cookie-cutter massage

To complement “Assess Client Expectations: How to Apply Corrected Pressure” in the February 2016 issue of MASSAGE Magazine. Summary: The key to effective massage for every client is customizing each treatment according to the client’s needs and preferences. Taking careful notes can help therapists deliver personalized sessions that will keep clients happy and coming back for more.

While there is always an artistic side to the massage therapy profession, you have to decide which side of that art you wish to be on: the successful artist who has business sense or the starving artist dedicated to only the expression of that art. If you picked successful artist, this article is for you.

I have spoken to many therapists over the lifetime of my career, from students and startup-business therapists to seasoned, veteran therapists of 20-plus years. Those who started out and remained successful are the ones who treated this career as a profession. Those individuals made their profession a business because they had the correct paperwork to go with it.


Paperwork Is Key

Success in the massage field not only comes from how you work with your hands, but how you record what you did in each session and the paperwork that runs your office. The keys to your success can be found in health history intake forms, SOAP charting and the paperwork you use every day.

In order to be successful with your work and benefit the muscular health of your clients, you have to be able to chart client progress and learn from it. You see this principle in any arena in the health care field, from medicine to physical therapy. Professionals in those arenas keep documented records. They record what they found and what actions occurred from those findings, treatment applied and the effectiveness of that treatment. In massage, documentation requires you be adaptable to each client’s specific needs.


Avoid Giving Cookie-Cutter Massages

One of the reasons I think some massage therapists struggle to be successful is they are stuck in what I call cookie-cutter massage syndrome—giving the same massage to every person who walks through the door. Massage applied this way will work, but only for a small percentage of the population.

Financial business success comes from repeat clientele. The more repeat clients you have, the more successful your practice. For you to get repeat clients on your table, the services you offer must be tailored to the individual needs of each client.

To have satisfied clients, it’s essential that you be able to change some of the following pieces of the massage around:

  • Pressure
  • Time spent in certain areas
  • Direction of massage flow, in terms of starting the client prone or supine
  • Correct skills for applications requested
  • Successful pain management and stress reduction skills

Repeat clientele is also a reflection of consistency in the quality of your work. All my clients have individual preferences and a different massage flow to help their bodies find relief from pain or stress. If a client only comes in once a month and I have 80 appointments in between those two sessions, believe me, I do not remember what I did last time that helped that one client’s back, neck or feet.


Make Notes, Notes and More Notes

The only way I stay on top of every client’s specific needs is to write everything down for the treatment, in addition to anything I know I need to address next time that I did not in a current session. I leave myself a template of how the massage flow went. I also record other notes on specific things that helped the client. From a customer service perspective, I write notes to remind myself to apply an extra blanket or to use the one lotion that client prefers.

Without paperwork, I would not easily see progress in treatment—and neither would my client. At times when I feel stuck as to how best to help a client, I have been able to go back through his or her chart and pinpoint certain sessions where a different application helped that client feel better. Adding that series of strokes or techniques back into the massage could make a difference.

Paperwork can be so much more for you and your business than just busy work. Learning to integrate the use of paperwork into your daily massage routine can make all the difference in the type of massage artist you want to become.


Amy Bradley RadfordAbout the Author

Amy Bradley Radford, L.M.T., B.C.T.M.B., has been a massage therapist and educator for more than 20 years. She is the owner and developer of Pain Patterns and Solutions Seminars CE courses. She has also authored several books, including Finding Success for the Massage Therapist Who Wants to Succeed. She wrote “Assess Client Expectations: How to Apply Corrected Pressure” for MASSAGE Magazine’s February 2016 issue.