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The Fitness Zone

Responsibilities of a Massage Therapist
June 3, 2019

There’s more to being a Massage Therapist than understanding techniques and how to help your clients. While it’s excellent that you have your qualifications and relevant experience, there are also ethics and responsibilities you need to abide by to not only ensure you are doing everything safely and legally, but also to ensure your clients receive the best possible service. That is, after all, how you get repeat business.

Ethics are crucial for massage therapists

The Association of Massage Therapists seeks to establish massage therapy as an allied health profession in Australia. The values of the AMT reflect those that every massage therapist should seek to honour – best practice, connection with the community, innovation, governance and a focus on clients.

The Code of Ethics was developed to ensure members are supported and that the industry is held to the highest standards. They also keep members in line and ensure the public and other health professionals have an understanding of the industry. Standards of practice include caring for the health and wellbeing of clients, respecting the privacy of clients and maintaining professional boundaries, and protecting privacy.

Simply speaking, the Standards ensure that practitioners understand and meet their professional duty of care. Additionally, there are certain conditions that therapists need to commit to, including formulating their own risk management framework.

Importantly, the Standards provide a benchmark against which complaints can be assessed and inform criminal or civil investigations. What this essentially means is that massage therapists have something to be held against if things go awry and the power is squarely in the hands of the public when it comes to determining the quality of care.

This is especially important for therapists and the public as massage therapy is currently self-regulated in Australia. While there are several statutory codes and legislative instruments that therapists can be liable against, the Standards provide an open platform for therapists and the public alike.

Importance of education

The Standards also detail the educational pathways that massage therapists must take to qualify in their field. As such, there are Registered Training Organisations, regulated by the government, which provide nationally recognised qualifications at Certificate IV, Diploma and Advanced Diploma levels.

In accordance with the Standards, massage therapists are expected to have a detailed knowledge of anatomy, physiology and biomechanics. They’re also required to have well-developed assessment and observational skills and expertise in a range of techniques.

Further, massage therapists are expected to complete at least 20 hours of continuing professional development a year. This ensures therapists are current with their skills and they are constantly learning new ways of doing things.

Handling complaints

The Code of Ethics is an exceptionally useful tool for massage therapists, not only for the educational aspect but also in terms of complaints. While massage therapists should have an understanding of why complaints may arise, it can sometimes be difficult to know how to handle them.

It’s important to remember that complaints are a valuable tool when it comes to feedback – identifying gaps in the service and providing an opportunity to address the issues. The Standards suggest that massage therapists have a comprehensive complaint management process that ensures an efficient and fair mechanism for complaints is present. The process should also help to collect and monitor the complaints so the therapist can continually improve service.

Going one step further, the Standards provide an outlet for complainants to go to state and territory commissioners if necessary.

Professional boundaries

Massage therapy can be quite an intimate occupation. As such, it’s crucial to maintain professional boundaries at all times. It’s important for massage therapists to have a policy in place to protect themselves from any irresponsible behaviour. Key here is understanding the relationship that exists between therapist and client and ensuring a high standard of client history and storage of client files. Going one step further, it also means wearing appropriate professional attire and refusing treatment if the client’s behaviour becomes inappropriate.

Remember, this is a service that you, as a massage therapist, are providing to strangers. It’s important to maintain professional boundaries at all times. It’s also important to understand the signs that a professional relationship may be at risk and have an action plan in place to handle this.

The responsibilities of a massage therapist

Of course, other than the legal and ethical elements of the role, there are also responsibilities which need to be adhered to. This can be referred to as your ‘personal code of ethics’ as usually. This can encompass the duty of client care, the duty to the profession and ensuring your advertising is professional at all times.

One of the key personal responsibilities is understanding your limits. While you are certified in the health industry, you are not a doctor. As such, it’s crucial that you don’t hand out any health advice. While it’s appropriate to provide some suggestions on health issues that relate to massage, it’s inappropriate to discuss other health issues.

For example, issues such as the best time to receive a massage, how to introduce stretching into the client’s daily routine and how to take care of their muscles or joints in between sessions are perfectly acceptable topics to discuss as it is directly associated with what you do and how you are helping your client.

It’s also important to remember to keep your personal beliefs to yourself. As a professional and a trusted individual in your field, it’s expected that you will only provide scientifically-based information rather than your individual philosophies. And finally, remember to act appropriately on social media. While Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can be great marketing tools, they can also be dangerous if you don’t use them properly and responsibly.

A career as a massage therapist is a rewarding one and while there are many joys and benefits, especially when you are helping people, there are also ethics and responsibilities to abide by. Take note of these and implement them in your day-to-day practice, and you’ll soon be reaping the benefits of a well-rounded career.

Sign up for a massage therapy course

Ready to take the next step in your career as a qualified massage therapist? The Australian Institute of Fitness offers several massage therapy courses to provide our students with a practical and comprehensive education. You can choose to study one of the following massage courses:

This content is not intended to be used as individual health or fitness advice divorced from that imparted by medical, health or fitness professionals. Medical clearance should always be sought before commencing an exercise regime. The Institute and the authors do no take any responsibility for accident or injury caused as a result of this information.

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