As a business owner there’s a thousand different hats to wear, and seeing clients is…
Boundaries are crucial to building and maintaining a strong, successful practice. Without them, we tend to be stressed, feel taken advantage of, and possibly resent not only others, but our business as a whole. To prevent this, we need to set and keep our boundaries. They’re not an option, they’re a necessity.
You’ve undoubtedly had the concept of boundaries drilled into your head from massage school and through countless ethics classes, but most often, those are taught in reference to client conduct within a session; inappropriate behaviors, screening for creeps, that sort of stuff. But boundaries can come in many forms and as a business owner it’s imperative to understand and have yours set.
There’s 4 main types of boundaries I usually cover…
Physical boundaries, such as how close someone stands to you or ways a client may or may not be allowed to touch you (hugs, shaking hands, that sort of stuff.).
Social boundaries, such as those around working on friends and family members, clients wanting to be friends, or social media requests.
Conversation boundaries, such as questions that are acceptable versus those that are too personal, how much a client shares with you, and generally how much either of you talks during a session.
And then, general professional boundaries, such as chronic cancellations, requesting special pricing, or expecting communications or appointments after hours.
You’ll need to strongly consider what your boundaries are and how you want to enforce them. So here’s a few steps you can take to maintain those boundaries within your massage practice:
First, get to know yourself.
You probably already have a good sense of what you will and will not tolerate from clients, but it’s important that you get detailed here. Sit down for a bit and think about what some of your firm boundaries are. Whatever category of boundary it may fit in, think of the details. What are your feelings surrounding how someone may push them, and what you would do in those circumstances? It’s important that you know your own boundaries, without a doubt, before they ever need to be spelled out to anyone else. Knowing and holding firm to them, so they’re just part of who you are and how you operate on a daily basis will keep many difficult situations at bay, and when the need does arise, you’ll be able to more easily take the necessary actions.
Secondly, know that you and your business are the priority.
Yes, you have to take care of clients of course, but that doesn’t mean trampling all over everything you stand for and ignoring your own discomfort. If you aren’t honoring your needs and those of your business, you’ll only be stressed and resentful. Remember, you’re in business to help people, but you can’t do that if you’re not taking care of yourself; and a big part of taking care of yourself is respecting your own boundaries. Your needs and comfort must come before a client acting in a way that crosses a line with you; whatever that may be.
Third, have policies .
I cannot express enough the need for policies in your practice. You have a business, not a hobby and it’s important that you take the steps to make this a priority. Implementing detailed policies that spell out your boundaries concerning certain situations and common occurrences, will not only make things crystal clear to your clients before they ever even book an appointment, but also help you to enforce the necessary regulations around them (fees, client termination, etc.) when everything is spelled out in black and white. I’ll link to another video about policies and the importance of them below. Be sure to go watch that when you’re done here.
And lastly, don’t justify.
There is no need to try to justify or explain why you have the boundaries or policies you do. It’s your business and you get to decide. A problem I see for a lot of therapists is feeling like because you’re a solo practitioner, or because you may know some of your clients on a more personal level, you may feel like you don’t operate as “officially” in a lot of ways. But the truth is that you need to. A client shouldn’t expect you to answer the phone or return a text at 9:00pm when you close at 7:00. I don’t care that it’s your cell phone, or how well you know them; if they’re calling for business reasons, it can wait until you get back in the office…you know, during BUSINESS hours. Other than stating your business hours, there’s no need to explain anything. You also don’t need to justify why you need to charge for their third no-show. That’s the policy, they agreed to it, and that’s that. They messed up. There’s no need to explain any of it to them. It’s a boundary like any other.
Now, please don’t forget that it’s not just about your boundaries here. Be sure that you’re fully respecting your clients’ boundaries as well. This may come in the form of them refusing to get undressed for a massage, not wanting to speak at all during a session, or anything else along those lines. Respect that the client’s boundaries may differ from yours on such things, and you need to respect that, just as you would expect them to honor yours.