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August 1, 2007

Privacy Must Be Respected

I want to include more of what they don't teach you in massage school, but to be perfectly honest, some things have changed since I've been in school. New privacy laws such as HIPAA make it clear that therapists must keep their client files locked and away from public access. Any professional development class that is not teaching this to their massage students is dropping the ball. If you plan to have a practice where you collaborate with other professionals, you need to have a consent form for disclosure of information between professionals.

Privacy can be defined as the ability of an individual or group to stop information about themselves from becoming known to people other than those they choose to give the information to. Privacy is sometimes related to anonymity although it is often most highly valued by people who are publicly known. Privacy can be seen as an aspect of security—one in which trade-offs between the interests of one group and another can become particularly clear.

Just as important as medical privacy are more casual forms of privacy related to client referrals, folks who are simply curious about your other clients, or impromptu public meetings. If a client refers another client to me and asks if they called or came in, I often dodge the question with a "no they haven't called." Or if they have come to see me, I say something like, "you'll have to talk with So-and-so and see how it went. They didn't really give me any feedback," or I simply say "yes, it went well." Then change the focus of their attention back to the task at hand with a question like, "how is this pressure?" or "is this the area you were telling me was giving you trouble?" Never disclosed information concerning another person's condition or health status.

I have had clients who met or passed each other in my reception area. One woman thought a male client was attractive and wanted to know all about him. I smiled and agreed that yes, he was attractive, but out of consideration for his privacy, I wasn't allowed to give out any personal information about him. Then I turned the tables and asked "wouldn't you want me to do the same for you?" Recognizing that I was in a position to also protect her from potentially unwanted attention was enough to cue her to drop pursuit of more information.

Finally, there are times when I'm out and about and run into a client. I always try to be friendly and say hello. However, I don't ask them how they felt after their last session or initiate any conversation about massage therapy with them. Some people don't want others to know that they receive massage and we have to respect their need for privacy. Unless they disclose their relationship with you to whoever their with, keep it under wraps on the outside. Often what I find is that clients almost react in a guilty manner if they haven't come to see me in a while. I always laugh and say, " don't worry about it. I figure you'll come and find me when you need me." And I truly believe that. If you provide quality massage services, and act with integrity, clients will not only come back when they need you, but they will tell their friends about you, too.

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Posted by linda at August 1, 2007 7:18 AM

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