“Oh my God that’s amazing.” I was just beginning the session and my client spoke aloud. Was her effusive praise directed at my hands? My technique? The massage oil? Essential oils? The linens she was on, or the music I’d selected?
No, no, no, no, and no annnnnnd….no.
It was the warm towel I put on her feet.
“I know you think I come here for your massage,” said another client, with a bit of tongue-in-cheek. “But I don’t. I come for all the warm things.”
It’s important that we care about our career: our reputation, amongst our colleagues and the community; our sense of trajectory, in terms of improving our work, introducing new modalities as it seems appropriate; and re-marketing/re-branding ourselves so that we get a regular influx of new clients. (People still need to discover you for the first time, even if you’re doing what you’ve been doing forever.)
I have to say, however, that based on my nearly 15 years of experience as a massage therapist – and nearly 20 of receiving it on a semi-regular basis – the client doesn’t care about any of that. Take heed! The client wants to be warm! Cozy! Swaddled, if I may. “Burrito-ed” is how one of my friends puts it.
Not stuffy or sweltering, but…nestled. Tended.
It’s November here in Maine. We know we’re going to be cold for a long stretch, at least until May. That’s where the warm towels come in.
As a professional licensed massage therapist, I am many things to my clients. But the most basic service I give them all is feeling taken care of. Here, modern MTs might balk at the idea, with their arsenal of training, experience and perhaps the need to justify themselves (the phrase “bow and scrape” comes to mind) before the almighty healthcare industry.
“I have charts! Books! Formulas! Techniques! Proof! Certificates of Mastery!”
Keep up on that stuff, but remember: clients don’t care. They want to feel like you care about them, not your agenda for them. (Reminder: you do care about them. That’s why you’re a massage therapist.)
Okay, so: right now, an easy way to convey your kind regard for their every need is to make sure they are WARM. (And please don’t assume this post is only for those of us in the 44.4 latitude: if you work in air conditioning, warmth is still an important part of your practice.)
Ways you can help:
Ask. During the intake. “How does the temperature in the room feel?”
“When you’re relaxing on the table, do you find you’re on the warm side or the chilly side?” Most people who suffer from being chilly will let you know.
At the beginning of the session: “Are you warm enough?”
I hear, often, “Yes, I am cozy, but my feet are still cold.” On goes the hot towel!
Feel. I like to do compressions down legs and feet, even if I’m starting the massage with neck and back, not only for the client to feel a full sense of themselves from the get-go, but also to notice what’s cold and remedy it right away. Most people can’t relax if they’re cold, and your work is in vain if they’re not relaxing.
Also, if you’re massaging and you suddenly feel or see goosebumps, the client may be getting chilled. Find out.
Plan. What do you have in your office to help a client warm up? Here’s what I got: a landlord who (thankfully) lets me set the thermostat at 70, a table warmer, flannel linens and fleecy blanket, essential oils that are warming in nature, and a crockpot stuffed with towels that I heat up and place strategically: on cold feet, cold hands, on the back after I’ve massaged it, rolled up under the neck after I’ve worked there. What you got?
(Also in deep winter I do heated socks.)
(And quite honestly I do not like those hot towel cabinets. Moist heat becomes moist cold and nobody likes cold wet on their skin. Stick to DRY heat, I say. Unless you use hot stones! I bet you do! Those are GREAT. I wish I had a sink in my office bathroom that I could clean them in, otherwise I would have some.)
I’ve also heard heating pads, stand-alone ceramic room heaters, and Thermaphore products work well.
Consider. Of course I have been talking physical warmth here, but there is a deeper warmth that clients really respond to. For some practitioners this takes time to develop, and for others it just needs kindling.
The energy of compassion and the intention for healing is warming. When I practice Reiki, or consider the affection I feel for my client, or drop into that blessed meditative quiet of a session, my hands get hot, almost directly in the palms. “Did you heat up your hands in the crockpot? They’re so warm!” some clients have said to me.
When a client comes in and I listen carefully, my heart energy expands and what I say, how I behave, is infused with genuine care (or at the very least that is my goal)…which the client experiences as…warmth.
Enveloping a client in warmth is always a good idea, whether physical, emotional or spiritual.
(Unless they’re having a hot flash! In which case, life in wintry Maine is ideal: I just open a window.)