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Tell ‘Em What You Want

A more formal way of saying this is: clarity in communication with your therapist.

We all have had moments in our massage therapy experience where saying something to our therapist, or the therapist being clear on what the client’s needs are would have helped make for a more successful session. By success we understand it to mean that the session was of benefit to the client and gave them a feeling of relief or satisfaction when they left. Just like in all avenues of life, clear communication is the key to success.

When I am the client, even though I’m usually the therapist, I ask the massage expert to focus on a certain area in my body that is experiencing significant tension. It is here that my therapist will spend some extra time and energy for me. But I always ask for a full body, overall massage because I understand this to be integrating and holistic for me. If a client has a short session for thirty minutes, it might be more beneficial to focus on just upper or lower body tension. However, a quick full body session can be experienced in thirty minutes.

Some clients come in for longer sessions with an injury and need that body region avoided all together or worked more gently. Or there is past trauma, either psychological or physical that requires specific intentions being discussed ahead of time. For example, it has been immensely helpful on occasion when a client has informed me of their PTSD from military service before going into session. Or knowing that my client just survived a collision a week ago, but was miraculously unharmed on the physical level; there would still be some psychosomatic tension expected there. Some of us are coming into massage therapy to feel more comfortable with human touch when we have had some adverse childhood experiences with inappropriate touch. These kinds of tensions are important to communicate to your therapist; the mention of it doesn’t need to be explicit, but just clear as to the source of the tension.

On another note, all therapists are trained to give appropriate touch and be in an environment where appropriate touch is supported as they adhere to ethical and legal boundaries for massage therapy.

The intake form, which we are asked to fill out when we first come into a massage establishment, is setting our intention for one another to have a safe and beneficial massage session. With clear communication, we can return again and again to our massage therapist for a pleasant experience.

Because all licensed practitioners of massage and bodywork are trained in appropriate and ethical touch therapies, clients can request a variety of therapists and experience different types of massage modalities based on their current needs. “Variety is the spice of life” is a useful mantra in the massage world as well as elsewhere. It keeps the massage experience refreshing and literally tells the client’s body that other forms of touch are appropriate and helpful. I often tell my clients about Bob Hope, who had a massage everyday of his life, alternating his sessions among eleven different therapists over the course of...yes!...eleven days; on the twelfth day he would see the first therapist again.

Mister Hope lived to be 100 years old and I seem to remember that he liked to say it was a combination of laughter (he was a famous comedian, as many readers might remember) and massage therapy that contributed to his intestine, I mean longevity!

Enjoy the holidays and be well.

Doug Spaeth LMT, MEd, Dad

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