by lee kalpin
(ontario, canada)

Massage therapists who consider bartering their services should think carefully of the risks involved before entering into an exchange.

Bartering creates a dual relationship, combining the Therapeutic Relationship with another transaction.
Risks are usually minimal if the exchange is limited to a one-for-one exchange. If the exchange is unsatisfactory, then the therapist has only lost one hour of time and energy.
However, a longer-term exchange represents considerably higher risk. I think the best illustration of my point is to give some examples of bartering gone wrong.

1. A therapist did an exchange where he provided regular massage treatments to a woman who cleaned his office and house. This started out well, but after some time he felt that her work was not satisfactory. Also, he had provided more massage and she had provided less housework. When he attempted to end the barter relationship and collect money he felt was owing for the extra massages, she charged him with sexual impropriety!

2. A female therapist was trading regular massage with a contractor who was doing renovations of her home. She gave him weekly massages but he was fitting the renovation work in between "regular, paying customers" so the renovations dragged on and on and she was living in a mess. She didn't want to cancel the deal and be stuck with a half-renovated house.

3. A new therapist found a deal through an on-line bartering site. She was to exchange massage with a mechanic to have her car fixed. The man fixed the car and then demanded sexual services with his massage. The therapist felt helpless because he had already fixed the car and she could not afford to pay him cash.

I hope this gives therapists something to think about and encourages caution when considering an exchange of services or goods.

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