A therapeutic massage engages your senses through the use of soothing music, aromatherapy scents, and massage oils, as well as the massage itself. Because a massage is an emotional as well as a physical experience, massage therapists need a range of personal, social, and business skills, in addition to the physical techniques of the profession.
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Qualities of Successful Massage Therapists
- Communication skills. Good communication involves both speaking and listening. …
- Empathy. Successful massage therapists give clients a positive experience. …
- Integrity. …
- Physical stamina and strength. …
- Knowledge. …
- Nurturing Attitude. …
- Business management skills.
Not everyone has the personality type to be a good massage therapist. It might seem that the primary quality of a good massage therapist would be a skill in therapeutic massage technique, but all well-trained massage therapists should have the same set of basic skills. People go to a massage therapist to get relief from their daily stresses and frustrations, so a good therapist needs to be able to create a nurturing and healing experience, not just a massage. Some people project a sense of empathy, caring, and support, while others have a more matter-of-fact approach to life. If your personality type is more practical or even cynical, you might not be able to create the experience your clients will be looking for. Empathy is one of the most important qualities of a good massage therapist. )
Good massage therapists are good listeners. Every client is an individual with a distinct set of physical and emotional needs. To find out what the client needs from her massage, you have to be able to listen closely on a continuous basis and adjust your technique accordingly. The same technique that might be very therapeutic for one client could be too intense for another. If you try to impose your own views on your client’s experience, that client is likely to go to another massage therapist next time instead of becoming a repeat customer.
Commitment to Training
As a massage therapist, you should also seek to expand your physical skills through continuous training. The basic required training at most massage schools is 700 hours of instruction and practice, but you should also take continuing education courses on a yearly basis. In particular, you should aim to improve your stamina so you can continue to offer high-quality massage therapy even if you’ve been standing and working all day with other clients, and you should aim to improve your manual dexterity so you can perform massage techniques correctly and effectively.
Finally, a good massage therapist displays a high standard of professionalism. If you fail to return a client’s phone call within a reasonable amount of time, if you miss a scheduled appointment, or if you show up for an appointment looking rushed and stressed-out, you will contribute to your client’s stress and anxiety, instead of reducing it. A massage therapy practice is a small business, so you need business skills to manage your time and your finances.
A great massage therapist can command a long list of loyal clientele. To be the most successful in this business, one must have a certain set of qualities that makes people want to come back. Some of those top qualities include:
- Ability to Self-Promote: A great massage therapist will be most successful if they can promote their work to attract new clients.
- Business Management Skills: A great massage therapist has excellent business management skills and can handle running a practice or working on a freelance basis. They are good with finances and marketing.
- Creates a Relaxing Atmosphere: A great massage therapist employs a variety of means to ensure a relaxing atmosphere, including dim lighting, soothing scents, or music.
- Excellent Customer Service Skills: A great massage therapist has excellent customer service skills and is willing to accommodate a client to ensure a good massage experience.
- Interpersonal Skills: A great massage therapist has excellent interpersonal skills and can create a rapport with a client that helps put them at ease during treatment. They answer questions readily and explain what they are doing during a massage.
- Knowledge of Proper Technique: A great massage therapist has extensive knowledge of the techniques used in a variety of massage types.
- Manual Dexterity: A great massage therapist has excellent manual dexterity and is able to easily perform the complicated maneuvers massage therapy requires.
- Physical Stamina: A great massage therapist has a good deal of physical stamina and is able to handle standing for long periods of time as well as the rigorous physical effort massage requires.
- A sense of Empathy: A great massage therapist has a strong sense of empathy and strives to use their massage techniques to help improve a client’s well-being.
- Strong Client Focus: A great massage therapist is focused solely on the client and is able to tune out all other distractions during a massage. They are committed to providing an enjoyable service to their clients.
Things You Can Do to Get the Best Massage
1. Don’t say “You can’t hurt me” or “Go as hard as you want”.
A massage therapist absolutely can hurt you.
I know where every nerve plexus is close to the surface. I know every attachment site for your muscles. These are the same sites that most martial arts target. So if I wanted to, I could give you the equivalent of a karate chop. I also know how to use my “tools” (elbows, knuckles, etc.) to create the most benefit during a massage stroke. If I choose a narrow tool (like an elbow) instead of a broad tool (like a forearm), it makes the stroke more intense. When you say “go as hard as you want”, I typically switch my tools and start easing into more pressure.
If I wanted to teach you a lesson about letting your therapist choose the best tool and pressure, I could use an elbow on your hamstring and make you want to crawl off the table.
Now mind you, I won’t do those things, because when you’re on my table, you are my responsibility and I want you to leave happy and with less pain.
Also, this type of statement doesn’t actually help me give you the massage you want.
Maybe you can take a lot of pressure on your back, but not much on your legs. Communicate throughout the massage if I’m not giving the pressure you want. Try saying “I could use a little more pressure in that area”. And if I ask if you need more, don’t hesitate to be honest. I’m asking because I really want to know.
Lastly, a seasoned, well-educated therapist knows how to read your body language and the reaction of your muscles to adjust pressure accordingly. I rarely have to ask about pressure. But this doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t ask for deeper pressure if that feels better.
Try to trust your therapist to do their job correctly, though, and not cause you unnecessary discomfort. Which brings me to the next point.
2. Stop thinking massage has to hurt to be beneficial.
Some people need deep tissue work. Some people need their nervous system calmed. Some people just need an hour of quiet with someone else taking care of them.
Honor yourself and your body.
If you love a “fluffy” Swedish massage, then ask for that.
It’s not a competition for who can “handle the most pain”.
3. Choose your therapist carefully if possible.
I know that sometimes you’re on vacation and want a massage and you don’t care who does it.
But if you can, find out what your therapist specializes in and choose them based on that.
Not gender. Not how nice the place looks. Not how kind their voice is, what shape they are in, what age they are.
Ask what they feel their strengths are and decide if that’s a good fit for you.
This is especially important if you’re trying to get regular massage and see some progress on your pain and tension levels. Speaking of regular work…
4. Get regular massages or at least do things that will ease your aches and pains, like stretching.
If you want the most bang for your buck, it helps if I’m not working on 40 years of built-up stuff.
It is impossible to work out that much tension or an injury in an hour.
5. Come in already hydrated.
This doesn’t mean chug a liter of water in the 10 minutes before your massage or you’re going to get mighty uncomfortable about halfway through it. You should be drinking around a gallon of water a day (yes, a gallon).
Do that for the few days before and after your massage and you will feel less achy and your muscles will respond better to the massage.
6. Take a shower or at least clean your feet.
Wanna make your therapist happy? Don’t come in after a workout or hiking or hot yoga without showering first. I’ll still work on you and I’ll do it with a smile, but ewww. If you’ve been out exploring the town in sandals on a warm summer day, take a moment to wipe your feet down.
I mean, do you really want me to rub your feet goo all over the rest of you?
Most massage places have a bathroom with paper towels. If they don’t, ask. I always keep baby wipes handy for just this purpose.
7. Keep in mind that I am not a counselor.
Here’s the deal — you’re in an intimate situation with another person. Sometimes that person is a stranger and you feel you have nothing to lose in sharing the intimate details of your life. Sometimes that person is your regular therapist and you feel you can trust them. I don’t mind listening. I really don’t. I’m glad you trust me.
But I can’t give you advice — it oversteps the bounds of my profession. And the deeper the conversation, the more likely I am to focus on that instead of getting your muscles to release.
Also, be aware of how awful the information you’re sharing is. Can you imagine sitting at your desk or driving a truck or ringing up someone’s groceries and having someone blurt out that they are having an affair? Or that their son is using heroin? Or that their spouse just died? It’s a lot.
Again, I care about you, but that’s some heavy stuff to process while I’m also trying to give your tired, aching body all my attention.
8. Don’t help me move your arm, head, etc.
Usually, this makes my job harder. If you’re holding your head up, your neck muscles are tensed and I can’t work on them.
If you swing your arm or leg out from under the sheet as I go to undrape you, you risk exposing yourself.
And neither of us wants that.
9. Stop worrying about your cellulite, scars, unshaved legs, bony back, etc.
For real. I don’t care about or even really notice them. While you’re on the massage table, I am focused only on your muscles and fascia. I don’t care what’s on top of them. So stop apologizing for those stretch marks and hairy legs.
They are part of who you are and therefore they are exactly what they should be.
10. Don’t make sex jokes or flirt.
Not before, not after, not while I’m working on you. It’s rude, it’s inappropriate, it’s against the law. It’s offensive — I’ve had years of training and have to be licensed and insured to be a massage therapist.
I can’t even begin to tell you how revolting massage therapists find this behavior.
It’s also a good way for you to be charged full price for a massage you aren’t going to get. And if you touch yourself or me in a sexual way, I will call the police and you will be charged with sexual misconduct or assault. Which reminds me…
11. The correct term is “massage therapist” not “masseuse”.
It’s just more professional.
Unless I’m working in an environment where your insurance will be billed, I am making a small portion of what you are paying. I rely on your tips as part of my wages. This doesn’t mean you should tip if the service was poor or I didn’t do what you asked.
However, if it meets or exceeds your expectations, tip. Just figure this into your price when you book your massage.
(Although, I do want to make a quick note about this. I have had regular clients who I knew could barely afford the massages they desperately needed. I did not accept tips from them so they could get more regular work.)
13. Don’t drink booze before or after.
You’ll feel like crap.
It could also affect blood sugar and pressure, causing you to pass out or vomit. Please don’t make me have to use my first aid training. Also, I can’t handle vomit, so I’ll probably vomit along with you.
14. Get undressed to your comfort level but realize how that may limit my work.
If you choose to leave any clothes on, I can’t work in that area. That’s all. It’s fine if you don’t want to take your undies off, really. But I probably won’t work on your glutes, which can affect leg and back work. And if you leave your bra on, I can’t do those lovely flowing strokes down your back. If you’re concerned, talk with me.
I touch a lot of bodies. I’m happy to reassure you about how covered you will be.
15. Show up early or at least don’t be late.
Most places have a policy that your 60 minutes start at the beginning time of your session.
If you aren’t there, I can’t get started on time and you miss out on precious therapeutic touch.
Since someone is probably booked right after you, I don’t even have the option to go over. This goes for talking and talking before I can leave the room for you to get undressed.
Every minute you spend talking before we get started is a minute you don’t get massaged.
16. Don’t bully, talk down, tell me what to do, etc.
I’m a professional, an expert in my field. Again, I have years of training and experience.
This doesn’t mean you can’t have preferences and that you shouldn’t express those.
I want to know if you love having your feet rubbed or prefer music with no words or want an extra blanket. But please don’t tell me at the beginning of my opening strokes that you’re going to need more pressure. I have to warm up your tissue and apply oil before I can start digging in. And if there is something your old therapist did that you liked, definitely share that. But don’t waste 10 minutes of your message trying to get me to replicate that — every therapist is unique and will have their own way of working your muscles. Also, treating me like a servant doesn’t exactly inspire me to treat you with empathy.
It makes me feel bad and who wants a massage from someone who is feeling bad?
17. Book in advance.
Walk-ins and last-minute bookings are fine, they help me fill the gaps in my days.
But I appreciate knowing what my day will look like before I start it.
So book in advance if you can.
18. Don’t choose trendy treatments like a hot stone.
Most therapists don’t enjoy that trendy new massage with hot stones or foot wraps or hand treatments. Using hot stones means I am focused on the temperature of the stones and not dropping them instead of thinking about how to work on your muscles.
Footwraps and hand treatments take away from the time I get to spend working on you.
That being said, there are therapists out there who love this type of work. So if you love it, too, ask around and find someone who does it.
This goes for all types of massage and brings me to…
19. Find out more about the types of massage your therapist gives.
Your therapist tells you they love doing Thai massage? Ask them more about it! Or Google it. Maybe it will become your new favorite. Or you can decide in advance that isn’t for you.
I love talking about massage (as does every other therapist I know), so there are truly no dumb or annoying questions.
20. Don’t say you don’t want upgrades like deep tissue and then ask for it in the middle of the massage.
These upgrades cost more because they are harder on my body and take more of my energy.
It’s rude and unfair to not opt for the (usually minimal) charge and then tell me you want more pressure in the middle of your massage.
It puts me in the awkward position of discussing money with you while I’m focused on being a healer.
21. Don’t bring up politics, religion, or controversial topics.
Please, please don’t put me in this position. Part of what you’re paying for is my attention and empathy.
*Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider.
Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.
The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a diagnosis, treatment, or prescription of any kind. The decision to use, or not to use, any information is the sole responsibility of the reader. These statements are not expressions of legal opinion relative to the scope of practice, medical diagnosis, or medical advice, nor do they represent an endorsement of any product, company, or specific massage therapy technique, modality, or approach. All trademarks, registered trademarks, brand names, registered brand names, logos, and company logos referenced in this post are the property of their owners.