An image of wooden building blocks in an orderly stack is used to illustrate the concept of creating a professional business framework.

When a person owns a business, it takes time to develop a professional framework one needs to operate within to be successful. Business owners must hone the ability to interpret what actions to pursue to be successful and, at the same time, change or avoid behavior that interrupts success.

Often until these behaviors are brought to our attention, we don’t always observe the issues we are struggling with and therefore don’t understand what actions to change to pursue success.

In this article we’ll look at the informed consent form and being ready with appropriate verbal communication, both of which will help maintain your professional foundation.

Do You Talk Too Much?

One of the issues I have long observed with massage therapists is how at times we participate in talking too much with our clients. I even created some guidelines I call “Massage Table Manners” to assist massage therapists in developing and managing professional conversation to encourage repeat clientele. (Read my article, “At the Table, Always be Polite,” on

The reality is, when we become more comfortable with our clients, it is easier to let communication boundaries relax. This issue can trickle over into other areas of practice involving verbal communication and scope of practice, which then can affect our professional success. It takes diligence to maintain verbal parameters—those limits of how much we talk and what we talk about—that uphold professional communication boundaries.

Specifically, an issue you may have experienced already with repeat clientele is how to stay within your scope of practice when it comes to correctly communicating with your client about their physical condition.

This happens when we recall the information and experience from a client with a diagnosed set of symptoms and then assign that same diagnosis, in our mind or in conversation, to a client with a similar set of symptoms who has not yet been medically evaluated.

How do we avoid this common pitfall? By using an informed consent form tailored to your business practices and having practiced verbal answers to respond to these situations. In this way, you can set the stage for a higher standard of professional communication.

Tailor Your Consent Form to Your Business

One of the best professional practices to have in place is a consent form that clarifies all areas of your business, massage practices and client responsibilities.

An informed consent form tailored to your practice can include the following categories with outlined processes to assist with a client’s awareness of how you intend to operate your business. Within this form:

• Provide a list of services you offer and specific definitions of what those services are and can also include what they are not.

• Create guidelines for receiving massage, including both indications and contraindications with clarity for the client as to when they should not be massaged.

• Give descriptions of your scope of practice along with what is your responsibility and what is the client’s responsibility.

• Provide a statement of your philosophy on healing, massage and health, bringing awareness to what massage can treat and what it does not treat.

• Give a description of how you form client treatment plans and goals and when you will refer a client for medical evaluation.

This form should be included with your intake process and can also provide value when posted in areas where the client can reread these guidelines.

Having clarity in these areas of client care can also help you to provide better communication and verbally stay within your scope-of-practice limits.

Establish Verbal Parameters

Learning how to guide client conversation away from things not to be discussed and toward things to discuss is an essential communication skill for successful business practices.

By being prepared with practiced verbal statements, it helps limit what you say in situations where clients are trusting you to provide answers for their body and health, situations in which you may feel compelled to answer.

Here are some ideas to help guide conversations with clients in a more professional and ethical manner:

• Words we can safely adhere to include names of muscles, ligaments, boney landmarks and basic joint names, along with muscular movements (flexion, extension, etc.). All are within our scope of practice and training.

• Prior to the appointment, if a client has been medically evaluated and has been given a diagnosis or a condition has been assigned by a medical professional, it is proper to use that term in conversation with them. Otherwise, adhere to statements that remain general.

• If someone presents with symptoms that make you question if you should be treating the person, again, do not assign any term to the condition. Simply restate the presentation of symptoms if needed and refer for a medical evaluation. Less said is best.

• If a repeat client presents with a new physical issue, perform an assessment to determine if it is indicated or contraindicated for that client to receive massage that day and refer for a medical evaluation if it is determined their situation qualifies.

If it is in the best interest of the client to deny service, how do you approach communication with them to raise awareness and not alarm? This is when practiced verbal statements become important.

• If the client asks what you think is going on with their body, you can simply respond that you would like the client to receive the best care and a medical evaluation is what you feel would be best option at this time.

Frequently, new therapists request specifically what to say to a client regarding physical issues so as to avoid using diagnostic language. I have included some general statements that can be adapted for your own use: State, “I feel that your body needs further evaluation. My recommendation is that you first consult with your medical provider prior to receiving massage.”

• If a client further asks for a reason, simply state, “I am not qualified to diagnose. That is why it is important for you and your health to be evaluated so you can receive correct treatment.” This statement seems to empower these clients to seek out help for themselves.

Essential Parts

How we communicate and the parameters we communicate within are essential parts of the foundation needed to run a successful business. Learning how to communicate in a more professional manner is worth the time and effort it takes to cultivate your professional voice.

Amy Bradley Radford

About the Author

Amy Bradley Radford, LMT, BCTMB, has been a massage therapist and educator for more than 30 years. She is the owner of Massage Business Methods, the developer of PPS (Pain Patterns and Solutions) Seminars CE courses ( and an NCBTMB Approved CE Provider. Read more of her articles here.