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How To Set Your Boundaries In Thai Massage Therapy

Touching and contact issues in Thai Massage

In Thai Massage therapy, the practitioners have to set boundaries for their work. Those boundaries depend on the style of massage they practice.

In Swedish massage, the client is naked but covered with a sheet. There is not much physical contact aside from the hands of the therapist. In Thai Massage, the client is fully dressed, but there is more physical contact between the therapist and the client.

In Thai Massage therapy, practitioners use their bodies as leverage

Thai Massage is a close-contact massage system. The therapist is moving the client’s body extensively, mostly in the form of stretches. This is very different from Swedish massage where the client is not moved.

These movements and stretches cannot be done at arm’s length from a distance. Therapists have to get in close and use their body and their body weight for those techniques. Without using their bodies as leverage, it would cause too much strain on their bodies.

Thai Massage boundaries in Thailand versus the Western world

In Thailand this is normal and nobody gives it a second thought. Thai people are not concerned about body contact in their massage sessions.

But in the Western world, many therapists have to figure out what they are comfortable with or not, and what their boundaries are. 

These boundaries can be reasonable and useful, but if they are applied excessively, they can also be unnecessarily restrictive and prevent the therapist from doing beneficial therapeutic work. 

If Thai Massage therapists are too worried about what the clients will think, they will be overly afraid of touching clients. Then they put out a fear energy that is subtly perceived by the clients. This will limit the therapeutic value of their work.

Where do you set your boundaries in Thai Massage therapy?

Are there inappropriate areas, no-go zones, or off-limit situations in Thai Massage? Yes, there are, but they are a lot smaller and there are a lot fewer of them than many therapists would think. 

The above video discusses this topic from the viewpoint of the environment in Thailand. It is mostly useful information for practicing Thai Massage therapists.

I you would like to see the other videos of the Tips And Tricks video series, you can find them all here:
Thai Massage Tips And Tricks

Shama Kern, founder of Thai Healing Massage Academy

The author, Shama Kern, is the founder of Thai Healing Massage Academy. He has been practicing and teaching Thai Massage therapy for over two decades, and he is the creator of 20 online Thai Massage training courses.

10 thoughts on “How To Set Your Boundaries In Thai Massage Therapy”

  1. Thank you very much!
    You explained the topic very simple. As a practitioner I don’t have this issue, but some people might, and this short video is very helpful for this purpose.

  2. My clients trust me completely and they know i have a high reguard for them.
    Everything you said is valuable to know and in knowing everyone can relax and allow the healing to begin on all levels.

  3. Yes I agree with you Shama! Let the massage flow! Massage therapists get caught up in explaining to much! I think from a woman’s prospective I can totally understand that! Just because I let it flow and be nice to my male clients I personally have encountered problems! Men think if you be nice that you should be willing to give them a ” Happy Ending!”. I am sick when A client asks. I stop them right there! Not all male clients ask but a few bold ones have. I just put them in their place and end the session. What would you suggest Shama?

    • Once a client asks this question, then yes, you should terminate the session. However in this case an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

      When I have a new client, I spend a few minutes explaining what Thai Massage is all about. I frame it very clearly as a professional session, and after my intro talk there is no doubt in my client’s mind what it is all about. It think this would be the best strategy for you to adopt. If you want to see exactly how I do that, I have a little video course which demonstrates the entire process:

  4. Shama, could not agree more with all said on this video about inappropriate touch. Thank you for all of these videos. I hope I can purchase every single one of them. Sat Nam.

  5. I work at an extremely regimented corporate massage chain, and we have rules even as to “always keeping at least one foot on the floor” and the draping must always be *perfect* or we risk termination. It’s slightly terrifying trying to flow when god forbid a sheet becomes unfolded and falls from the mid thigh to the knee and we can’t even fix it for fear it will be misconstrued as inappropriate. No one ever means to give an inappropriate illusions, of course. In order to practice Thai massage I will really need to adjust and adapt draping and body mechanics.

    Even after all this nonsense some clients do get a little too friendly. For this reason, I feel that Shama’s explanation of Thai massage is SUCH a wonderful tool to set the client’s expectations immediately to the purpose of the session. Sometimes the inclusion of fanatical draping, overly corporate uniforms meant for modesty and brochures detailing massage’s purpose still do not do the job. A simple conversation with the client, person to person, is the best way to communicate!

    • I guess this means that you would not use Thai Massage as a separate modality in your spa. Because if you do, you wouldn’t have to worry about draping since Thai Massage is done fully dressed. However if you blend some Thai Massage techniques in with your table/oil massage work, then yes, the draping is an issue since you move body parts around quite a bit in Thai Massage. I am so glad that I live in Thailand where no such stringent rules exist and where it is all so much more relaxed and easy going. Here nobody cares if a sheet slips a bit during oil massage – that’s just a non-issue…


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