by Selena Belisle, Founder/Instructor, CE Institute LLC
Massage sheets are supposed to cover a client for warmth, modesty and protection. Massage draping is provided to prevent nudity, excessive exposure and demonstrate a clear and professional line between a massage therapist and client. There is no excuse to provide excess nudity in a professional massage therapy session when the draping itself is supposed to be a physical barier to prevent it.
Massage Clients Who Do Not Want Any Massage Draping
So what should massage therapists do when a client doesn't want to be draped or use a sheet to cover themselves. Massage therapists and bodyworkers should simply explain to the client that the draping is required as a professional standard and that the service cannot proceed without.
If the client requests to remove their drape after the massage has started, repeat the standard that it is required or that you can terminate the service if the client does not want to be professionally draped.
How to Drape When it's Too Hot
Women who are experiencing hot flashes, or any client who's overly warm can expose their feet, legs and arms to minimize the draping or heat, but removing the draping or using a hand towel should never be an option.
An NFL Player Who Wanted Only Minimal Massage Draping
Recently, there were several massage therapists who publicly complained about an NFL player who only wanted to use a hand towel to drape himself, and he exposed himself to the therapists as well by removing the hand towel. This is unacceptable behavior on the behalf of the client. More so, the practitioner should have never started the service with just a hand towel over a client's genitals.
When a client is draped minimally with a hand towel, there is a larger chance that they could expose themselves, whether it was intentional or not.
A Doctor's Office Experience with Draping
Think about when you go to the doctor's office. Your annual physical might be a lot more violating than a massage! But what does the doctor's office provide you for your invasive exam? Most clients are regularly provided a full paper gown and sometimes even a paper sheet to place on top of your paper gown.
Doctor's could provide paper panties or a small paper towel if that was professional, but it's not. It would be cheaper to give out paper panties or a paper towel but they don't. So why would a massage therapist think it is acceptable for a client to drape themselves with a hand towel when this standard is not practiced anywhere in modern day medicine?
Unacceptable Massage Draping Practice Standards
The NFL player who insisted on only using a hand towel and exposed himself to unsuspecting therapists stated he was allowed to do this with other therapists. And indeed he was. There were massage therapists that spoke up on his behalf, saying they were fine in just using a hand towel. In our opinion, this is an unacceptable standard and practice. Massage therapists need to provide more than a hand towel to provide comfort, warmth, protection and professionalism.
Very large bath sheet towels are acceptable to use as a massage drape. A hand towel is not. Remember, draping is to prevent excess nudity, so proper and professional draping should be practiced at all times.
Draping for a Professional Massage Therapy Session
Draping is provided for professional reasoning. Draping is not a suggestion, nor is it a client dictated protocol. Massage therapists must execute and reliably practice professional draping standards at all times if they want to be seen as massage professionals.
Professional massage therapy draping with a sheet or very large towel should always cover the buttocks, genitalia and the client's chest area. The draping should be large enough to cover the entire client if so desired.
Therapists should only undrape the area that they are working on, and that area should be immediately draped and covered again, once the work has concluded in that area.
The Only Time a Hand Towel Could be Incorporated Into Professional Draping Practices
Practitioners may use a hand towel to work on a client's abdomen when a client is lying in supine position on the treatment table. The hand towel would usually be folded in half long-ways or horizontally, depending on the amount of coverate required. Then the hand towel would cover the client's breast area as the top draping sheet is lowered to expose the abdomen. At no time should the client's breast area be exposed during this draping practice.
Massage therapists should seek additional training if they do not know how to use a second drape such as a hand towel to cover a client's breast while exposing the abdomen.
Business Standards with Draping
Massage therapists can incorporate a draping policy within their massage therapy or bodywork practice. Adding a draping policy will help provide a standard that can be shared with clients if or when they are demanding something different.
Preplanning ahead of time by creating a standard draping policy could help a therapist prevent an awkward situation by simply falling back on the policy. Therapists can always state they are simply following company policies whenever a client wishes for different draping, especially if it feels like the request is for nefarious purposes. Citing a company policy may feel less confrontational or less uncomfortable than telling the client no for other reasons.
If a client continually requests less draping, simply inform them that they are requesting you to violate a company policy, which cannot be done. The only action you have beyond breaking the company policy is to either proceed with the service in accordance with your policies, or to provide no service at all because their request cannot be provided within the company's policies.
In addition to adding a draping policy to your website, a practitioner could also print their draping policy on any standard client intake form or paperwork. Having a standard preprinted policy in writing where it is accessible to the client may help prevent clients from approaching your business for something different than what is professionally practiced.
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