Consent and boundaries are often spoken about in tantric workshops and individual therapy sessions. This is because these concepts are fundamental in helping to create a safe environment that can enable real healing and growth to occur.
What is Consent and What are Boundaries?
Giving consent is allowing for something that is wanted to happen. For example, a client may give a therapist consent to touch their body. A boundary is something which either the client or the therapist does not wish to experience, for any reason. For example, a client’s boundary may be that they do not want their feet to be touched, or that they do not wish to talk about a particular subject. A therapist’s boundary may be to not take their clothes off or kiss clients during a session.
Can Boundaries Change?
Boundaries are individual and both clients and therapists feel into what is right for them before starting the session. Therapists cannot change their stated boundaries during a session. This is because once sexual energy is present, overstepping their boundaries can leave clients feeling abused afterwards, even if greater intimacy is desired by them at the time.
Clients can change some, and not other, of their boundaries during a session. Anything they put down in writing at the beginning of the session cannot be changed during a session, for reasons stated above. So, for example, if a client wrote ‘no touching of nipples’ on the consent form, and during the session they ask for their nipples to be touched, the therapist would not be able to do so. However, asking not to receive touch to a part of the body that is covered by the consent form would be OK.
Professional therapists should never push clients to change their boundaries, and will help clients to feel into their body to find what is true for them.
Learning to Say ‘Yes’ to Things We Want and ‘No’ to Things We Don’t Want
Many of us struggle to know what we do or do not want, and how to express it. Part of tantric bodywork therapy is helping clients to become more connected to and more aware of what’s happening in their minds and bodies, and to honour what’s true for them.
For example, this may be learning to ask for what they want, or to say ‘no’ to something which they do not want to experience. These are both important aspects of learning to feel safe inside one’s body again. Professional therapists will not only respect a ‘no’, but thank clients for looking after themselves by expressing it. Many of my clients find it difficult to voice a ‘no’, and part of this work is helping clients to become comfortable in being able to express it.
Receiving a ‘No’
Consent and boundary work also involves learning to receive a ‘no’. At first, this often brings up feelings of inadequacy or having done ‘something wrong’. However, with time, it is possible to learn that a ‘no’ is a real gift from another person. This is because being able to receive a genuine ‘no’ means that if the person expresses a ‘yes’, it is easy to trust that it is genuine, too. I use a number of exercises and tools with clients to practice boundaries and consent, including working with Betty Martin’s Wheel of Consent.
Good therapists will also look for non-verbal signs of consent. For example, body language and facial expressions can often express non-consent, even if the verbal expression is a yes. In addition, therapists will often give clients additional tools such as saying ‘pause’ or ‘stop’ at any point during the session. This way, clients are able to feel more in control over what happens to them.
These tools are particularly important due to both the intimate nature of the work, such as giving yoni, prostate and lingam massages, and often working with vulnerable people.
I offer sessions to men, women and couples in Teesside/ North Yorkshire and London.