Disclosure is informing the client of what is going to happen during the session BEFORE IT STARTS. This first requires us to determine the client’s expectations for the session. Then we explain how we can help them within our scope of practice.
Step 1 - Interview & Actively Listen
Every client needs to fill out an intake form. Review the intake form with the client and use it to guide the discussion about session goals. Also ask them how their body is feeling and what areas they would like to receive work. Ask for clarification about anything they say that you don’t understand. Begin to formulate a plan for the massage during the interview process.
Step 2 - Review & Inform
Clients need us to help them be comfortable. Summarize back to them everything they’ve said to indicate understanding. Then describe how you plan to perform the session. Tell them what clothing to take off and why. And please stop saying “undress to your comfort level.” That doesn’t explain anything. If the massage is best performed with no clothing and under a sheet then ask the client to specifically remove everything and tell them why. Is it long, gliding strokes from head to toe? Do you need access to a certain area to properly treat their complaint? Also explain how their body will be covered throughout the session. Will you undrape one entire side of their body or just one part at a time? Also describe how the massage will start and end and confirm the amount of time that will be spent. Let your client know that they are in control of the session at all times and that you will be asking for and expecting feedback. Remember to show them any tools or special equipment and explain any procedure outside of the normal routine.
Step 3 - Acquire Consent
Written consent - Explain basic policies and procedures on an informed consent form attached to your intake. Allow clients to read and sign this written consent to treatment. Keep this document on file and update it at least once a year and when policies and procedures change.
Verbal consent - Ask for a verbal acknowledgement after you have reviewed the forms, completed the interview and explained the procedures for the session. You can say “does this plan sound good to you?” and “do you have any questions?”
Step 4 - Ask for Feedback
Ask about comfort and warmth in the beginning of the sessions and when the client changes positions. Ask for feedback about pressure whenever you have warmed up and are working a new body part or an area the client has indicated as sensitive. For example, ask for feedback on one leg or arm, one side of the neck and once on the back.
We need to communicate with our clients like this EVERY TIME. Certainly there are regular clients that only need the “basic run down”. But still, even those clients deserve to know the plan for the session and how we will be helping them on that particular day. It’s a simple act that creates trust and sets professional boundaries upfront. Then, when we do that one move that requires an alternative draping procedure or work closely to sensitive areas, the client already knows that is part of the plan and WHY.
About the author - Charlene Gaffney is a licensed massage therapist since 2001 and massage instructor since 2004. She owns and operates an active private practice in Memphis, TN since 2008.