Massage Draping by Sarah Minen

Draping laws for massage therapists in the United States seem to be unclear to some people.  In the 3 years that I have been an LMT, I have heard several clients tell me about their foreign travels and massage protocols in other countries.  They often explain how one country might use little draping and that another may use none at all.  Clients seem to bring up this topic simply as an observation and it is always interesting for me to hear about how massage laws and regulations differ in other parts of the world.

If you are a licensed massage therapist in the state of Utah or any other American state for that matter, you know that it is illegal to not utilize draping in your massage sessions.  More specifically, breasts and genitals must be covered at all times. However, when I was just starting out as an LMT in Salt Lake City, Utah, I ran into a draping issue with a new client.

A male client came in for a 60 minute session and as he entered my massage room, my first question to him was, “Have you ever had massage before?”

He quickly replied, “Yes I know the drill.  I will be ready in a moment.”

So I left the room and shut the door and waited for him to disrobe and get onto the table.  When I came back into the room I was shocked to see him lying on the table face down, but completely exposed with no draping over him.  I was very nervous, especially because this was one of my first paying clients in this profession!  I tried to stay calm and told the client that he needed proper draping required by the state of Utah.  He went on to insist that he has been to many spas and salons where draping was not required and that the draping is uncomfortable for him.  Once again, I calmly explained that draping is required in the state of Utah and that for me to work with him, he must comply with those regulations.  He was fairly irritated and decided not to continue with the massage, but he paid for the full session and was on his way.

For days I wondered, how could this situation have been avoided?  I concluded that setting a professional boundary with your client from the beginning is key.  Make sure your client knows exactly what to expect from you in the massage and always explain your massage protocol.  I should not have left the massage room to let this client disrobe until he knew this protocol.  Saying something like, “That is great that you have received bodywork before, but just make sure to disrobe and get underneath this top sheet.”  The therapist must set an intention with each client that is clear and professional.

I have never had any problems with my clients and draping since this incident.  I truly believe that setting a professional tone with your clients helps them know exactly what to expect from you and vice versa.  Establishing this boundary from the beginning of each session will make each massage, and your career as an LMT much more fulfilling.

Sarah Minen is a Licensed Massage Therapist practicing massage in Salt Lake City. Check out her website Salt Lake City Massage.