How can a massage therapist work alone and stay safe?
I get asked this question all the time! It’s a great question, and there are lots of things you can do to stay safe. In good news, many many therapists work alone and they are just fine. However, it’s always a good idea to take precautions so you don’t end up in a bad situation.
I’ve been doing massage for twenty years and thankfully only have had a couple of times that I didn’t feel safe. I can tell you that EVERY time I had a feeling that I shouldn’t be booking the appointment. One experience that stands out was a house call, I had a bad feeling on the phone, as soon as the guy said he wanted to meet me at one of his rental units. But, I was in a new town, and we needed money, so I went. As soon as I got there I realized it was a no go (trashed house and he wanted a groin massage, I think NOT!), and thankfully I’d had the good sense to have my husband drive me and he was in our van. I was able to leave without a problem (other than the guy trying to convince me his groin issues were valid). Maybe they were, but I wasn’t about to find out!
So, that brings me to safety tip #1: Always follow your gut, and screen your calls. Ask questions like: what made you decide to get a massage today? What would you like to concentrate on in your session? Do you receive regular massage? So, how did you find out about me? Usually one of those questions will give you a hint if they aren’t seeking a therapeutic massage. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t! Make an excuse, don’t book it, and get off the phone. You don’t owe any explanation, it’s your right to only see people you are comfortable with. No amount of money is worth risking your safety.
Next, depending on where you work, you might want to only schedule new clients when there are other people in the building. Get to know your office neighbors, and let them know that you work alone, and if they ever hear anything that doesn’t sound right coming from your office you would appreciate a check in. You can repay their kindness by being a good neighbor, maybe bring by some gluten free doughnuts. If someone calls and they can’t do their first appointment during regular business hours either, decline the appointment or ask a friend or family member to be present in the reception area during the session.
Create a check in system with a close friend or family member. Text or even better, call where the client can hear you. Say something like “I’m at the office with a new client for a one hour, I’ll call you as soon as we finish, so we can meet up.” Even if you are just leaving a voicemail, your client doesn’t know that, and someone will be expecting a call from you. You can also create a secret word that means, I’m not comfortable, please get over here! I did this when I did more house calls to ski resorts. Something random like “don’t forget to buy potting soil” will work.
Keep some pepper spray, a whistle and your phone on you, use if needed. If you are ever in a sticky situation, GET OUT the police can help you get your things.
Another outcall tip, if you go to hotels, check in with the front desk from the room phone. Just say it’s hotel policy. I’ve seen tons of nice clients at hotels and bed & breakfasts, and I’m sure they understand and appreciate that you have safety measures in place.
Take a self-defense class! I don’t think this should replace your other safety measures, but it’s certainly a good idea.
Finally, if you are in a private office or spa consider a security system with a call button in your treatment room. They are pretty affordable starting at $100-$200 for equipment and around $20-$30 per month for monitoring.
I really do think that good call screening will be all you need 90% of the time. I think our profession is an overall safe one, but you can’t be too careful, this is your life we are talking about!
If you have any more safety tips, please add them to the comments.