Last month, I had an Ethics Quandary in my practice.


In addition to working on clients in my office, I also work offsite in various settings. That day, I was working on athletes at a major local university.  It wasn’t my first time working for that school.  However, on that occasion, I thought it would be a great marketing idea to take a picture of myself outside of their training facility and check-in on Facebook; informing clients that I was working on Division I athletes.


But I didn’t do it!


I DID take the picture.  And it’s still on my phone. But I never posted it anywhere. The reason why I didn’t goes back to my Ethics courses from Massage School and one of the major topics we covered in detail; Client Confidentiality.


Because we are Healthcare Providers, ethically, we are not supposed to discuss our clients without their written authorization. That goes for who they are, what their conditions are, areas worked on, personal things they tell us, etc. It doesn’t matter if that person is a well-known celebrity, professional athlete, or John Q. Public. The point is, WE DON’T DISCUSS THEM. HIPAA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) actually makes it a legal issue.  However, I don’t want to get into that here.


Granted, you probably still wouldn’t have known which specific athletes I worked on. In fact, from the picture I took, you also wouldn’t have even known which team; because that school has several. But the point it, because I was working for the school, anyone I worked on there was still technically a client; as well as the organization that was paying for my services.  Therefore, it was important for me to guard their confidentiality.


I know firsthand how a Massage Therapist can lose business due to “Loose Lips”.  Early in my career, I visited the new business of a former graduate of my MT school. Because we were both just getting started, I thought it would be nice to show that person some support. Also, this person used modalities that I wasn’t experienced in and I thought it would be good to see what it was all about. During the session, I asked questions and they explained various things to me. And everything was fine until after the session.


As I was leaving, this therapist’s romantic partner came to the office. I had met this person before so I spoke with them and they asked me how my session was. Before I could say anything, the therapist blurted “He couldn’t have enjoyed it because he talked the entire time”.


No matter how friendly you get with your customers, one thing you must ALWAYS remember is that they are STILL your customers.  Now if we had been trading services with no cash involved, it wouldn’t have been as much of an issue to me.  However, I had just paid this person FULL PRICE and tipped. At that moment, I knew two things:


(1)          I was NEVER going back there again.


(2)          I was NEVER going to refer anyone to go there.


Another thing that infuriated me was the fact that this person attended the SAME SCHOOL I did AND had the SAME ETHICS INSTRUCTOR. So I know they were taught better. But unfortunately, some people leave school and forget all of the lessons they learned. Believe it or not, there is more to being a successful Massage Therapist than just being able to give a nice massage; especially for ones running their own businesses.  I took pride in the fact that most clients I encountered on my first massage job had no idea that was my first massage job. Some remarked that they thought I’d been in the business for a few years based on my actions and demeanor. Professionalism shows; as does a lack of it.


Suffice it to say that therapist went out of business YEARS ago.  I wasn’t surprised. In addition to “Diarrhea of the Mouth”, I identified a few issues that knew would cause this person issues further down the road. And I would have happily helped them because we weren’t competitors; due to our locations and modalities. I still have some classmates that I discuss business and share ideas with and we help each other. However, after that experience, such a relationship was out of the question.


The assignment at the aforementioned university was proposed to me because of a referral from one trainer to another.  Clearly, someone felt that I was enough of a professional to give my name to a colleague. The question I had to ask myself was: “Is it worth damaging those relationships just to try to impress people on Social Media who may or may not even see or respond to it”. And the answer was “Absolutely NOT”!


Ironically, there is a Massage Business that I know of which caters mostly to celebrities.  I remember reading about them years ago and actually applied to contract with them for the Atlanta area. However, I was quickly told that they only contract female therapists; which is a RED FLAG that always tends to make me leery as a male LMT. It makes me wonder what is REALLY being sold.  So I didn’t bother pushing the issue.


Years later, I ran across an interview with the owner of that business. I was horrified to read how that person not only named their clients, but also gave CONFIDENTIAL information about their sessions.  While writing this blog, I decided to see what else is out there about this business and ran across a few pages of complaints; many from their contractors. Not sure why these celebrities are still giving this company their business. But it does explain why some of them have their business splashed all over the tabloids.


The only way you will know whom I have worked on is if they tell you. And I have worked on my share of famous people. However, unless they decide to refer others to me, that information is classified; as it should be. And that’s the way you want it to be.  Would you like me telling people about YOUR medical history, or YOUR muscular problems, or YOUR medications, or PERSONAL things you revealed to me during YOUR sessions? Of course not! Remember…the person who gossips with you about others is surely gossiping ABOUT YOU with others.


If you think I am making too much of this, allow me to give you another unsettling incident I encountered earlier in my career to ponder.  In the first place I rented space, I shared an area with an esthetician. One evening, she had a party for her clients and suggested I set up my massage chair to market my services to them. I bought a Chick Fil-A nuggets tray and worked on a number of ladies present. And the evening seemed to be going well…until…


At one point, one of her clients left the party.  As soon as she did, one of the remaining clients quickly made a catty remark about her.  Instead of changing the conversation – which would have been the PROFESSIONAL way to handle things – the esthetician proceeded to disclose the lady’s personal information to all of her other clients in the room. Personally and professionally, I was horrified.  And honestly, had I been one of her clients, I NEVER would have returned.  Didn’t they understand that if she was so willing to reveal another client’s personal information AND trash her behind her back, what was stopping her from doing the same to them? Suffice it to say my relationship with that person changed and I eventually moved to another location. I knew that was NOT the type of environment where I wanted to grow my business. Because that incident told me what kind of person I was dealing with. And it was a good call, because after that I began to see more and more despicable aspects of her character. That kind of behavior usually isn’t isolated.  Where there’s smoke, there’s also usually fire, too.


So is THAT the type of person you want to give your hard-earned money to? Because if they are shady with your information, what else they are going to be shady about?


Think about it…

Thank you for your time,


            Raleigh McKeever LMT, MBA, NMT

            Founder and Managing Director

            RPM Muscular Therapies Clinic LLC