When you say the word massage, what images and feelings come to mind? You can imagine a dimly lit room with the essence of lavender wafting in the air. Soft music is quietly playing in the background, candles are burning, and your therapist is speaking to you in hushed tones.

Most people think about these images when they hear the word massage. As a professional therapist for the last 14 years, I have seen a very real shift. I have worked in various locations, mostly spa settings, but the relaxation part of a massage seems to be taking a back seat to many other aspects. Many therapists and employers are forgetting the main reason people seek to receive a massage. Relaxation is the number one reason, followed closely by relief of some type of muscular pain. Sadly, the tendencies are shifting toward some version of a massage-bodywork technique and minimal effort toward the physical and emotional relaxation aspects of the treatment. I have observed various culprits but the main two are the volume of the conversation and the amount of unnecessary noise while doing the massage. It may not sound like much of a crime but I guarantee you that most clients cannot achieve a deep level of relaxation unless these details are observed. A deep level of relaxation is crucial to the treatment’s success.

The world of massage therapy has forever been divided by a misconception about the importance of “relaxation.”

On one side, we have the deep-tissue and medical massage crowd that looks down on the spa therapists because mostly they stick to a softer touch. Then on the other side we have the relaxation and body treatment crowd employed mostly by spas that think the deeper tissue therapists are insensitive brutes that abuse their power and hurt their clients unnecessarily. Both sides need further education. As I see it both firmer work and relaxation are the two best tools to use in a wonderfully soothing and effective massage. You can have both deeper work and a relaxing massage all at the same time. It is a matter of finesse and expertise on the delivery and approach.

When first approaching the client it is essential to appear friendly, relaxed, confident, and kind. How you treat your client within the first 15 seconds will determine their level of confidence and trust in your techniques. Make sure you ask your client all of the necessary questions about their needs, their wishes, and expectations, in order to deliver the experience they are paying for.

Once you are armed with all of the details, it is then up to each therapist to put together a massage, that not only addresses all of the physical tension, but it must address the emotional tension as well.

The one main reason people want a massage is to RELAX! Never forget that. We all need to remember that the relaxation response is very healing. The parasympathetic nervous system has been overlooked for far too long. We as massage therapists have an obligation to keep it at the forefront of everything we do. One of the best possible ways to accomplish this is to receive at least one massage a month. I know from personal experience how difficult that can be, but it is crucial that we experience what our clients are experiencing. Receiving a massage is a multifaceted experience for us. We don’t always relax like our clients because we cannot stop ourselves from analyzing our massage. However, we also appreciate a great massage more so than the public because we know how hard our therapist is working. The more massages we receive the easier it becomes to relax. We will then take great pains to ensure that our clients also receive that same wonderful experience. We will not be so stressed ourselves and our bodies will work more efficiently.

We have a tendency to lose our focus in various ways. We focus on making enough money, on obtaining more clients, on getting better training, on making our business prettier. All of those things are important, but worth nothing to your client if they walk out feeling dissatisfied with their treatment. Sadly, most of them will not tell you what they didn’t like about the service. Sometimes it’s because they feel embarrassed to complain about it, especially if they liked you as a person. Other times they may not be very aware of what specific thing they didn’t care for. They simply feel disappointed and walk away confused. Oftentimes you will not see that client again. We cannot afford to let a client walk away dissatisfied. We must do our very best to ensure a wonderful experience and ask them to give us sincere and objective feedback so that we can better serve them and their needs.

The day will come when massage therapists will talk the talk and walk the walk, right into a massage session once a month. That will be the dawning of true healing in our beautiful industry!

Namaste, my friends.

Lucia Rodriguez is the director of Creative Ventures Training Center located in sunny Miami, Florida. The center provides seminars on Emotional Freedom Techniques and Stress Management, not only to the massage community but also to acupuncturists, chiropractors, and osteopaths, to name just a few. Lucia can be contacted at 305-225-2906, creativeventurestraining@yahoo.com, or through www.creativeventurestraining.com.