Even with the information overload of today’s world, many people are not aware of all the different benefits of getting a massage. It has become even more important to take the time to educate our current and potential clients on the benefits of massage therapy and how regular sessions have the greatest impact on one’s health.
Some clients accept this very willingly and put in the time and financial investment to care for themselves, allowing their body the time to heal from session to session.
Getting a Massage Won’t “Fix” the Client
Some clients want to be “fixed” in one or two sessions. This expectation of such impressive results is merely a lack of education on how natural healing works. In a world where the expectation for everything you want is instant, it can be difficult to help people understand natural healing and the importance of being patient while the process works.
Educating our clients must be part of our job, every day. There are many ways we can educate them, which include both what we say and what we do.
The impact of verbally sharing the benefits of getting a massage takes root much better when it is combined with the actual massage treatment. Taking the time to educate clients on what to watch for in terms of how the body makes subtle but healthy changes with each session becomes the greatest teacher for you both.
My Education Mantra
I learned that teaching clients about the health benefits of getting a massage was mostly about training them to be patient and kind with their bodies. My analogy for the process and time that massage takes for helping the body heal is that it is a dance with Mother Nature.
Now, Mother Nature is a strongminded woman who doesn’t like to be told what to do, but she can be convinced to start moving in a different direction — especially if you do it her way. This healing dance will always look like two steps forward and one step back. The reason for this is that Mother Nature wants to make sure all the pieces of the body are comfortably adjusted and continuing to work together in harmony, or as close to the harmony she has achieved at this state of health, before moving forward again.
The power of natural healing occurs in that one small step, repeated frequently, until you find that you have moved yourself in a different direction to a more positive state of health. That is Mother Nature’s way.
For your clients, what you want to teach them is to observe and recognize those positive steps.
Real awareness is like turning on a light bulb for people to see things about themselves more clearly. Awareness only occurs when there is a good change to compare against an old feeling or pattern. Massage therapy’s foundational principles of healing are based in awareness; and by cultivating clients’ before-and-after awareness, you empower them to help themselves outside of the massage room.
Educating your clients to observe small but profound changes in themselves is what helps them return to you. Some of the changes to observe are:
- Better sleep.
- Feeling that stress is better managed.
- More energy throughout the day.
- A more peaceful state of mind.
- Less pain; improved joint and muscle movement.
- A better ability to identify when one is starting to go backward and realize one needs more massage to continue to move forward and keep feeling better.
- An increased ability to identify what life triggers are creating non-optimal health.
- An improved awareness of what positions one assumes at work or in sports that create the pain cycle one is dealing with and being able to adapt those positions.
Once your client starts to understand that measurable outcomes like these are what they are looking for, they begin to see what getting a massage is actually doing for them.
Educate Your Clients
It is important to educate your clients on the benefits of massage and also on what to expect to feel like during and after the massage. This is about teaching the client to reset their thought process regarding massage, to be more realistic. I like to consider it a training process.
New clients can have a wide range of expectations for massage outcomes. This can come from being overeducated from doing their own research, to thinking that getting a massage can cure them of something. When what you offer the client is not what they expected, the misalignment of their expectations with what you can therapeutically offer will most likely result in a non-repeat client.
Education is the key to these interactions, and it is very important to give this education at the time of the client intake process, before you actually start touching your client. It is difficult to retroactively change expectations.
Client Experience of Getting a Massage
For the new client, their massage education starts when they set that first appointment with you and continues until the moment you say good-bye. The totality of this experience is not limited to the 60-minute hands-on massage experience. Each of those steps, from setting the tone in easily communicating with the client, to answering questions, to the small teaching moments during the massage about what you are doing, all contribute to the client’s experience.
Understand that all phases of this experience for the client, including the massage, could also consist mainly of the nonverbal communication occurring within the new client relationship and the massage. Your guidance for your client through this combination of education and training about massage and their touch experience is very important.
If you have defined the client’s expectations and met them with the touch experience you offered, you will most likely have earned the trust of the client. This is when the real opportunity to educate your client on the benefits of massage presents itself. Any opportunity up to this point of educating the client does not always leave an impression on the person hearing it; however, feeling the benefits of getting a massage does impress. Once you have earned the trust of the client, they will be open to coming back to you and to the frequency you suggest to them in terms of treatment goals or health maintenance.
If they want to reschedule with you, the client usually asks this question: “How often should I get massage?” This is a somewhat difficult question to answer, because everyone responds differently to massage therapy. Post-treatment effects are different from person to person, lasting sometimes hours to weeks. You want to provide them with the most benefit possible while staying within their financial constraints.
I educate my clients at this point on two things: selecting a time to come back and paying attention to how their body responds to the treatment between today and their next appointment. When they return, we discuss how they felt between appointments and if they maintained the work we did or if they felt they needed to come back sooner. We then set the next appointment to accommodate their needs better.
This is a good time to let the client know that in the beginning of using massage to help your body, you may need more treatments. After the body has progressed to a better state of health, session frequency should go down to a maintenance schedule, such as once a month. Preparing the client to pay attention helps you both make educated health decisions that benefit the client the most.
At this point, if you have a client who mentions that they want to return on a consistent basis, it would be good business practice to offer any packages or punch-card options you may have. This helps clients return at regular intervals because they have massages waiting for them. (I prefer to hold clients’ cards for them in a special file at my office for convenience. I also date each session on the card when it is used. When the card is exhausted, I hand it back to the client for their reference.)
Real, Positive Changes
As you can see, training, education and expectation are all pieces of client awareness and the overall massage experience. When you practice these steps with your clients, you will have a more rewarding professional experience and repeat clientele. Your clients also receive the greatest benefit you can offer them: to learn what it feels like to experience natural healing and understand the real, positive changes that come from getting a massage.
About the Author
Amy Bradley Radford, LMT, BCTMB, has been a massage therapist and educator for more than 25 years. She is the owner and developer of Pain Patterns and Solutions Seminars CE courses. She is a National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork-approved CE provider, and she has authored several books, including Massage Your Market: How to Define Your Client’s Expectations. Her articles for massagemag.com include “At the Table, Always Be Polite” and “3 Ways You Can Contribute to a Healthy Workplace.”