Earlier this year Daniel Pytlarz (now practising under his wife’s name, Daniel Nowozeniuk), a male massage therapist, was in the press as he’d been taken to court for ‘inappropriate behaviour and sexual assault’ whilst giving treatments to some female clients including a member of Paul McCartney’s staff (now ex staff). He was acquitted of all charges, but did spend 9 months in prison following his arrest.
I’m not here to write about whether he is guilty or not guilty as this is not my place, but from various conversations I have had with people over the last few weeks this issue about being comfortable during a massage has arisen again so I just wanted to clarify a few things.
Massage has had a bad rep in the past, being linked in with the sex industry. Even when I first qualified 13 or so years ago my friends all joked about putting my card in phone boxes. This is the image the industry had, and has worked hard to shake off and be recognised for being a professional and therapeutic benefit. The guidelines, training and image have all been tightened over the years to ensure that this tainted view does not remain. It doesn’t help when a case such as Daniel Pytlarz hits the press, and of course the previous ‘non-therapeutic’ massage ‘with extras’ is still available, but it is easy to distinguish between them.
My main reason for writing this post is to offer some simple guidelines for you, the client. All the media coverage about this case has highlighted the vulnerability of both client and practitioner during a one to one treatment, but there are some simple questions and answers to protect both.
Ask the following questions as a client:
- What do you expect when you go to see a massage therapist?
- What instructions do you want from your practitioner?
- Are you happy to see a male practitioner (whether you are female or male)?
I know some truly great male massage practitioners, though they often find they are over looked for a female practitioner. Some women feel safer knowing that they are being treated by another female, and that is something all practitioners respect. This issue is not helped by situations such as Daniel Pytlarz.
When you book to see a practitioner there are few things you should check with them:
1) What sort of training did they receive?
2) Are they insured?
3) Are they a member of any governing body or professional association?
4) What type of massage do they offer, and what do you expect from it?
Having insurance is a legal requirement and a clear sign that they are professional but also protects you should anything go wrong at all. Being a member of a professional association is not a legal requirement, but this shows again that they are a professional and also means that they are bound by that association’s codes and practices. They also would need to be insured and properly trained to join the association in the first place. The codes and practices, as well as good training, guides the practitioner about advising a client and protecting them from any misunderstandings or anything that might make them feel uncomfortable.
There are numerous types of massages available. The most common are deep tissue, holistic, aromatherapy, manual lymph drainage, remedial, sports, Indian head and hot stone. They all vary in techniques, but there is a common thing – they all involve massaging parts of the body.
Most practitioners I know, male or female, follow the simple things outlined below. These are designed to make the client feel as comfortable as possible and explain things as much as possible.
- Explain / communicate what to expect during the course of a treatment
- Explain which areas of the body will be treated and ask if there is any part of the body the client would not like to be treated. This area would then be avoided and a note made on your consultation records. If avoiding this area could potentially impact the result/benefit of treatment, the client would be advised accordingly, but the practitioner would never pressure them into having something they didn’t want. One radio station mentioned that massaging the thighs is illegal in the UK, however that is not true at all.
- If a treatment requires touching the client in or near an intimate area (i.e. close to groin area), this would be explained to the client in advance. The client should sign a relevant document, such as the consultation form, stating that they are giving consent to the treatment and that it has been explained to them. Some practitioners also ask the client to sign the form again at the end of the session, which says they agree that no intrusion into their privacy/dignity occurred and that the treatment was within the area indicated.
- All clients have the right to stop the treatment at any time, for whatever reason, and this should be explained before the treatment commences.
- Most massages require clients to remove their clothing. This should be explained clearly to the client, including which items of clothing need to be removed, how to position themselves on the couch, and which towels they should use to protect their modesty. Most practitioners would under no circumstances ask a client be asked to remove underpants for the purposes of a massage treatment.
- The practitioner will always leave the room and allow a reasonable amount of time to allow the client to undress down to their underwear before the start of a treatment, and also to re-dress at the end of the session. They will always knock before re-entering the room. The practitioner will not remove client’s clothing for them, including bra or underpants. Any towel adjustments will be explained and done with agreement only.
By following these guides both client and practitioner are protecting during the one to one session and allows a safe and comfortable treatment.
I would say that if you have any questions about your treatment or what it involves then please ask your practitioner. Get as much information as you can before the session starts and during your initial consultation. Ask exactly what the treatment involves and what they plan to do. They should explain to you which areas of the body will be treated and if they plan to work near any sensitive areas. If you feel uncomfortable or are in any discomfort then tell your practitioner straight away and stop the treatment all together if necessary. This should all help to keep therapeutic massages professional and out of the media for the wrong reasons.