Delivering the Right Massage for the Clients’ True Goals

One of my pet peeves, as someone who receives massage regularly, is getting what I call “the wrong massage.” That’s when you’re there on the table, being worked on, but you don’t get the work you need. You know what I mean, like when you want full body, but instead get work on just your back and legs. Or, your shoulders really hurt, but you end up with a lot of time spent on your feet, head, and hands. It can be really unsatisfying. It’s a key responsibility of therapists to tune in to communication from their clients so that the right places get the attention that they need.

So what happens to cause a massage therapist to ‘get it wrong?’  A lot of therapists during massage intake ask clients if there are areas where they want focus and then they create a massage plan that treats just those areas. That can be a mistake, especially if the client’s general stress level is contributing to their discomfort or if they are not aware of tension in other areas that is contributing to the pain in the primary area.

It’s necessary for massage therapists to connect with the client’s true goals by asking their clients plainly and straightforwardly if they would like to work exclusively on their problem areas, or if they would prefer a full body relaxing massage with a little extra focus in their area of concern. The results can be surprising. Just because a client speaks at length about a particular condition doesn’t mean that’s the only place where they want work.  Taking the time to ask, to really listen, and to act on the answer ensures a more effective massage for the client and a more satisfied client for the therapist.

5 thoughts on “Delivering the Right Massage for the Clients’ True Goals

  1. JoAnn

    I’m with you on this one, definitely!
    Asking is key… and like you said, Ask if they “would like to work exclusively on their problem areas, or if they would prefer a full body relaxing massage”???
    It’s an important choice that we would all like to make and feel that we are heard.
    When I teach massage to the public for home use at my center, FMEC in Ashland,
    my only rules are to ask, listen, trust and praise.
    These four things go a long ways in communication….:)

  2. Linda

    My first 3 years was providing massage in a Chiro office, mostly to auto accident clients. It started as “spot massage”… “fix” what hurts. I spoke with the doctor and said I’d like to have a longer sessions so I could “tie the body together”. I found their bodies were in “protection mode” and they actually improved more rapidly, when I worked the area concerned and all the meridians (lymph pathways) in-between. A full back massage from head to toe.
    Now, 30 years later, I ask my clients if they have areas of concern and let them know I want to address those; however, my style is to connect those areas by working their entire back or full body. I was fortunate enough to work with a doctor willing to explore my theory by letting me “give it a try”. I won’t do a half-hour table massage. I know I need at least 60 minutes if they have areas of concern.
    There are two involved in the process, so defining how you want to practice and then being willing to refer clients who don’t fit your “style/belief”, is key. I learned to define, then aligned myself in work situations where I could work according to my approach to providing massages. Post the Chiropractic office, I took my practice to the level where people paid me for the work without the benefit of insurance paying. It all can occur if you define your preferences and expectations relative to who you desire as a client. People who hurt do not come in smiling or without having expectations of feeling better when they leave.
    I would compare it in the context of someone who is a Rolfing practitioner, not being a massage technician who provides lymph drain. They may be trained and could provide lymph drain; but, their preference is more aligned with deeper, structural work.
    My approach is to listen to the client and define their expectations. Then, share what my thoughts and skills are and if I believe I can meet/exceed their expectations. I do this assessment on the phone when they call to book an appointment. Given this approach, I also go to receive massages so I can gain knowledge relative to providing referrals.

  3. Allyson

    I’ve been a massage therapist for 19 happy years but I have to say I am so over the inundation of articles/opinions about therapists that don’t this or don’t that…it is my experience, as a massage business owner and sometimes massage school instructor that therapists by and large do a fantastic job of listening to their clients and that they are by far and large amongst the mist dedicated hard working individuals I know. Let’s start praising on this industry it’s over due.

  4. Marissa

    I agree with this article. As a person who frequently shops for massages, I have to agree that many therapists do not ask or provide the amount of focus to areas that you need. As a working LMT, I always try to take those negative mistakes and learn from them. It is important to always communicate with your clients. I have had the same clients for many years and still find that their preference have changed according to their needs. I also have learned that because I remain open and ask, or offer, they are much happier with the results.

  5. G r e g. . P a n g. .

    One of the best situationsolution you can do for the advancement of my Practice is to receive Massage on a regular basis, the best way is set up a few trades with a few LMPs. Then trade with them, I’m open to do Trades, just ask! Trade a variety of Services off their Menu, a sixty minute, an hour and a half, a scrub, a combo treatment. It’ll open you mind to exploring your options to expand your Menu.


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