Thank you for writing in with this very important question. His behaviors are NOT appropriate!!! Some physical touch in therapy is acceptable, such as hugging a client after a particularly difficult session or if the client has had a personal loss. However, even in these cases it is appropriate to ask the client if they want a hug rather than giving an unsolicited one. I cannot think of any possible circumstances in which a mental health therapist should give back rubs or massages of any sort, unless he is a licensed massage therapist as well and you have requested that service.
It is difficult to develop a trusting relationship and I am sorry that you may need to find a new person to work with, but I am fairly certain (given the information you shared) that he is crossing professional boundaries. I would not only suggest that you address this with him but report the behavior to the state licensing board — if he is behaving this way with you, he is probably doing it to other clients too. If you can’t face him directly, I would suggest that you reconsider one of the other therapists that you interviewed, or find a new one, and let that therapist help you through this difficult process.
Trust your instincts and get away from this so called “helper” before he hurts you any further.
All the best,
Dr. Holly Counts