The Nudity Boundaries in Massage Therapy

Nudity and the Massage Industry

How One Massage Therapist Handles Nudity

It’s your first day at massage school and you are about to meet your new friends.  After 20 months together, I now feel like my massage school friends have become a second family.  But, I digress.

Massage programs seem to attract students with a greater diversity in terms of age, background, socioeconomic class than many other educational programs.  At least this has been my experience (and to a larger extent that of the school I attend).  I was somewhat aware of this going into the program.

I grew up in a house of boys…2 brothers and liberal parents…it wasn’t a nudist house by any means, but there wasn’t anything hidden.  I’m also an EMT and have birthed a child…I really don’t have much modesty left at this point.  But you might and that is what I’m going to address today.

Disrobing Takes Practice

Most massage schools teach the massage modality classes in a similar way:  large classroom with many tables and students who practice on each other.  Sounds simple…and it is. Once you are prepared.

Disrobing in front of your new classmates takes a bit of practice.  So, if you are someone who feels a bit more modest than others, you may want to bring a bathrobe at first….but know that before your programs ends, you will likely become very comfortable undressing in a room full of people.

And you probably should…as a massage therapist people are coming to you as a professional and placing a tremendous amount of trust in your work and in your discretion.  Think about it, you may have some real body image issues of your own…I certainly do.  But those are my private issues.

As a professional, I need to view my client’s body in a professional and clinical manner. Do you disrobe completely when receiving massage?  If not, why?


Here’s what I’ve learned…the clothing that you leave on for a session determines to a large extent the boundaries of where you would like to be touched.  I didn’t really understand this before school. Now when people ask, I explain the boundary theory and this lets them know that they may be missing out on direct work on their glutes, piriformis and other  attachment sites.

As a professional in the field of bodywork, you will be expected to deal with the human body in a calm, clinical, and respectful manner.  That starts with your own modesty and a great place to start is in your own classes.  If there is a religious or cultural belief at play, that is a special situation that should be approached individually with instructors or administration.

How Does Your Massage School Address Nudity?

Something you will want to be aware of in terms of your coursework is how your school addresses this.  What is the philosophy on the body…holistic reverence? Utilitarian and clinical?  I think that a mix of the two works best for me.  Once you make your decision, how will you prepare yourself…will you even need to?

I’m speaking to this at the end of a 1000 hour program.  I’ve undressed with my friends hundreds of times now.  I’m at the point where a body is a miraculous thing.  Our bodies are amazing…the independent systems that work together so seamlessly.

I look at a client’s symptoms or concerns as pieces in a complex and beautiful puzzle.  I don’t really see the extra ten, 30, or fifty pounds…unshaven legs go completely unnoticed.  The wrinkles in your face or neck…not a big deal at all.


For people who opt for some degree between completely naked and fully clothed…there is no judgment.  The amount of clothing kept on or taken off is completely up to the client.  There is certainly more work that can be done on a completely disrobed client….but if that makes the individual seriously uncomfortable…then it may not be worth it.

Massage has amazing physical outcomes…and emotional ones as well.  I’m not about to put someone’s health at risk.  I’m completely comfortable with nudity…but my client may not be…and my client’s comfort level is the only consideration that I need to take into account.

So, be aware of the mindset presented by your school and your clientele….until next time…breathe.