Before I begin any massage or bodywork session, I will ask the question “what would you like to accomplish today?”
This sometimes seems silly to clients. But it’s an important question, and not one I hear a lot of therapists ask. Obviously, if you are visiting a massage therapist or healing practitioner, you probably want to feel better and/or want to relax, right? Sometimes, however, knowing what the client wants it not such a simple thing.
I specifically ask this question for a few reasons. Ultimately, I want to make sure my client has a good experience. It’s my intention to address any issues that the client feels are important. I also want to do my best work. And I want the client to walk away afterwards knowing someone genuinely cares about them and did what they could to make their life better in the span of the 60, 90, or 120 minutes we had together.
I also want the client to have realistic expectations about the outcome of their session.
Sometimes I may suggest that we spend our time on a specific area or areas of the body. Suppose a client comes in with neck pain. This person has been doing a repetitive activity over time, which has resulted in chronic, long term pain. The client hasn’t had a massage in 3 years, and “just wants to relax”… but they also REALLY REALLY REALLY want the pain to go away. It is not realistic to expect any therapist to undo several years of tension in a site-specific area by performing a full body session. In this case, if we concentrated specific, targeted, therapeutic work on and around the area of concern, rather than use the limited time we have for full body work, this client will likely feel that much needed relief from neck pain.
There are situations when more session time is necessary to meet the clients expectations. Let’s say I have a 6′ 4”, 280 lb man as a client. He wants 3 or 4 specific areas worked with deep therapeutic technique, because he is an athlete and sore from his workouts. But he also wants a full body massage. And he is only scheduled for 60 minutes. The sheer size of this dude alone would already create a real challenge to perform a full body massage without any specific, targeted work. Adding in focused therapy, it’s impossible to accomplish all of his goals within one full body session in only 60 minutes.
And then there are times where I’ve seen therapists just assume they know what the client wants because they come in often. Suppose I’ve seen my client every single week for the last 2 years. Usually, this client wants super deep therapeutic work on only their back and neck at every session. As a therapist, it would be unwise to assume they want the exact same thing every single time, though. Suppose they come in after a really emotionally upsetting day and all they want is to just relax. If I don’t ASK what they want to accomplish, I would never know they wanted something different.
The point is, asking what someone would like to accomplish at each visit gives us both an opportunity to communicate and meet realistic expectations… Communication is key!
Believe it or not, some clients don’t actually tell us therapists want they want, if we don’t ask. And, believe it or not, most therapists can’t read the client’s mind. Nor do we have a magic wand stored anywhere in our treatment room. Asking the client what they would like to accomplish before each session gives us therapists clarity and direction, which are really good things in a bodywork session.
Here is how I personally like to treat each client session: I ask my client what they would like to accomplish in the session as we walk into the room. Then, I repeat back what the client has communicated, to make sure I’m clear on the goal… and I give my client a realistic plan of action for that particular session before we ever begin. Then I exit the room while they prepare. Hopefully we both feel pretty good about the work we will be doing together before we ever begin.
I also communicate with my client during the session as well. I recommend how often and how soon I’d like to see them back after the session. I may suggest a longer treatment session next time. I may suggest a more frequent treatment schedule. No, I’m not trying to milk this client out of money by suggesting them come back. I actually want them to feel better and I want to correct what’s causing them pain or imbalance.
In addition to communicating before, during, and after a treatment session, I often recommend specific things the client can do at home in between sessions. If I think another complementary treatment that is outside of my scope of practice might help my client, such as a chiropractic adjustment, or an acupuncture treatment, or even just stretching or foam rolling, I will recommend that as well.
There are some clients that come in and ignore everything I recommend. I genuinely do my best to make them happy anyway. I honor that person and their freedom to make choices. I do hope they look back and remember the recommendations I give them. Honestly, I just want everyone to feel good all the time… but it’s ultimately the client’s choice whether they listen and take heed of any recommendations or suggestions.
The bottom line is this: Your therapist or bodyworker has specialized training and experience. They really do want to help you. If they make a suggestion to you, it’s for your benefit, and for the purpose of accommodating what YOU want to accomplish in your treatment session. Please be open to receive and maybe even act on these suggestions.
So… what would YOU like to accomplish today?
Know what I’d like to accomplish? I’d like to see clients and therapists have clear communication before and after each and every treatment session so that everyone’s expectations are realistic. I’d like to see every practitioner feel and know they did their best work for each client they treat each day. And I’d also like to see each and every client leave the treatment room feeling great, and feeling heard, and happy with the service they received!
Love, Cam xoxo
PS- Have YOU had a therapist or bodyworker ask what you’d like to accomplish in your treatment session? Have you ever left unhappy, or felt like you weren’t heard after your session? I’d like to know!! Shoot me an email and tell me your story!
And if you happen to like what you’ve just read, please SUBSCRIBE HERE and never miss a post! Feel free to like and share, too! xoxo