Massage therapists are well aware of the benefits of regular massage therapy to overall health and well-being, but clients may not understand the depth of the value to getting regular massage.
They may regard massage therapy as just a way to relax or as a way to treat themselves once in a while.
By educating clients, however, you stand to enhance your relationships with them, boost your business and help them maintain better health and wellness.
The Why Behind Regular Massage
“The key to getting a client to come back so that you, the massage therapist, can continue the treatment plan is to educate the client on the why behind getting regular massage,” says Brooke Riley, a licensed massage therapist who is also an operations specialist for Massage Heights, a nationwide family-owned therapeutic massage and facial services franchise company based in San Antonio, Texas.
Each client’s needs are unique, so to make sure you are providing the appropriate education to each individual client, begin working with a client by asking questions, she says, even if you are working with a client you’ve seen before. This pre-consultation can take place on the phone when your client calls to set up an appointment, or when they arrive for the appointment.
In a large-format massage business such as Massage Heights, the front desk staff are trained to ask questions of the clients calling in so that they can be matched to a massage therapist. If you’re a smaller operation – even a one-person business – you can do that yourself to make sure you have the right skill set for the client’s needs, and to suss out if you’d be a good fit for each other.
With new clients, you have a lot to cover in a pre-consultation, Riley says. It’s a good idea to have a set of intake questions prepared so you don’t forget anything and you cover everything you want to cover.
If you’re working with a person who has never had a massage before, you’ll also have to educate them on what happens – and what doesn’t happen – during a massage therapy session.
You can talk to them, for example, about what state of undress they prefer and let them know that they will have privacy to undress and dress, and, if they opt to be nude for the session, how draping works. And you should encourage them to communicate with you throughout the session about pressure or any other concerns they have about the massage as it progresses.
It’s also important to get consent to treat specific areas. If, for example, you discover during the pre-consult, or even during the session, that your client needs glute or pectoral work, explain why you think those areas need massage and get their consent to work those areas.
“By asking more in-depth questions and then educating the guest, the therapist will make the client more at east about what massage entails,” says Riley.
If you’re working with someone who has had a previous massage experience that was unsatisfactory, again, asking those more in-depth questions about their massage experience will help you to make the upcoming massage session a better experience for them.
“By educating the client on what modalities will be used and how the session will proceed leaves that guest trusting the therapist’s expert knowledge,” she says.
If you’re working with clients you have seen before, don’t assume that things remain the same from session to session. It’s always a good idea to ask if anything has changed or if they want the session to focus on specific areas or if they’d like to try something new – a different modality or an add-on, such as hot stones or aromatherapy.
Educate the Client
Once you have a good idea of what the treatment plan will be and you start the session, use this time to continue to educate your client. “During the session is the perfect time to keep communication open,” Riley says.
“I do not mean talk the entire session or talk about unrelated topics. Keep it to the treatment being provided,” she adds. “Clients want to know why they are having the issues they may have. For example, if I find something in a session, I bring it to the client’s attention, tell them why I think it is happening, and move on. I can finish that piece of the education and recommend during their post-consultation.”
Once the session is over, it’s time to educate your client about what you found during the session, explain why they may be experiencing the issues they’re experiencing, and offer a treatment plan for going forward. It’s also a good idea to give them some “homework” – exercises or stretches that they can do that will enhance their well-being and will make them feel like they are active participants in the treatment plan.
“I always like to send my clients home with something in hand telling them what we did and what we will do next visit, and I give them homework,” Riley says. “I pride myself on educating each client on all aspects of massage and how each treatment gets us closer to maintenance work. I educate on why and when they need to come back and give them a plan. Each client leaves with homework that can be as simple as changing their desk height or chair they sit in every day.”
If you’re not really sure how to go about what to say when educating a client, don’t worry, there are plenty of resources available, she says.
If you’re working for a larger massage therapy business, such as a franchise like Massage Heights, you’ll likely be able to get training through your employer.
But you don’t have to be employed with a larger massage company to get trained. You can talk to your peers to find out what works for them or you can find workshops on ethics and communication techniques that you can take in-person or online. And don’t forget to check out YouTube, where you’ll find countless videos offering how-to techniques and general advice.
About the author:
Stephanie Bouchard is a freelance writer and editor based on the coast of Maine. She frequently reports news and features for MASSAGE Magazine.