My client seemed particularly stressed. Her back and neck was a never-ending patch of bad trigger points and spasms. This client was all wound up.
“How are things going?” I asked. My standard way to get folks to open up when their tissues are slammed shut.
“Work is driving me nuts. Actually, the work is easy. The people I work with are driving me nuts,” the client said.
This client is a psychologist; a psychologist who supervises new psychologists, a requirement of all graduates. My client’s job was supervising and coordinating all that goes with it for an agency that provided psychological help to people in various government aid programs.
My client had a beef. Too many of her newbies were complaining about their pay and paying too little attention to getting their jobs done.
To summarize: Her new psychologists had the attitude that when they graduate, they should immediately be making $250 an hour. Their clients should be movie stars, professional athletes and rich people who pay cash. They shouldn’t have to waste time with boring public fund clients simply to fill an hours requirement. As graduates, they felt entitled to practice unfettered right away.
In feeling that way, they were missing out on a big opportunity to learn what they are doing, she complained. They don’t understand that right out of school they are lucky to be making $25 an hour, with insurance, sick days and vacation, my client said. They often didn’t listen to the sage advice of their supervisor.
My client had been on both sides of the equation. For years she had worked hard on building a private clientele, establishing referral patterns and working the flexible hours – nights and weekends – that go with people’s schedules. If she was sick or took a vacation, she didn’t get paid. Health insurance cost a lot. Some years ago she switched to agency work, glad for regular hours and a quitting time of 4 p.m.
When all this stress came pouring out, I had a reality check myself. These were some of the same issues I had struggled with as a newbie at massage, and later as a massage employer. When I graduated, I assumed I could just go right into private practice, even though I had no experience at finding and keeping clients. When I went to work at a spa, I was surprised at the low pay per massage, with no pay for down time between massages.
Later in my career, as therapist employing other therapists, I saw many an applicant who didn’t like getting one-third the money for “doing all the work.” Besides the pay, they didn’t want to work evenings and or weekends – or massage anybody hairy.
I particularly enjoyed it when they announced their vacations. The idea of asking for vacation time, a tradition at every job I had ever had in my life, seemed like an alien concept.
We talked for a while about the similarities between massage and talk therapists and expectations. Perhaps we all have odd ideas when we start in a field. My client felt better having talked about it, and her massage went well. I felt better having learned that talk therapists and massage therapists perhaps have more in common than one would think.