Appropriate Massage Therapy Draping and Communication Practices

Appropriate Massage Therapy Draping and Communication Practices

by Selena Belisle, Founder/Instructor, CE Institute LLC

Communication is one of the most important keys or tools to a successful massage session.  It is a vital ethical duty to provide superior communication skills for a client.

Massage therapists must help clients feel safe and comfortable during every appointment.  This includes ensuring the client understands and agrees to what is being performed, and that draping is performed in a satisfactory manner to create client warmth, protection from excess nudity and comfort.

Especially with new clients, it’s important to explain what areas will be worked on.  If a full body appointment is proposed, it’s good ethical practice to state what “full body” work will entail. An example of bodyworker/client dialogue is: “A full body massage consists of working on the back, back of legs, feet, front of legs, arms, neck, shoulders, face and scalp – is that okay with you?” (or explain whatever areas are included in your “typical” full body that will be executed with this client)
If or when the client seems hesitant to agree, or disagrees with any of these areas, ask the client which areas they want worked on, and only provide work in these pre-agreed areas. 
If the client is new, seems nervous, or for any reason whatsoever, the bodyworker can explain to the client what they are doing as they move from one body area to another during the appointment.  For example, if the bodyworker finishes their back massage and is about to move on to the back of a leg, the bodyworker could communicate: “I’m finished with your back and now I am going to re-drape your back with the sheets, then I am going to undrape your left leg to work on that next.  Is that okay with you?”
Required Elements for Massage Therapy Draping
Massage therapy draping requires professional execution and consistency.  It’s important to provide similar draping when performing the same work on bilateral extremities, or from one appointment to the next, or explain why the draping might be different when different techniques are employed.  A client could become nervous or feel unsafe if the draping is unpredictable without explanation or reason
Professional massage therapy draping should always be quick and efficient. Clients regularly want every penny’s worth of their bodywork appointment and will regularly start undressing in front of a bodyworker to get on the table to get started right away!  Regardless of the client’s ambition, it’s important for the bodyworker to be able to quickly (but securely) drape a client. Clients can become reasonably perturbed when the therapist is performing other tasks (such as draping) instead of the actual bodywork itself.  It’s important to be aware of this, and create draping techniques that meet all criteria of ethical execution.

Professional draping also provides a client warmth.  Massage has been scientifically proven to lower blood pressure .  As such, a client may feel cooler or even cold as they relax. Draping can offset the cooling effects that can result with bodywork, and help a client feel warmer regardless of how or why they require additional warmth.

Excessive Nudity in Massage Practice 
There should never be excess or unreasonable nudity in draping. Excess nudity should always be avoided during bodywork.  For example, if a bodyworker is working on a client’s foot, then the entire leg should not be undraped.  When working on a client’s foot, only undrape the foot and nothing else.

Female breast tissue and everyone's genitalia should never be exposed in bodywork under any circumstance. Draping provides a physical barrier between the client’s private areas and the massage therapist, to generate a feeling of safety and security to the client. Draping can also set important boundaries and reduce confusion of the therapeutic value provided with the appointment

Draping should provide accessibility to work areas for the practitioner. Only undrape areas that will be worked on immediately by the bodyworker.  If a bodyworker is performing “hot stone” bodywork, and needs to return to the water bath to obtain more hot stones, the bodyworker should cover/re-drape the client when leaving the body to go to the water bath, and only undrape the immediate work area once the bodyworker has returned to the client and is ready to start working again
Protect Yourself During Draping Practices
Be careful of draping “techniques” that require the lifting of an extremity.  Not only could this type of lifting injure a bodyworker, but it could also injure the client if the limb is mishandled!
To learn more about massage therapy practice, please click HERE to find or register for training.

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