The No Massage List: Essential Guidelines for Ethical and Safe Massage Therapy Practices

In the realm of massage therapy, professionalism, ethical considerations, and client safety are of utmost importance. One of the foundational tools that every massage therapist should have in place is the “No Massage List.” This list comprises a set of clear guidelines that outline the situations, conditions, and client characteristics under which a massage therapist will decline to provide their services. In this article, we’ll delve into what a No Massage List is, its significance, and the reasons why it is an indispensable component of any ethical and safe massage therapy practice.

Defining the No Massage List

The No Massage List, often referred to as a “Do Not Massage” or “Safety and Ethical Guidelines,” is a set of policies and guidelines that a massage therapist establishes to delineate when they will not administer a massage session. These policies are designed to maintain professionalism, set boundaries, and ensure the safety, well-being, and ethical conduct of both the therapist and the client.

Why You Need a No Massage List

  • Prioritizing Client Safety: One of the foremost reasons for implementing a No Massage List is to prioritize client safety. Certain conditions and situations can pose a risk to the client’s well-being, such as massaging someone who is seriously ill or intoxicated. Clear guidelines on what is considered unsafe help protect the client.
  • Setting Ethical Boundaries: A No Massage List serves as a mechanism for setting ethical boundaries. It enables therapists to establish a framework for their practice that aligns with their personal and professional values. This, in turn, safeguards clients from potentially unethical requests or situations.
  • Enhancing Professionalism: A well-constructed No Massage List reflects professionalism. It demonstrates that the therapist has thoroughly considered the conditions under which they cannot provide services. This consistency in adhering to professional standards creates a lasting and positive impression on clients.
  • Transparency and Trust: Transparency is a key element in building trust and rapport with clients. By explaining the reasons behind the policies on the No Massage List, therapists can foster understanding, trust, and respect among their clients.
  • Mitigating Legal Risks: In certain cases, the No Massage List can offer legal protection. It can serve as evidence that clients were informed of the terms and agreed to them, which can be crucial in case of disputes.
  • Protecting YOU The Therapist: Beyond safety and professionalism, a No Massage List helps protect the therapist. Requests for massages under conditions that are deemed unsuitable can result in potential harm, illness to you, the therapist and a loss of income. Think about it, you massage a clearly sick person. Then you get sick. Now you have to cancel your week (or longer to recover and get well). If you had declined to massage the clearly sick person, then you would not have gotten sick resulting in missing other appointments.

Creating a Customized No-Massage List

The No Massage List is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Each therapist should tailor their guidelines to their specific practice and individual preferences. While the underlying reasons for inclusion on a No Massage List may be similar among therapists, the specifics can vary significantly.

Here are steps to consider when creating your No Massage List:

  1. Identify Personal Preferences: Determine your personal comfort levels and preferences regarding the conditions or situations in which you will not provide massage services. These preferences may be guided by considerations such as safety, ethics, or other factors.
  1. Prioritize Safety: Ensure that your No Massage List policies prioritize the safety and well-being of you and your clients. For example, specify that you will not provide massages to clients who are sick, intoxicated, or under the influence of substances that may compromise your health (or theirs).
  1. Establish Ethical Guidelines: Include ethical guidelines that are important to you as a therapist. This may involve situations in which clients make inappropriate requests or engage in behavior that breaches professional boundaries.
  1. Clearly Communicate Policies: Make sure your No Massage List is communicated clearly to clients. This can be done through your website, intake forms, and in-person conversations. Clients should be fully aware of these policies before booking a session.
  1. Explain the Reasons: As part of transparency, explain the reasons behind your policies. For instance, if you decline to provide a massage to someone who is intoxicated, clarify that it is for their safety and well-being. Providing explanations can help clients understand and respect your decisions.
  1. Consistency is Key: Be consistent in enforcing your policies. Consistency builds trust, maintains professionalism, and ensures that clients know what to expect.
  1. Legal Review: If necessary, consult with legal professionals to ensure that your No Massage List is in compliance with relevant laws and regulations.

Common Examples of No Massage List Policies

While the specific policies on a No Massage List can differ among therapists, here are some common examples:

  1. Client Illness: Declining to provide massages to clients who are unwell to prevent the risk of spreading illness to the therapist and other clients.
  1. Intoxication: Refusing massage for clients who are intoxicated or under the influence of substances to avoid potential harm or compromised judgment.
  1. Inappropriate Behavior: Not providing massages to clients who engage in inappropriate behavior or requests that breach professional boundaries.
  1. Lack of Informed Consent: Ensuring that clients provide informed consent, especially in cases involving health concerns or conditions that could be aggravated during a massage session.
  1. Hygiene Standards: Requiring clients to meet basic hygiene standards for the session to proceed, as inadequate hygiene can be uncomfortable and unprofessional.


The No Massage List is an essential tool for massage therapists, promoting safety, professionalism, trust, and ethical conduct. By establishing clear guidelines for when massage services will not be provided and effectively communicating these policies to clients, therapists can create a secure and respectful working environment. Additionally, a well-structured No Massage List helps protect the therapist’s income, ensures ethical practice, and mitigates legal risks. Each therapist’s list will be unique, reflecting their individual preferences, ethics, and client base, but the overarching goal remains the same: to provide a safe, professional, and ethical massage therapy experience.

I have made a video explaining more about the “No Massage List” here:

Now you (hopefully) understand the benefits of having this list and why it is crucial for massage therapists.

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