Technically, no one can MAKE you do anything. Your actions are ultimately the result of a decision you’ve made, whether you’re happy with that decision or not. People will do all sorts of things to try to cajole you into doing things they want you to do, and massage therapists are no exception. They have their own biases and preferred way of working, but you’re the customer so your comfort and preferences should take precedence – within reason. For instance, they probably aren’t gonna let you lay there nekkid without any kind of sheet or towel covering your “down theres” no matter how much you promise that you’re not looking for any hanky panky wanky.
It’s Your Money, Your Session
Your massage therapist may be the expert on massage, anatomy, and physiology, but you are the expert on you. You know which sorts of things make you physically, mentally, and emotionally uncomfortable and a good therapist will honor the boundaries you set. Besides, you’re the one shelling out the cashola; you shouldn’t be paying for things that make you uncomfortable.
So with that said, don’t let them “make” you:
Get more nekkid than you’re comfortable with. If they won’t respect this boundary, what other boundaries might they cross? Remember: It’s your session, if they insist that you take off more clothing than you’re comfortable doing, you have the right to insist that the session isn’t going to happen. As disappointing as it may be to not get a massage, you will probably feel more than disappointment if you go through with the massage. To misquote one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies – Regret is a wicked ghost.
Pay before you receive your service, especially if you’ve never been to this therapist, spa, or wellness center before. I wrote a post not long ago on why I feel so strongly about this, titled 5 Things You Can Learn From the Worst Massage I Ever Had. (click the link to read it) This is not to say that paying prior to getting a massage is a bad thing, I have several clients who prefer to pay beforehand so they don’t have to deal with it after the session when they’ve got a case of massage brain. That’s their choice and I’m all for honoring their preference to pay before rather than after. It’s also OK if the therapist or receptionist asks you to pay ahead of time, but… and this is the important part… if you’d prefer to wait until after, they should respect that.
Endure pressure, or anything else, that’s causing you pain. Discomfort, even extreme discomfort, is one thing but outright pain is never necessary. It will, in fact, cause your muscles to contract to protect themselves, and this is the exact opposite of the result/response you’re looking for. Yes, with enough pressure, your therapist can release those tight muscles… by creating tears in them. Ouch!
Receive a service you don’t want. I once had a therapist offer to pray over my feet during a myofascial release session for a case of plantar fasciitis I was dealing with. I had a lot of people who could (and would) pray for me (for free) but none who could do the type or level of work I was paying him to do. I declined paying for prayers since it would have meant less time for the work I was paying him to do. Work that I knew from experience helped my feet feel better.
Negate, dismiss, or make you explain your boundaries. It doesn’t matter why you want to leave your clothes on, how different your pain tolerance is to theirs, or whether they agree with your decision or not. I know a woman who, during a hot stone massage, told her therapist the the stones were too hot. He replied, “No they’re not.” She knew her rights and ended the session. Those stones could have caused 2nd or 3rd degree burns had she allowed him to continue. I’m not sure if she reported it to the spa manager, but she should have. I also know several people who were sexually assaulted at some point in their life and wish to remain fully or partially clothed for their sessions. They are under no obligation to disclose the reason to their massage therapist. A good therapist will simply accept the level of dress or undress the client is comfortable with and vary their techniques accordingly. If a therapist claims they are unable to work through clothes, they clearly need more training and you don’t want them working on you, anyway.
There are probably many more things you shouldn’t let a massage therapist do, but these are the top 5 that I either hear about or experience myself. If you’d like to add one to the list, please tell me about it in the comments below.