These are the tools of the massage therapist. When you find the perfect combination, you don’t just perform a great massage, you become part of healing transformation.
When I first started studying massage I knew that I loved touch, I’d been doing some ‘Intuitive massage’ on friends and family before studying and I used to massage my Dad’s feet after he finished work. So, I had a little experience in the relief touch could give.
Then when I started studying, my mind exploded with excitement learning anatomy, physiology, new techniques and physical assessment. I became a very clinical therapist, joining the dots of the body’s puzzle with assessment and theory to work out a treatment plan. It took me a while to remember there was more to massage and success in treatment than this.
Some years later I had the good fortune of teaching a remedial massage course in Melbourne. As the saying goes, the student makes the best teacher. I was reminded of the enthusiasm of the fresh learner and how easy it is to become clinical, a little too firm to feel what’s under your hands and to overuse certain techniques because they have been successful before.
But, stronger is not always better, it makes it hard to pick on all the subtleties of the body’s response. It’s important to listen to all those nerve endings in your fingers, to feel how the muscle fibres run, where the fascia is caught, the subtle movements or restrictions within a joint. There is absolutely a time for strength and firmness but this is after your hands have received the information needed. As a therapist it is important to remembering that your client is not just a jigsaw of physical pieces. That they are glued together by their thought patterns, life experience and heart journeys. A treatment has to incorporate all these parts.
How does a therapist make sure they are using their tools of hands head and heart to the best of their ability? For me, it means coming in with a clear head, no matter what may have happened before the treatment. I set my intentions and focus, I stretch and make my massage space beautiful and ensure cleanliness.
I use my heart when meeting a client, I welcome and listen. True listening to your client involves not just hearing the words, but listening to the timbre of their voice, looking for the story behind their eyes, understanding their stance and holding of their posture.
Your hands introduce your touch, your care and your skill. Hands allow a direct channel for feeling the body’s movement and responses. Hands deepen trust. The Trust your client places in you deserves the utmost respect. Giving clients a safe space, respectful draping, a clear explanation of treatment plan and desired outcomes. I always encourage open dialogue, expressing that they are in control at all times, (if something doesn’t feel right we can change it) and remind them of confidentiality. Do not underestimate the sacredness of the trust given to you.
And then there is the trust the therapist must have. We have to trust in our hands, our heart and our head. We have to trust that these three tools can quickly compute and understand from experience and learning how best to meet the needs of your client. To do the very best you can for this person, for today and for their future wellbeing. Sometimes we have to trust the information we receive before we can fully rationalize it.
Perhaps this is why so many therapists are called Intuitive? I’m not really sure we possess psychic super powers, but I am certain that when we combine our hands, our heads and our hearts, magic can be felt.