A Quick Guide To Consent For Healing Professionals and Spiritual Teachers
As a healer or teacher, you are being given the great honor of trust. Your client/students entrust you with their energy, their bodies, their minds and well-being. Whether you like it or not, as a healer or teacher you are in a position of power.
Because you have power, you have a responsibility to honor this trust and uphold the integrity of your position — not just for your clients and students but for other healers and teachers as well. Violating the boundaries (spoken or unspoken) is a violation of consent and destroys trust. The impacts of this aren’t just about the trauma caused to your client or student, but it also degrades the credibility of your profession. Truth always comes out and abuse of power always has repercussions.
What is Consent?
Consent is actually very simple: If it’s not a clear “yes,” it’s a “no.” Any vagueness or ambiguity is a sign that you are entering into non-consensual arenas. When you get a massage, you give consent for the massage therapist to touch you. Massage therapists often ask: “Are there any areas where you don’t feel okay to be touched?” and they also make sexual boundaries clear. Sexual feelings may arise during massage, but clear boundaries keep everyone safe. It’s critical to set clear agreements before either client or practitioner enter into the healing experience. A few massage therapists who give their clients a consent contract — a written contract defining the agreements around touch and boundaries. Both the healer and the client sign this contract. It takes only a couple of minutes, but it helps to define the boundaries of the relationship — protecting both the practitioner and client.
Is Sexual Healing Ever Consensual?
Yes. Humans are sexual beings, with sexual traumas that sometimes benefit from the help of a professional with expertise in this arena. While it may be illegal to exchange money for sexual interaction, from a consent standpoint sexual healing is consensual when both parties go into the experience with clear agreements and a clear understanding of what will occur. In our responsibility around sexuality and any natural feelings that may arise is for us to be clear in our boundaries and communication before any healing session occurs. “This may feel sexual” is not the same as “would you like to have sex and do you agree to sexual intercourse as part of this session?” If a client is ever feeling uncomfortable or unsure, STOP.
When Can Consent be Given?
Consent happens and can ONLY happen before you engage in a session with your client or student. Because of the client/student’s position of vulnerability, consent cannot be given or change during a healing experience — EVEN if a client requests it. If the client is trying to push the boundaries, end the experience and take space. While it helps to ensure that they feel cared for while maintaining the boundary, as rejection is often a feeling that arises in these types of situations, it is not your responsibility to prevent them from feeling rejected. As a practitioner, it is your responsibility to hold the safe container (for both you and them) for the experience. If something comes up in the session that needs to be explored, but wasn’t agreed to ahead of time, end the session. Take at least 24 hours before going into another session with new agreements.
Where is Consent in Medicine Work?
Spirit medicine and psychedelics can be powerful tools for healing, when supported by a professional with experience and training. Like other healing modalities, with medicine work, it is important that clear boundaries are firmly established ahead of time. Written agreements are key in this arena. This protects both the practitioner and client.
When a client is under the influence of medicine, they are not able to give consent. However, they are able to revoke consent while under the influence of medicine. Assume that sexual touch is a “no” unless agreed upon in clear terms before the session, or if they change their mind say “no” during the session (even if they said “yes” beforehand). Clients are going into this work for healing, maintaining good boundaries and listening for their “no” is key in ensuring that they have a healing experience.
The problem is that due to the legal status of these drugs, much of the healing work happens in the dark, hidden from society and the law — leaving clients without a way to report abuses. There is a movement toward licensing, which will help differentiate professionals from those who aren’t appropriately trained. While licensing won’t stop 100% of abuses, it creates a system of accountability and protects any clients that my come forward with complaints.
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