*This post was originally posted on Laura’s blog on June 28, 2016
This morning I saw a FB post from a practitioner mentioning all the things he throws into a massage…Reiki, toning, spiritual healing, and Qi Gong. When I questioned him, he assured me that his clients know before getting on his table what they’re in for. This is the only way of working with integrity.
My questions about those things, and anything else other than massage that you include in sessions:
1. Did the client ask for it?
I was attending classes in energy work for five years before attending massage school almost 17 years ago. I was taught that you should never impose it on clients who have not asked for it, as many may have religious objections to it or just not believe in it–or just be intent on getting the full hour of massage that they have paid for without other things they aren’t expecting being thrown in. I always adhered to that policy in the interest of being client-centred.
2. Was the client informed before getting on the table that this is the way you conduct all your sessions, and given the opportunity to refuse in the event they just want a massage and nothing more?
If a client books a massage, they are expecting a massage. Particularly in the case of a client who has never had a massage, they are not expecting you to delve into their private spiritual beliefs or perform rituals that they know nothing about. If you are an “integrative” practitioner and you throw in other things during your session, that needs to be made clear at the very first contact.
It is the same principle as putting nut oil on a client without asking them if they have a nut allergy, or putting essential oils on someone who may have allergies or just object to the fragrance. Just because you love to use peppermint oil during a massage doesn’t mean the client is going to enjoy it.
People have the idea that I am against energy work. I am not against it. I believe anytime you place your hands on people in a compassionate, non-sexual, non-threatening, non-judgmental way, with the intention of soothing their pain, relieving their stress, easing their passing, or whatever, that’s a good thing, and you can do the work without needing some supernatural narrative that violates the physical laws of the universe to go along with it. A good explanation from Keith Eric Grant, who might be the only physicist in the US who is also a massage therapist of many years, can be found here.
I taught Reiki for ten years myself. One day it struck me that my drawing a few symbols in the air and blowing a puff of my breath on someone is never going to turn anyone into a healer, and I tore up my master certificate. I came to the conclusion that I can lay my hands on someone without needing a story to go along with it, outside of “I just want to comfort you.”
3. Do you wait until they are on the table to spring your plans for the session on them when they are already relaxed and possibly in an altered state of consciousness?
There is an inherent power differential in the therapeutic relationship that is in our favour, and that clients look at us as the authority figure who knows what they’re doing, and who is supposed to have their best interests at heart.
4. Are you client-centred, or is it all about you?
If a client has booked a relaxation massage, and you start digging in because you have decided they need a deep tissue massage, it’s all about you.
I gained numerous clients over the years from massage therapists who thought it was all about them. I’ve heard many comments such as “She was just sitting there with her hands on me not doing anything. I thought she went to sleep.” And “He walked around the table banging a little gong and said he was clearing my negative energy.” And “I kept asking him to lighten up because he was hurting me, but he said he couldn’t because this is what I need.” And “I just can’t stand strong fragrances of any kind. Before I knew what was happening, she had doused me with some kind of oil and I thought I was going to choke.”
A therapist who is client-centred is a successful therapist. A therapist who is not client-centred is going to crash and burn a year or two in and wonder why they just couldn’t make a living doing massage. Being client-centred isn’t optional; it’s our obligation.