I’ve been working with an excellent young therapist who seems to have an inborn talent for softening difficult clients. In addition, we’ve sometimes called her the Queen of the 80 Minute Extension because so many of her 55 minute clients request more time. On the other hand, she was becoming almost infamous for running 10-20 minutes or more over the allotted massage time when the client had NOT requested a paid extension. In talking to her, I explained that while being a sweet, good, caring person is admirable, “going late” is a bad choice for the following reasons:
1. It hurts the therapist. Going late on a regular basis is usually overworking your body and cheating yourself of needed financial compensation.
After speaking to my young therapist several times on this topic, she still insisted that she couldn’t get over feeling like she was “throwing clients off the table” and this made her “feel really bad.” I replied that although I empathized with her, I stood firm on the reasons stated above. And I shared a few things that I do in order to deal with my own empathy issues. For one, I start talking (murmuring, really) to the client about five minutes before the end of the session, explaining softly some things that I found, any suggestions I have for home care, and what I think we should work on next time. And in cases where more work is obviously needed, I often say things like “I wish we had another hour to work today” or “Your poor neck is still not letting go all the way; maybe next time you could book 80 minutes and we could spend a lot more time soothing those neck muscles.” Statements like these show I care. As do my large numbers of rebooks, return clients, and cards and notes thanking me for helping clients in their healing. Point is, I’m a pretty good therapist and can still be a good therapist even while living by that ratty clock.
In massage school, when we students were wringing our hands over the inconceivable task of doing “all this in 50-55 minutes,” some instructors told us that if we couldn’t get the hang of it, private practice was probably a better option. On the other hand, that can have it’s special problems too. I once worked with a lovely, kind, motherly therapist whose bookings were not that high. Mystified, I got on her table, an experience which ended in epiphany. She was all over the board because she had no real plan. She had no real plan because she wasn’t watching the clock closely. And she wasn’t watching the clock closely, because she’d been doing her own home practice for over 20 years, and having been her own boss, she’d let the clock side. If there is no prescribed time, there is no real plan . . . so how do you ever know when you’re finished? She had been willing all those years to accept less money and take on more work for her body because the clock hadn’t been important (and because she was an angel). But in the end, that didn’t translate very well into a flowing massage or being a good team player.