Dear Client: Your massage is about YOU…

….NOT your therapist.

I know it’s time to write when I’m being dogged (and unnerved) by a recurring theme.

The last six new clients I’ve seen have all talked about their last/past experiences of massage with other therapists.  And it’s not good.

(Note to other area LMTs…your clients are coming to me!!)

Not all complaints are the same.  However, their root cause is.  The simple fact that a Licensed Massage Therapist doesn’t listen to, or act on, the needs of their client.  And it completely baffles me.  Just a few of the horror stories I’ve heard just from the past few weeks…

1) One of my regulars kept telling me she was trying to get a co-worker to come see me after complaining of some upper back pain.  The way my client was describing her responses, it was as if she was scared to see me.  When she finally couldn’t take the pain anymore, she decided to schedule an appointment.  Upon talking with her, I got her to open up about her apprehension in coming.  Apparently, her last massage left her in tears.  She has/had severe trigger points (painful knots and restrictions) between her shoulder blades.  Instead of her last therapist working within her pain tolerance, she was using as much pressure as her pointy little fingers and elbows could muster.  The therapist’s response when my client told her, through tears, it was too painful???  “I know, but we have to get these out!”   And I could tell she was still very apprehensive about getting on my table.  After reassuring her that communication would be crucial and constant throughout her first session and that she would dictate the amount of pressure I would use every step of the way, I could see a glimpse of trust coming over her.
Bottom line: she was heard, her requests were honored, I kept my word, and trust was established.  Not only is she now a firm believer in massage, but she has scheduled several more sessions to continue to address her issues.

2) A gentleman – also complaining of pain between his shoulder blades.  Upon walking in my door, he started talking about purchasing a package…even before he knew what my style of massage was like.  I smiled, thanked him, and suggested he wait until after his first session to be sure I was the right therapist for him.  (Appreciation already showing in his face.)  During our consult, he was comfortable enough to tell me that the last few therapists he saw simply wouldn’t do what he asked.  Asking several times to increase the pressure, to concentrate more on his areas of discomfort, etc., his requests went ignored and he was “resigned to pay $60+ to have someone rub cream on him.”  This, I find, is a common complaint.
Bottom line:  I addressed trigger points causing him so much discomfort, he allowed me to work other areas that were contributing to the problem, and he knew at the end of the session he was on his way to alleviating his pain.  He, too, scheduled several more sessions to continue his work.

3)  In 2011, I did about a six-month stint at a local massage business across town.  And while I made some very nice therapist/client connections there, ethically, I would not pursue any of them after my departure.  However, there were a few who inquired as to my whereabouts and found me, either by referral from said practice, or through a search of their own.  After an entire year had passed, I received a call from one of those clients.  Upon consult, I learned that he had been going to different therapists trying to find someone who would listen to him.  He said, “It seems like they all have their own routine and that’s all they know/want to do.”  He also told me that they would spend only a little time on the areas causing him the most discomfort and spend too much time on areas that didn’t bother him much at all (these areas being what most other clients complain about).
Bottom line:  I listened, I addressed his specific issues with time and attention to detail, and it was the first time in a year he felt any kind of relief.  He has already scheduled his next appointment and, since his mandatory daily activities contribute to these issues, he will continue to reschedule as needed.

YOUR bottom line…interview your therapist well.  You will have some understanding in your initial contact over the phone by how much time and information the therapist is willing to share with you.  Did they ask you specific questions about your discomfort?  Did they ask if you’ve ever received massage before?  Were they able to offer some helpful ideas until you’re able to get to your appointment (perhaps another three days away)?  Were they confident in their answers to you?   Did the therapist have reservations about meeting your needs and refer you to another, perhaps more specialized, therapist?   These are all indicative of a conscientious, well-trained LMT and worth considering a visit.  The interview process should not stop there, however, and much more information should be gathered and discussed prior to your getting on the table.

For some, it’s a matter of spending some time and money until you find the right therapist.  But, as mentioned in scenario #1, it’s sometimes a matter of one horrific experience which can scar you to the point of never trusting an LMT again.  It’s an unfortunate occurrence for the client, as well as for the industry itself.  Like the old saying goes, “If they like you, they may tell a friend. If they don’t like you, they’ll tell everybody!”

I applaud this woman for having faith in her co-worker and giving massage another chance.  And, as we both can attest, I’m grateful she placed her faith in me.

Any thoughts?