, prescribing medications or supplements, and intentionally performing manipulations and adjustments.
  • I reserve the right to end a session early or to refuse service to any client who — including, but not limited to, — knowingly leaves out important health and personal information on their intake form, presents as intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, and/or makes sexual comments or advances.
  • A 12-Hour Cancellation Notice is requested for all massage therapy services. Should you choose to miss your scheduled appointment for any reason, you may be charged a "No Show" fee up to the full price of your missed service at the provider’s discretion.
  • Cash and personal checks are accepted. Credit and Debit cards will be processed through Square at time of service. Tips are never required, but always appreciated!

Have I Missed Something? E-mail me your questions or comments!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Vulnerability in Massage: No, I'm Not a Serial Killer

"Wait, what?!"

I'm not sure who Jim Gaffigan is -- supposedly he's a comedian? and apparently not a Real Housewife of Beverly Hills? -- but he recently caused waves in the massage community over some comments made on CBS's Sunday Morning program.

In his segment, he calls massage therapy decadent, expensive and weird -- "always from absolute strangers." 

"We know nothing about these people! ... They like to rub strangers while they listen to the Avatar soundtrack. That's a red flag! Those are the traits of a serial killer! ... [T]hey're busy imagining making a suit out of my skin, because they're murderers."

Mr. Gaffigan's attempts at humor are dry and fall flat (who the heck jokes about leprosy?), but he does bring up a good point about vulnerability.

I will never ask my clients to do anything they're uncomfortable with. Ever.

I remember what it was like to undress and get on the table for my first massage with a stranger. Yeah, it was nerve-wracking, and a lot of body confidence issues reared their ugly heads. I, too, was self-conscious about the length of my leg hair. Over time, I've been able to let these things go -- because I know that any therapist worth their salt won't show any judgment during our session together.

During our first session, we will start off with a conversation about you, your health history, and what you do for work and hobbies. I want to know what your needs are so I can plan how best to help you. This is also an opportunity for you to ask me any questions -- I may respectfully decline to answer personal ones, but I want us to build a connection before I have you get on the table.

When I suggest clients "undress to their comfort level," I mean they can choose to receive a session fully clothed, fully nude, or anything in between. I use sheets and blankets to ensure genital areas are covered while I'm present. I only undrape one area at a time.

I won't make comments about the condition of your body unless it's related to your treatment ("this area seems tighter than on the other side"), if there's something you might not be able to see ("did you know you have a mole here?"), or if there's something that needs medical attention ("how long have you had this open wound on your big toe?"). The presence and condition of body hair doesn't even ping on my radar.

If, at any point, you change your mind about receiving a massage, you have every right to cancel your appointment or to stop the session. I won't even charge you for it. Your comfort is of the utmost importance to me.

Now that that's out of the way ---

Here are some non-massage-related things you might not know about me:

I am a Taurus, born in the Year of the Dragon. My favorite color is purple and my favorite cuisines are Mexican and Indian.

I was born in Texas, spent several of my childhood years in North Carolina, and have lived in Maine since I was 13. I graduated from Richmond High School in 2006 and then moved to the Standish area after my son, Asher, was born in 2009.

In case you couldn't tell, I am a giant nerd. I was sorted into Ravenclaw and Thunderbird on Pottermore, but I definitely have some strong Hufflepuff traits. Some of my hobbies include collecting books that I never read, playing Minecraft (alone or with kids), and writing fiction. I have always collected rocks and crystals. I would prefer a quiet walk in the woods to a day at the beach.

(... so much for convincing people I'm not a murderer. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ )

On that note, if I can ever do something to make you feel more comfortable -- with me or during your session -- please don't hesitate to speak up!

I hope to hear from you soon! Comment below with a fun fact about yourself!

"I'm at Your Front Door -- Now What?"

I don't have a lobby or a receptionist, so I rely on signage to help direct new and established clients when I'm not available to greet them at the door. Here are some examples of what signs you might see at my office.

If you are coming up Main Street (Route 4A) from Hollis, my office will be on the right, next door to the Bar Mills Post Office. You'll see the sign for the Leavitt's Mill Free Health Center on the hill; sometimes my tiny purple and white lawn sign is out to point the way. You'll want this driveway.

Here's a closer view of my sign. In the background is the driveway for Leavitt's Mill and the other businesses upstairs. "You cannot get they-ah from he-ah," so please use the entrance in the next photo.

This corner of the building, closest to the post office, is my office! There's another little lawn sign to point the way; there is a turn-around and more parking out back if you need it. (See "Where Should I Park?" for more details.)

When you walk up to my door, you might see this sign and a doorbell attached to the black security box on the right.

This doorbell sounds in my office. I take it down while I'm with a client.

This is a close-up of the sign on my door -- if you see this one, ring the doorbell and wait outside. I try to answer the door within a minute or two; if nobody answers, try again. You can also knock on my window where the plants and tapestry are. (Sometimes the batteries in the doorbell run out.)

If you arrive to this set of signs and no visible doorbell, please wait outside. I could be in the middle of a session or cleaning my office after a previous client. You might also double-check your appointment time and date -- I've had a few clients arrive on the wrong date before.

If you're sure you have an appointment but I haven't come to greet you by your appointment time, give me a call and leave a message. You're welcome to wait a few minutes for a response. There is nothing worse than expecting to get a massage and then being disappointed! 😱

As always, if you have any questions, give me a call at (207) 370-4222. I look forward to working with you!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

April Announcements

The following post was shared with my newsletter subscribers, first. Sign up to receive updates in your inbox! 
One more thing: my FullSlate on-line scheduler has been on the fritz the past week or two. I apologize for any inconvenience you may have encountered.

Two years and one month ago, I made my first trip to the Big City -- New York City. I'm finally heading back for an encore, and I'm bringing my son with me! We are leaving Friday the 14th and returning Tuesday the 18th. We will see some sights and sample some great food and walk until our legs fall off! ;)

As of Thursday the 13th, all messages regarding appointments will be returned on or after Wednesday the 19th. If you choose to book on-line, your appointment will be confirmed or declined around that same date. Appointments will be honored on a first-come, first-served basis.

After April 23rd, my booking schedule should return to normal for a little while. I'm usually available Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 4:00-7:00, and weekends 10:00-2:00. Summertime brings vacations, holidays, and weddings, but I will do my best to inform you of any closings ahead of time.

Lymphatic Drainage Massage

In March, I traveled to the great city of Manchester, New Hampshire, for an eight-hour course on Lymphatic Drainage Massage. It was hosted at the North Eastern Institute of Holistic Health, a wonderful little school that reminded me a lot of Spa Tech Institute in Westbrook (where I did my training), and I met some of their wonderful, up-and-coming massage professionals.

"Okay, but what is lymphatic drainage massage?"

Your lymphatic system is your immune system. It relies on muscle movements to get the lymph from your capillaries to your lymph nodes, and then to your lymph ducts to be processed. Anything the lymph picks up that's no longer useful to your body is eliminated.

The technique itself involves very light, very gentle touch. We work to improve the flow of lymph through your body. It is effective in treating some cases of edema (swelling, especially in the legs and ankles) and can help you to recover from a cold faster. The technique can be done with clients fully clothed, laying on their backs.

I have started incorporating this knowledge into some of my regular sessions, and my clients are already reporting positive results. I intend to offer stand-alone lymphatic drainage massage sessions in the future. Which brings me to my last point for this letter...

Changes Are Afoot!

When Main Street Cutters closed its doors last May, my promise to myself and to my clients was that I would keep my prices about the same as what they were at the salon for one year.

June will mark my one-year anniversary of running I Knead Serenity as my own business. I intend to raise my rates -- while also introducing new services and add-ons. You will still receive the high standard of care and professionalism that I have set for myself. By raising my rates, I will be better able to support you by pursuing educational opportunities, providing you with high quality oils and products (many of them made here in New England), and by continuing to look toward future expansion possibilities.

I will announce the new rates by May 1st so that you can plan accordingly; they will go into effect on June 1st. I understand that not everyone will be comfortable with these changes. You are always welcome to come to me with questions or concerns as I work toward this transition.

Thank you for being my client!

I couldn't be successful without you! So many of you have become repeat clients and referred your friends and loved ones to my practice. Making the jump from an employee to a sole practitioner was scary -- but you've helped to make it worth it!

Until next time!