Establishing boundaries for both our protection and our clients was likely a key takeaway from your ethics classes. But what exactly are we protecting with boundaries?
We use boundaries to protect our personal space. And understanding our own boundaries also helps us respect the boundaries of others and allows them to feel safe. During a massage session, protecting our own personal space and respecting the personal space of clients safeguards the integrity of the therapeutic relationship, which in turn ensures our sessions truly benefit our clients and make our massage experiences enjoyable.
Our boundaries are constantly fluctuating based on the circumstances in which we find ourselves. At any given moment, we have to decide what to share, how much to share, when to share, when not to share, when to self-protect, and when it is safe to be vulnerable.
For example, we tell friends and family intimate details of our lives, things we would never tell strangers or clients. We demonstrate physical affection for friends and family with hugs and touches; intimacy we would never allow acquaintances and would limit with clients. We invite friends and family to share their views and opinions on emotionally charged social issues. We also share ours with an openness we would not likely display with work colleagues or clients.
Our boundaries can be sorted into different types and forms that help us understand their intricacies.
What are boundary types? While different models exist, the massage profession usually defaults to the terminology introduced by authors Cherie Sohnen-Moe and Ben Benjamin in The Ethics of Touch to explain different types of boundaries. They suggest people imagine that a bubble encloses their personal space. Sometimes the bubble allows more information and energy to move in and out of personal space, and sometimes it blocks the movement of information and energy in and out. Sohnen-Moe and Benjamin define boundary types as permeable, semipermeable, or impermeable.
What are we protecting by setting appropriate boundaries? We are protecting various aspects of personal space, which we call boundary forms. And while it’s important to understand that boundaries can be fluid rather than fixed based on context, it’s equally important to understand what form those boundaries take.
In the Massage Mastery Online textbook, Boundaries: The Foundation of Ethical Massage Practice, we’ve identified eight aspects of personal space. Can you guess what they are? Take a moment to think about what they may be and then scroll through the slides below to see how many you’ve correctly identified.
At any time, one of these boundary forms might be impermeable while another is permeable or semipermeable. For example, you might have a friend who drinks a little too much and suddenly starts to behave sexually towards you. When you’re together, your emotional and psychological boundary is permeable, but your sexual boundary is impermeable, and your physical boundary is semipermeable. So you’re using appropriate boundaries to allow the free exchange of emotions and ideas but limiting this person’s physical and sexual behaviors toward yourself.
Recognizing the subtleties of boundaries helps us determine how to set the right boundary type and form in our personal and professional lives.
Learn how to set better boundaries and get ethics CEs
Get the Boundaries Course Bundle at Massage Mastery Online and take a fascinating, in-depth look at the natural human instincts, needs, wants, and expectations that drive your desire for personal space. You’ll come to understand your boundaries better and identify why people cross into your personal space. Understanding your own boundaries, helps you attune to client boundaries and untangle the complex dynamics that often cause you to feel confused or drained at the end of the massage workday.
Video presentations, interactive features, learning activities, and a discussion with seasoned massage professionals keeps this content fresh, fun, and engaging. What you learn about yourself will positively shift both your personal and professional relationships.
Not only will you save $60 over individual course purchases, but you’ll also get the textbook as a free bonus (regularly $39). In addition, these courses never expire, so you can complete each course (4 hours of CE each) in the CE reporting years that you choose.