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There’s nothing like a good, meaty ethical topic to sink your teeth into, is there? I love ethics and I’m fortunate that a lot of you send me emails or Facebook messages about interesting ethical topics. Every now and then, I am very lucky that one of you gets so passionate about an ethical issue that you offer to write a guest post.  Today is my lucky day. Today, I’m fortunate that Tracy Bradley has written a guest post on a very interesting subject – add ons.

Tracy Bradley - Comfort Zone MassageTracy Bradley has been practicing massage therapy in Paris, Arkansas since 2003. She works with headaches, shoulder/neck pain, and overall stress management at The Comfort Zone Massage. Tracy loves purple, peace signs, Coke Cherry, ethics discussions, sarcasm, internet cats, family life, naps, and all types of massage therapy discussions.

It’s not every day that I get to feature a writer from Paris!

Why I won’t sell skinny massage

Things you won’t find on my retail shelf or service menu:

  • Skinny massage
  • Anti-cellulite products
  • Skinny wraps
  • Weight loss supplements
  • Nutrition shakes/pills/juices

Disclaimer: This post isn’t about my personal opinion about these products. This isn’t about whether or not I think they work. My professional ethics and integrity regarding clients, body image, trust, and money is what this is about.

When someone brings up a “great new product” which makes them “tons” of money from clients I cringe. It’s either an “exclusive” essential oil brand or some kind of fat-hiding/burning product. Why? Why, as licensed/certified massage therapists would we want to sell products which highlight and shame perceived imperfections?

The fat-hiding products bother me on a professional level. Could offering fat-hiding products potentially cause a client to feel shame about his/her body? As professional massage therapists we bring people to a place of trust and understanding. Clients are asked to remove some or all of their clothing allegedly without fear of judgment or scrutiny. We touch people’s skin, massaging indiscriminately over cellulite, moles, scars, freckles, and other unique markings. Did you see those words? “We touch people.” Why would we want to line our walls with products which draw attention to bodily imperfections?

I work with clients of many different body shapes, sizes, and weights. Each person possesses a body image. Many people view different body parts as abnormal, imperfect, fat, or ugly. Often these beliefs are distorted. A person may see past his/her healthy muscle and only be able to see a layer of cellulite. Cellulite naturally occurs on every human body. It isn’t shameful to have it’s natural and probably necessary.

Body image is a fragile thing.

How we speak to clients stays with them. How we handle their little fat jokes about themselves is how they decide how much to trust us. I have a few clients who worked up courage for a year or more to book an appointment. They were afraid of what I might think of their body. If potential clients are that worried about what we think of what we see why would we want to display products that throw their insecurities in their faces? I believe displaying and selling these products can contribute to low self-esteem and poor body image. We could be losing massage clients by selling these products. Who wants to be semi-nude in front of someone who could be scrutinizing him/her? Even if we aren’t scrutinizing bodies the products do.

Scope of Practice

Promoting inch-reducing products also confuses the client/therapist relationship. If we sell skinny wraps the client could see us as weight loss experts. Even though the company provides information about use and lifestyle the client will want more from US. If a client has questions beyond the product literature where will I get the answers? I am not a medical doctor, dietician, or personal trainer. I am not qualified to give advice or develop a weight-loss plan. Clients view us as experts and authority figures. If we sell these products they will think we are weight-loss experts. Is potentially harming a client with possibly incorrect information worth a little money? We are licensed to administer massage therapy not to counsel weight-loss. Restating information from marketing materials is not the same as becoming certified to become a weight-loss counselor.

Is selling weight-loss products, vitamins, and wraps practicing within our scope? This probably varies state to state. In my state our Practice Act (Law) states: (4)(A) “Massage therapy” means the treatment of soft tissues, which may include skin, fascia, and muscles and their dysfunctions for therapeutic purposes of establishing and maintaining good physical condition, comfort, and relief of pain.” Selling wraps that clients take home to apply weekly doesn’t seem to fall into this category. Applying a skinny massage technique would be within this scope. Who knows about selling vitamins and supplements? My opinion? It crosses into the territory of prescribing things, which we are not supposed to do. It appears to be a gray area and I’m sure there will be a great discussion. Discussions are good. I can see things from other perspectives.

What do you think? I’m curious to hear what add on services or products you sell and which ones you won’t and why. 

Let’s discuss add ons in the comments below.

You'll find this filed under: Ethics

25 Responses to Why I won’t sell skinny massage

  1. There are numerous people in my networks selling such things, but I’ve personally chosen to avoid those bandwagons. From their accounts, they’re making a load of money that I personally am not. Ethics are just plain pesky!

    However, I do not believe in signing up clients for MLM companies. To me that places people in a dual relationship that I don’t need. And I would never in a million years tell anyone a massage is going to make them skinny. Good for you for telling it like it is.

    • Laura – I agree completely on the MLM companies and clients. As a dual relationship, having a client in your downline just gets too messy. And as for skinny massage – if it really works why aren’t all massage therapists and students thin as rails?

    • Thanks for the comment, Laura. Involving clients in MLMs just seems inappropriate to me, too. These thoughts have been weighing on me for some time. I’m happy Kelli agreed to share them.

  2. YES. I am so uncomfortable with MTs selling supplements and similar items. Whether or not we ‘phrase’ suggestions properly, or stipulate that we are not nutritionists, etc., people look to us as an authority in certain areas of health.
    The very act of selling these things is an endorsement and suggestion, and it’s a really shaky ethical area.

    • Allissa – That is so true! That “authority” is the power differential and we need to be aware of it because we can abuse it without even knowing. Our clients are paying attention to what we say and what we endorse and we need to be aware of that.

    • Exactly, Allissa. People look to us as experts in whatever we are doing. I’m always thinking, “what if I don’t have the answer? What if they trusted me for something and I was wrong?”

  3. Being overweight myself, this would so not work for me s a massage therapist. Besides, if it was this simple, would we have a weight problem in this country? Nah!

  4. Thank you for this! I get these “offers” quite often and it’s extremely frustrating. I work with a lot of prenatal and postpartum clients, and they always say “you can offer this to your clients to help them lose all that pregnancy weight!” (or some variation of that). Honestly, the last thing I want a new mom worried about is if I’m thinking they are FAT. Usually what I’m thinking (other than the actual massage itself) is PREGNANCY IS A TRUE MIRACLE! WOMEN’S BODIES ARE AMAZING AND STRONG AND BEAUTIFUL, AND AMAZING!!

    • Seriously! She just had another human being developing inside her. That’s amazing. Let’s give the woman a break from all the fat shaming. Thanks for commenting Crystal.

  5. Thank you for stating the ethics and basic morality of this so perfectly!

    I’ve had clients with eating disorders take years for me to let them touch certain parts of their bodies. There is so much tenderness and anguish stored in the tissues- why on earth would we, as massage therapists, intensify that negative self image by promoting the unacceptability of fat?

    Fat is the most powerful armoring tissue the body generates. It strikes me as a gross abuse of the therapeutic relationship to attack it for the sake of profit.

  6. I have a different view point. I don’t see anything wrong with it and there is nothing wrong with making money. As a massage therapist and having experienced the anxiety myself of having a massage when I was not comfortable with my body (in my pre days when in massage school), I (as a consumer) would think it’s a great idea if I had access to other products that I myself may have wanted to try but maybe was too embarrassed to go within a store and buy it/them. What better place then with your own massage therapist that you do feel comfortable with. I recently went to one of the top specialist in physiotherapy here in Sydney and she was also selling a line of skin treatment, it was displayed on her counter with brochures. No hard, selling not even a word mentioned about it, but it was there. So I’m obviously meaning the same approach should be applied within your own clinic. We are not here to prove the validity of different products but allowing people access to what is available is another way of looking at it.

    • Marianne, thank you for your comment. It’s nice to see that not everyone agrees and your experience as a consumer is a big part of your opinion. I’m not familiar with the laws and scope of practice in Australia, so that could be a consideration, too. I would be curious to hear more about the norms in your country.

    • Thank you for your comments. My main concern is with scope of practice and the “what if” when it comes to body image. I can see how certain products, if being looked for, could be good to have. I just choose not to sell these particular products. Thanks again for your input.

  7. I agree with the points of the original post concerning MLM, but I always find this ‘mt’s shouldn’t retail products’ argument narrow in it’s scope at best. I have always offered my clients wellness related retail and it is a very appreciated part of my business. This past 2 years I can hardly keep my shelves stocked. We offer nutritional supplements, organic body care, coconut products, and wool dryer balls etc. We like to offer healthy alternatives to what conventional stores offer. I have never prescribed to the notion that if I’m a MT I can only do massage. I also have training in many other areas. So can anyone who is interested and dedicated to widening their practice. Everything my business carry’s I have well researched, took training for (if appropriate) and trialed myself first, and our clients have confidence in that. (If they didn’t they wouldn’t repeatedly buy, or send their moms or kids to buy our products.) We work with companies who offer our whole staff ongoing training and have medical professionals a phone call away for any questions we don’t feel comfortable or qualified answering. At this point (our business is 14 years old) my staff members have hundreds of hours of training and insight on our wellness products. They use them, I use them, our clients use them, I don’t see the problem when handled properly. Our retail is an important and expected part of our business.

    • Thank you for your thoughts. If only more people took the time to research products and get proper training to offer them like you! I don’t think MTs shouldn’t sell any products, I feel the products should fall under scope of practice. I firmly believe selling supplements/vitamins crosses over into prescribing. However, I understand there are many people who hold more than one license/certification.

  8. There are a lot “promise in a bottle” type of products out there that crossed the ethical boundary a long time ago. Now the question is if you can find the ballance between making a decent living and ethics and that is tricky.

  9. I recently wrote a similar post on my blog about why I won’t talk to clients about their weight. I cited many of the same reasons:

    Outside my scope of practice
    Outside my expertise
    Outside my education
    Outside my (useful) personal experience
    Already enough people beating on the “weight” bandwagon
    Already enough people in the world making us feel bad about our bodies
    No way to know how a client will hear this (encouragement or shame)
    I hate it when someone does it to me

    I think we have to be very careful when we trumpet oh so loudly “but we’re health care providers!”. Well, yes, but I don’t ask my podiatrist about my diarrhea and I don’t ask a gastrointernologist about my eyeglass prescription. We are “health care providers” within our SCOPE OF PRACTICE.

    And, seriously, do our clients really need one more person, with an earnest wrinkling of the brow and pursing of the lips, asking is if we’ve thought about the role our weight might have in our body aches and pains? And have we heard about the [your choice here] diet / exercise regimen / lifestyle plan (that we, personally, have had such great success with so it must be the right answer for everyone!).

    How about we just love them and do our damndest to make them more comfortable in the bodies they’ve got? Isn’t that enough work to keep everyone busy?

"Dream large, laddie!" - Local Hero, 1983