Most aromatherapists combine it with massage so we are in the business of touch. Many of us hug some of our clients when they arrive and or leave. This I have no problem with. The question is, what happens when we have a client whom we feel we just want to hug them so completely we take them back into the metaphorical womb and protect them?

To me there is no, “yes or no” answer to this but rather, “stop and think!”

The questions I ask myself are in no particular order,

  • Would this hug be fulfilling a need for me or for my client?
  • Would they appreciate it?
  • Could it be misinterpreted? (by the client or by anyone else.)
  • How will it affect my relationship with this client?

I am sure readers could come up with other equally valid questions to ask and if so, good!

I am reminded of two clients I have seen recently, one who always or nearly always has a hug on arrival and before leaving. This is no problem, they initiate it and it is someone I know outside of the client – therapist relationship and they are an adult. (This is true of a number of my clients.)

Another is sixteen years old, has fairly recently been in an abusive relationship, has difficult relationships with mum and step-dad and the massage I do is hands, feet and head face and neck. all with the client clothed. And, there are times, particularly if she is distressed when I do feel like wrapping her up in a big hug.

To date I have not done so. If and when I do, it will be in a public area of the project where I see her in view of others and I will almost certainly wait for her to ask or initiate it. Obviously I can not know unless I ask her directly but at the moment I worry that she might see it differently from how it is intended, ie as a comfort. I know she does get a hug from a female member of staff on occasion and that I suspect is probably a lot less risky.

For me, even though I am in the business of touch I need to always be aware that clients will not have the same experiences that I have and always be aware of their changing needs which may be sometimes having a hug and sometimes not, just in the same way as the first client usually asks me to increase the amount of pressure I am using but on the last visit was needing more from me in an emotional context and wanted a much more nurturing type of massage.