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What are the Code of Ethics for Thai Massage?

Thai massage practitioners must uphold the highest standards of ethics to ensure that their clients are comfortable and safe.

Every Western massage association has a code of ethics to which members must adhere. These policies ensure that massage practitioners maintain the public’s confidence and provide the highest safe and ethical massage. For instance, Thai massage practitioners in Western Canada who register with the Natural Health Practitioners of Canada (NHPC) must agree to the NHPC Code of Ethics.

In Thailand, the Five Precepts of Buddhism inform Thai massage practice as this bodywork emerged within Buddhist culture. The five precepts are:

Refrain from killing
Refrain from stealing
Refrain from dishonesty
Refrain from sexual misconduct
Refrain from taking intoxicants

The Buddha introduced these precepts to promote harmony, compassion and peace among humankind. They are now the ethical framework of Traditional Thai Medicine, and all Thai massage schools use variations of these precepts for their respective codes.

Thai Healing Alliance International (THAI) proposes a code of ethics for everyone studying and practicing Thai massage worldwide. These rules combine Thai traditions’ precepts with Western massage associations’ legal concerns. These nine principles are central to both our Thai massage clinic and our Thai massage school.

THAI Code of Ethics

1. Diligent Study

The first principle is that Thai massage practitioners must agree to stay current in their practice. To keep current, a Thai massage practitioner must see clients regularly, practice their skills and pursue studies through continuing education. It can often feel impossible to set time aside for further studies, given the demanding schedule and complexity of patient assignments on a day-to-day basis. Still, it is essential to remain up-to-date in your techniques and to deepen your understanding of Thai massage by studying with various teachers and colleagues. So you must agree not to perform Thai sessions if you have fallen out of practice for an extended period.

2. Privacy and Confidentiality

Thai massage practitioners’ second principle is that they always agree to respect their client’s and teachers’ privacy and confidentiality. Confidentiality is one of the most essential parts of business ethics. If there is a breach, fatal consequences to your business are due to occur. Clients and teachers must be able to trust Thai massage practitioners. So you must agree not to disclose personal information a client or teacher confidentially shares to a third party.

3. Reasonable Compensation

The third principle is that a Thai massage practitioner agrees to charge a fair price for their service and set fees that reflect the experience and expertise of the practitioner. This principle may seem contrary to business logic in the Western world, but it is a derivative of the Buddhist underpinning of Thai massage. Thai massage is for people who need healing. So it would be best to focus on the customer’s needs, not excessive profit. You must recognize your skill and knowledge and only charge according to these credentials, even if customers are willing to pay more for your service. Do not charge the same rates as practitioners who have done Thai massage for decades.

4. Respect for Others

The fourth principle is that a Thai massage practitioner agrees not to try to steal clients or students of another practitioner or teacher for their own business. Equally important, a practitioner should not publicly speak ill of or act unethically or inappropriately to any other practitioner, client, student or teacher. Teachers and schools represent unique lineages of tradition and culture, but at some point, these lineages converge into a common source. So when you insult another practitioner, you insult someone from your family. But more critically, Thai massage flourishes when more practitioners are available, so supporting others is in your best interests. And as Thai massage cannot meet every need of a client, you should always be willing to cooperate with other health professionals.

5. Maintain Humility

The fifth principle is that Thai massage practitioners should not boast about their expertise or lie about their knowledge or abilities but instead cultivate humility. Humility does not come at the expense of confidence, but a practitioner must be confident but not boastful or misleading. This principle seemingly contradicts Western business sense in the West, as you typically compete with others in the market to attract customers. So the temptation is for you to sell yourself beyond your true abilities. But again, your focus needs to be on your client’s needs, so do not claim more than the level of practice and experience you have attained.

6. Seek Guidance

The sixth principle is that Thai massage practitioner agrees to continue taking Thai massage courses, attend workshops, and learn more about Thai massage to refine their skills. Thai massage is not a static discipline with an established set of techniques taught identically in every Thai massage school. Schools share a basic understanding of Thai massage, but each school does Thai massage differently, and there is much to learn. So Thai massage practice is a lifelong pursuit of knowledge. A practitioner never stops being a student.

More important, however, as Thai massage is relatively new in the West, and there is little English source material regarding Traditional Thai Medicine, a practitioner must be careful about where to look for more answers. Rather than relying on Google, a practitioner needs to ensure that what they are learning is true to the tradition of Thai massage. So a practitioner can maintain their relationship with past teachers or find new teachers who are legitimate and authorized to pass on the practice.

7. Maintain Dignity

The seventh principle is similar to many Western Codes of Ethics in that the Thai massage practitioner agrees to uphold a high standard of professional ethics with clients, teachers and other practitioners. But specific to the THAI code, a Thai massage practitioner also agrees to avoid any behaviour that would tarnish the reputation of traditional Thai healing arts. Thai massage is a UNESCO-recognized tradition, and it is incumbent upon you to protect the dignity of this tradition. So refrain from any sexual activity in combination with traditional Thai massage and never give or receive Thai massage when you or your client is intoxicated with alcohol, drugs or any other substance.

8. Professional Integrity

The eighth principle is again common to Western codes of ethics. A Thai massage practitioner agrees to teach Thai massage only if they have the experience and the correct qualifications. And if they do teach, the practitioner promises to instruct students on the local laws and ordinances that Thai massage is subject to in their area. They also agree to provide a safe environment for clients and Thai massage students and respect the physical, emotional, and sexual boundaries of the people they contact. And they agree to practice Thai massage only in appropriate places.

9. Be Grateful

The final principle is that a Thai massage practitioner agrees to maintain a spiritual approach to their professional healing practice. Thai massage comes from a Buddhist tradition, and though you do not need to become a Buddhist to practice Thai massage, you must remember the intent of Thai massage is more than just a physical treatment. So continually work to better yourself, your clients, and humankind.

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