Now and then I get a few clients that need work in... "awkward" places. In the last few months I have worked many iliopsoas and iliacus, the lower third of rectus abdominus, tons of glutes and hip rotators, many intercostals, the full length of the sternum, most of pec major, breast scars, etc. My training included working these areas, but for most of my clients any one of them is a new experience.
I know male MTs that rarely if ever venture to work these areas. I don't know why that is.
From first introduction to last goodbye, I strive to comport myself as a competent and nearly unflappable professional. My new clients usually seem pleasantly surprised by this. Again, I don't know why. But I do know that my boundaries and the way I conduct myself help establish a base of trust in the client-therapist relationship.
When a client needs work in one of the aforementioned "awkward"places, I try to educate them on it and let them know how I intend to do the work. Then I ask them if they are okay with what I am proposing. In 99% of cases, I get permission. If they are then nervous during the work, I continue to communicate with them throughout, and bring them into it as an active participant, helping me in some way. It is at these times that I feel the most need to be COMPLETELY professional with IRON-CLAD BOUNDARIES. As the work progresses, my clients generally relax and become totally okay with it.
On rare occasions, clients that are a little uncomfortable with something may overcompensate by suggesting "you don't have to drape around that area" or whatever. Rather than explore their comments, I simply state that I have a preferred method of draping that works best for me when treating that area.
Sometimes clients will ask questions about what it's like to see such a variety of bodies on my table... these usually insinuate that their own body is less desirable in some way. I let them know I'm more interested in what's happening BELOW the surface, as that's where I'm doing my work. If they keep talking, it usually becomes a neutral discussion about their tissues and/or anatomy stuff.
I know of skilled male MTs that were not hired because they didn't have a professional demeanor that inspired trust in the prospective employer. While these men could do the work, they didn't understand the importance of making the employer and their clients feel secure about HOW the work would be done.
If a male MT is having difficulty with his massage career, he may want to assess whether he could improve his professional demeanor. This may affect his dress, grooming, hygiene, mannerisms, grammar, speech patterns, posture, and so forth. Of course, having a solid technical and theoretical grasp of the work you do also helps... at LEAST have a good grasp of anatomy and basic physiology!
Though I am doing well for now, I am now considering buying a large, successful practice with a sizable staff. As an MT, I enjoy socializing and chatting a bit with my colleagues... but as an owner I will have to make adjustments to suit my new role as employer and primary business stakeholder. Though I would also be an MT, things I take for granted now could be problematic for an employer... so my professional development will continue.
It's never over... we continue to grow and change as professionals, or we stagnate and become ever greater risks to ourselves.
Instead of ending this on an overly-serious note, I'll close this with a quote that I dearly love:
May you chisel well!"I saw the angel in the marble and chiseled until I set it free."