If we ask our clients why they have really come for a massage, what we find is that there are really just six reasons. We do this, not by asking what their physical problems are, but by asking them what outcome they would like from the treatment? What would they like to feel at the end of the treatment when they walk out the treatment room?
This is often the first reason that clients give for coming for massage. “Please, fix my neck.” But if you have the courage to let them know that you see they are a real human being who has feelings and thoughts, as well as a body, they soon warm to the other reasons
Having said that, where it is a genuinely simple structural issue they want resolved, many of the structural problems are not specific at all. The “neck problem” is very often only properly addressed by massaging the whole body powerfully. Because fascia is contiguous, there is no real knowing which part of the client’s soft tissue holds the key to their unlocking. It is best to just do the whole body anyway. The most true saying I ever heard about bodywork is, “Where it is, it ain’t and where it ain’t, it is”
Many clients will say that they come for massage because they are stressed out by their lives. They want to feel mentally and emotionally calmed and soothed again. Maybe they are busy people who never give themselves time to stop and breathe and feel how they are really doing. Maybe they spend their life looking after others. This is not a pamper massage. This is harnessing the profound healing power of massage to enable the mind and body to harmonize itself back into balance. The purpose of the treatment is often so they can once again enter the fray of life. All they want is 60 minutes of soothing and nurturing touch.
Some clients will tell you how they come to reconnect with themselves, their body or their truth. Maybe they spend all day suspended in the ether of the Internet. Maybe they have an abusive relationship or trauma that causes them to get out of their body. The purpose of this treatment is to enable them to once again feel. They need time and pressure so they can reconnect with themselves through their body. Touch offers them the chance to focus their mind on the actual feel of their being. It is only through our senses that we can truly land into our reality. They want a very slow and very deep massage.
Many clients need massage because they have been chronically ill and are massively depleted. Or, they are just permanently exhausted through overdoing it. They have no energy. They just feel drained. These clients, when asked, want to feel like their old self again. The purpose of this treatment is to allow the body’s own natural and deep reservoirs of energy to rebuild again. This is achieved by very still and very light massage.
5. DETOX + ENERGIZE
These are the clients who are either on a health drive or who feel stuck or blocked in their energy. If they are on a health drive, they are looking for the nausea and headache of a really good detox massage. If they feel stuck, they are looking for a massage that will unblock the flow of energy in their body’s meridians. They want a massage that stimulates the body into detox. This is a firecracker of a massage, where the therapist is moving so fast, sparks should fly! It is the therapeutic opposite of a repletion massage.
Many clients, when pressed, will admit that they are really looking for a transformation in themselves and in their lives. While it is useful to know that this is the hidden agenda of their treatments, unless you have had specialized training in body psychotherapy this is the one contract that is beyond your scope of practice, and you must say so. However, it is still one of the six reasons why clients come for massage.
In the U.K., we now have hundreds of massage therapists who have full practices because they have been trained to address all six of the reasons why clients really come for a massage. The trouble with the symptomatic medical “Mr. Fix-it” model, is that it only addresses one sixth of the market. That is very bad business. Not only that, but when they get fixed, they don’t come back.
If you explain to your clients that touch is essential for them to stay healthy and live a full life, then we have regular massage clients for life. You only really understand this if you get it yourself.
If the health and fitness industry can convince the public that they will die if they do not exercise, then surely we can be saying a little more. The research shows clearly that we are far more likely to die from lack of tactile stimulation than we are from lack of exercise or food.
Massage is not a luxury. It properly lies at the very base of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The need for touch. To survive. A basic human need, not a luxury at all. Not just for when we are injured. To actually live. Who will tell the public this if not us? Go, tell.
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