All practitioners must be aware of client boundaries and appropriate touch. We specify how NHPC members should interact with clients to ensure client safety and comfort.

Appropriate Touch Requirements

NHPC massage therapists may only touch clients for therapeutic purposes. As NHPC members, they must:

  • know what is considered appropriate touch
  • restrict treatments to therapeutic touch only
  • avoid accidental contact with prohibited areas
  • know how to address perceived inappropriate touch

Massage therapists are not allowed to touch the genitals, anus, or nipple/areola of any client. Contact with these areas is not part of the massage therapy scope of practice; it is sexual misconduct.

Treating Sensitive Areas

Areas of the body that risk misinterpretation when touched include:

  • chest wall muscles
  • breast tissue
  • gluteal region
  • upper inner thigh
  • anterior pelvic region
  • groin area

Given the risk, we have standards of practice for therapists dealing with the above areas or any other client-specific "sensitive" areas.

Massage therapists may only treat sensitive areas if it is clinically indicated and they have the skills, knowledge, and training to treat the area. They also must do the following:

  • fully assess the client's health history and the treatment area
  • discuss all details of the treatment with the client
  • get informed consent from the client for the treatment
  • discuss draping with the client, and drape the area appropriately and securely during treatment
  • get feedback and consent from the client when appropriate during the treatment
  • record treatment details and informed consent in the client's file

Informed Consent

Practitioners should get informed consent from clients for any treatment, especially treatment of sensitive areas. Informed consent must be voluntary on the part of the client, and the practitioner must:

  • get consent before the scheduled treatment of the area
  • discuss the treatment goals, expected results, and alternatives, as well as consequences of non-treatment
  • discuss draping and positioning
  • let the client ask questions or withdraw consent
  • record the informed consent in the client's file

More Information

For greater detail on the above guidelines, including specifics on touch, draping techniques, and obtaining informed consent, see the full NHPC Position Statement on Appropriate Touch (PDF).