How to Admit You Need Help

Not all massage therapists need help. Lots have excellent boundaries, stable home lives, emotional equilibrium, or some healthy combination of the three, for most of their lives. Their families are normal, or at least, some of the darker aspects of human living don’t impede their quest for health and happiness.

There are, however, some of us who find things falling apart in our lives and realize we’re powerless to do anything about it. On top of it all: our mornings are black and our nights swollen with distress. Worst: our days are panic-stricken and filled with anxiety: we focus on our clients, not with curiosity and affection, but out of desperation, with tension shimmering beneath our touch, and when they’re gone we gasp and flop about, frightened and confused, like a guppy out of water.

By “we” I mean “me” of course.

Bluntly: I’m in recovery. There’s been a crisis in my family and I’m back in the Anonymous program I was in five years ago. I’m attempting two meetings a week, I have a sponsor, I’m reading literature, I’m working the Steps. I’m better. But there for a long while I was not. And things could get worse. I know that now.

With this comes time for little else: I haven’t been exercising nearly enough (sadly this would be true anyway, what with the relentless winter weather) and certainly haven’t tackled many projects that desperately need a tackle: my taxes, my client files, this blog. Homeostasis and maintaining sanity is a full-time job, on top of the other full-time job: maintaining my practice.

Projects and plans become back-burner stuff when you’re trying to keep yourself from having a meltdown.

“In every life there are peaks and valleys” so goes a trite saying that some people like to share with you when you’re suffering. (I would love to suffer such speakers a firm pinch on the nose, even though I know they mean well.) Oh ho: you know what? Sometimes it is just not a cute valley, all green and quiet and with a discernible end. Sometimes it is a yawning, howling cavern where you and your loved ones must walk, straight into the heart of darkness.

from a card I found at Coyote Moon in Belfast, Maine

from a card I found at Coyote Moon in Belfast, Maine

So: how do you know you need help? How do you come to admit the fact?

Interestingly, a big problem with knowing whether or not you need help is hardwired into the profession itself. From my perspective: I see myself as a resource for health and wellness for many people. I am used to making people feel good, all day long, by the sheer benefit of my presence.

“Thanks, I feel so much better” is a phrase I hear regularly in my day. Through a little effort on my part, I may not create miracles every time I touch someone, but usually there is big pay-off for me having everything under control: my clients are happy, I’m happy, even my officemate Jean is happy. (Especially when we have successfully and succinctly negotiated whose turn it is to resupply the TP and take out the trash.)

A whole day of getting paid for making people feel better spoils a person, particularly when you get back into the mess of non-professional relationship, i.e. family. It is really easy for me to advocate self care and dispense advice on health and wellness in my office: I have a little authority, and even when I have a client who is in the bowels of despair and/or pain, in about an hour they’re no longer my problem.

When standing in the heart of addiction with my family, we are on equal terms and whatever we’re experiencing together I cannot fix in an hour: not with all my technique, experience, good intentions, essential oils, nice music and sheets.

You know you need help when you think you can fix people.

You know you need help when you realize you have no control over others: you know you need help when you keep trying.

You know you need help when you realize another person’s behavior is turning you into a crazy person: when you catch yourself doing something, saying something, thinking something that makes you go, “Hey wait a minute. Whoa there,” but then you catch yourself doing it again. And justifying it, to boot.

You are just as out of control as everyone else. That’s when you need help.

I reached out for the Anonymous program because it was a perfect match-up for what my family and I were going through. I’m into a full month of participating in this free 50-year-old program and things are better. I am not looking for “perfect”: not anymore: but I’ll take better, any day, especially after the February I had.

If one of the Anonymous programs are not for you, there are other ways to ramp up getting help, beyond the occasional yoga class or acupuncture session (although both of these things are very helpful too). Talk therapy, meditation, meeting with your doctor are all openings into deepening your commitment to bringing yourself back to yourself. Getting massage more! (That ALWAYS helps, and in my next blog I hope to write about how the massage I got during this time of crisis felt like it saved my life.)

You might find certain authors really helpful, as I have: Richard Rohr (“The Art of Letting Go: Living the Wisdom of St. Francis“), Anne Lamott (“Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers“,) Pema Chodron (“When Things Fall Apart“), Melody Beattie.

You may feel it’s time to re-engage with a faith community once again: perhaps a church, a synagogue, sangha or mosque is calling you. Try going. Maybe that’s what you need most right now.

Whatever you choose, let the dark valley you walk into wake you up to your true potential, and give you hope for your future. This is where I have found myself today. And it’s because I admitted I needed help.


All The Warm Things

“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.

If your landlord permits it, having lit candles in the room not only creates a feeling of warmth but in the winter adds (albeit microbits) of warmth. Plus it's just pretty.

If your landlord permits it, having lit candles in the room not only creates a feeling of warmth but also adds  (albeit microbits of) warmth. Plus it’s just pretty.

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.)

How Little We Know

Here we are, the “end” of summer, and some of us wax nostalgic already for the season gone by. Never mind there’s still plenty gorgeous warm days ahead: we’re longing, pining, for all that’s gone, for all we didn’t do.

If you’re not careful, you just become a waxer and a piner. As if there were some L.L. Bean catalog photo spread that we’re all subconsciously aiming for. It slowly creeps into every facet of your life: all the fresh blueberry pancakes you didn’t eat. All the hot weekends you didn’t make it to the beach. The live music you missed along the harbor. The full moons, the rising suns.

Maybe because you were working 10-hour days all during June, July and August, huh? Maybe because your mom got real sick and you needed to be with her: a lot. Maybe you adopted a puppy, and puppies need care 24/7. Maybe you just don’t like crowds. Anyway, it’s over now, and you didn’t “have it all.”

Ahhh, alas. Alack.

Bummer, dude.

But don't make it sad, Cricket. I don't feel that way.

But don’t make it sad, Cricket. I don’t feel that way.

Over the years my practice has grown and I’ve been seeing more clients. It has taken a lot for me – with all my OCD, type-A, perfectionistic tendencies – to unload the shotgun of my ambitions. There’s nothing like seeing 5, 6 clients at a crack (which I don’t recommend for the long term) to get very serious with yourself about releasing immature notions of “getting it right.”

You cannot hold a fixed standard of perfection and meet each client successfully. Perfection is not what you do to a client, or even, who you are as a practitioner, but it’s only happens when the client has arrived in the room: only available for measure and observation in the moment when the two of you are conversing, negotiating, explaining, learning. Perfection is wholly immediate: not a split second earlier, or later.

So getting ramped up for seeing people: over-analyzing their issues or what you didn’t quite do enough of last time – or if they’re a new client, being more anxious than relaxed and happy at the prospect of meeting them and finding out what you can do for them – is not a substitute for being present to them during intake, massage, and finish-out. I’ve mentioned this before in a previous blog, but it bears repeating, mostly because I need reminding: Worry is not a substitute for paying attention. Neither is being all perfectionistic-y.

Also can I just say? Which I’m entitled to saying because, here again, I need to remind my ownself: playing teacher’s pet no longer entertains or amuses as one matures (or, at least, it shouldn’t). Most of us were lauded for our overweening efforts at getting straight As, or shots on goal, or the blue ribbon, when we were young. In the big-girl world, nobody likes a smart-ass, but that doesn’t keep us from still trying reeeeeeally hard: those of us whose perfectionism hasn’t died, only gone underground.

We’re not fooling anybody. It comes leaking out around the edges as addictions, excuses, anger and peevishness, and procrastination. As waxing and pining. If we think we have to get it right – first off, right out of the gate, every time – we’ll lay down an innumerable amount of barriers to prevent ourselves from even attempting the smallest introduction to the very thing we long to embrace: a project, a piece, a person.

Get to it.

Your client doesn’t want you to get it right.

Your client wants you to pay attention to them.

And, by the way….that goes for the rest of your life too.

So – WAKE UP! Guess what. It’s almost September. Open your eyes, your heart, your schedule, and don’t miss a single. Blessed. Minute. Even if you’re lying in the bright autumn sun for hours, not moving a muscle. Listening to old love songs. Resting. Like you deserve it or something.

Perfectionists live lives of sameness, wondering why new things never come. Perfectionism is the enemy of good, and good enough. But in an elemental way, perfectionism is the galactic enemy of action itself.

Bob Sullivan


All people long to write (this is natural and right) – but we become timid, anxious, perfectionists…The creative power does not come from ambition. Ambition injures it and makes it a nervous strain and hard work. Writing is not a performance but a generosity. Write to enlarge the soul. Work freely and rollickingly as if you were talking to a friend who loves you.

Francisco Stork


Maybe it happens this way
Maybe we really belong together
But after all, how little we know

— “How Little We Know” sung by Lauren Bacall in “To Have and Have Not” by Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael 1944

What you just read is not my fault. It’s because my friend, colleague, co-conspirator and pants kicker Rowan Blaisdell talked me into it, and also, because I cannot resist a write-off: 31 Posts in 31 Days August Blog Challenge, Business Blogging School. Caution snuffed, perfectionism cast off like a smelly cloak: this is blog #22. (okay, I’ve missed a few.)

How To: Pick Good Music: Kristen’s List

{cont. from How To: Pick: Finding} Thanks to those who have contributed some of their own favorites so far. I am really enjoying yours. Okay, here it is: my list. Big deal! Well, it does represent years of listening and winnowing. I like each of these albums a lot for different reasons, as you can see by the very subjective titles I gave each group.

DavidDarling8stringreligionSimple and Sweet

  • Anything by David Darling: superb cellist, composing heartfelt, deep, beautiful music. My absolute favorite is “8-String Religion,” but I also adore “Prayer for Compassion,” “Music for Massage,” and “Return to Desire.”
  • Garden Thyme” – North Star Music
  • Roots and Branches” – David Lauterstein (yes, the same guy who’s an educator and author of “Deep Massage”!)
  • Sounds of Acadia” – because it’s nature sounds with impressively beautiful music to go with it…and the sounds are from Acadia National Park, here in my own state of Maine.
  • Magical Child” – Michael Jones
  • Good Night” – Fridrik Karlsson
  • Quiet Heart/Spirit Wind” – Richard Warner
  • Raga Taranga” – from Siddha Yoga, meaning “wave of melodies”
  • Feng Shui: Music for Balanced Living” – Daniel May
  • Island of Bows” and “Migration” – R. Carlos Nakai (plus Peter Kater on Migration! A winning combo.)
  • Equanimity” – Ryan Stewart


  • Anything by Liquid Mind: my A+, #1, all-time favorite massage album is “Spirit.” That first track, “Warm in You,” just takes me right where I need to be, and my client along with!
  • Anything by Deuter: “Nada Himalaya 2,” “Garden of the Gods,” “Reiki Hands of Light,” “Buddha Nature” (the first track is a little jazzy, shall we say, but it’s tolerable and ends fairly quickly), “Koyasan.”
  • Auracle” – Maneki Neko
  • Spirit of Yoga” – Ben Leinbach
  • The Yearning” and “Afterglow” – Tim Wheater, Michael Hoppe
  • Compassion” – Peter Kater
  • Shamanic Dream” – Anugama
  • Spectrum Suite” – Steven Halpern
  • My Secret Heart” – Michael Whalen “romantic meditations,” but can be used successfully for massage, without being weird.
  • my new favorite: “Nature’s Enchantment” by Marina Raye


  • Vox Clamantis – a capella choir music
  • Sacred Treasures” from Hearts of Space
  • Eternity’s Sunrise” – A Bill Douglas Collection
  • Each of the following artists, who use Sanskrit chant against music for a very devotional sound. Heavy on lyrics, yet most of them wash over you. Some of the music is upbeat and not massage appropriate, but you can make a nice mix with any of the following: Wah!, Deva Premal, Rasa, Ashana. Even some Enya fits in here, too.


What you just read is not my fault. It’s because my friend, colleague, co-conspirator and pants kicker Rowan Blaisdell talked me into it, and also, because I cannot resist a write-off: 31 Posts in 31 Days August Blog Challenge, Business Blogging School. Caution snuffed, perfectionism cast off like a smelly cloak: this is blog #11.

How To: Pick Good Music: Finding

{cont. from How To: Pick Good Music: Ask Yourself} Thanks for hanging in there with me as we continue to parse out “massage music” together. I forgot to say: PLEASE make your own suggestions here! For example I got a comment on a previous blog that the practitioner enjoys “Bali” by Midori. Well, guess what I’m listening to right now, and enjoying very much? “Bali” by Midori! On YouTube. Thank you Janet K.

What makes “good” massage music? I think I know, but I’m not  you, and I’m not your client. Trust your instincts, first, take some of my suggestions, second, but listen to your clients above all else.

And, since we are massage therapists, we know to listen in many different ways: they might not tell us outright, “This music sucks, can you play something else?” but they might be more tense than usual, making exasperated sighs, lying there with their eyes open when supine. I’m not suggesting any time this stuff happens that it’s the music at fault, but just consider that it might be.

Here are some ways to find new music, if you’re running out of options and sick to the teeth with what you’ve got (we have ALL been there: “I can’t listen to this anymore!!”)

Check out my final installment: How To: Pick Good Music: Kristen’s Picks. Hee hee.

Steal, steal, steal ideas from your colleagues. If you are lucky enough to have an officemate you like as much as I like mine, and she/he plays something you’ve never heard before, and you like it, inquire.

Also: during your massage trades (you ARE getting massaged, right? yes? when was the last time you had a massage? Ohup? Can’t remember? Hmmmm….) let your colleague test-drive new music on you (that way you BOTH can figure out if it works!) or if you like what he/she is playing, inquire.

Use Pandora, YouTube or Amazon to find more artists like the ones you like. I’ve used Pandora this way especially. Create a new station in Pandora, using a group’s name (David Darling or Deuter has worked for me) and the computer does the rest. I wouldn’t try this while working on a client, just at home, researching. YouTube often has entire albums you can test-drive, or at least enough songs from an album, so you can really get a feel for what it’s like. And Amazon will often let you purchase and download just a few songs from an album, in case the whole album doesn’t send you.

Make Your Own Mix. Ahh, c’mon, I know I’m speaking to a few children of the 80s here when I say there is NOTHING like a music mix. Yeah? Am I right or am I right? : ) The Mix Tape! Made for your latest crush, or your best friend, or your little sister.

Now we can make Mix CDs, lucky us, and we can make them for our work with our clients in mind. I’ve created playlists in Windows Media Player (which means that you have all these CDs downloaded onto your computer of course…), test drove them at home for seamlessness and mood, burned them to a CD and brought them into the office. These are terrific, if you have the time to make them: all the “best of the best” songs from albums you could never play in their entirety during session.

Next and final: “How To: Pick Good Music: Kristen’s Picks”

What you just read is not my fault. It’s because my friend, colleague, co-conspirator and pants kicker Rowan Blaisdell talked me into it, and also, because I cannot resist a write-off: 31 Posts in 31 Days August Blog Challenge, Business Blogging School. Caution snuffed, perfectionism cast off like a smelly cloak: this is blog #10.

How to: Pick Good Music.Ask Yourself

{cont. from How to: Pick Good Music.Intro} There are two things underpinning your massage: the linens your client rests upon, and the music you play. Both should reflect your high standards, and your best intentions.

Here are some questions to ask about your music: whether you’re listening to something new, or imagining what you might like.

(By the way, since I’m writing all these blogs as part of the August Business Blogging Challenge, I have been getting terrific feedback. Xerlan Deery said “I do let the client choose the music.” I totally agree. So here are two ideas for this “How to: Pick Good Music” series:

  1. If I’m suggesting stuff that doesn’t work for you, of course, please ignore me and write your own blog on how YOU pick good music! I’m all ears! (literally and otherwise!)
  2. If you suggest music to your client, and they want something else, always defer to them, unless it’s a style of music you just can’t stand. Some clients want to bring in Motown and if you can do massage to that, give it a try. It’s fun. I’ve also had long-term clients bring in a capella choir music and hip-hop yoga chants and that has been fun too.)

What instruments do I want to hear?
I prefer music that provides warmth and depth: music that reflects the touch I wish to give. I enjoy music that has the same emotional quality as the human voice, or the voice itself.

If you feel the same way as me, chances are you’re looking for real instruments playing the music, not synthesizers (although I totally break this rule with one of my favorite genres: zero beat!) so maybe the best instruments for you would be:

  • piano
  • cello
  • flute
  • human voice (no identifiable lyrics, we’ll get to that in a moment)
  • guitar
  • violin

A piano/cello duo, gentle guitar improvising for a whole hour non-stop, simple piano with sweet melodies: all good stuff, relaxing and easy on the ear…and heart.

Why no lyrics, Kristen? Or popular music? What, you don’t like my Norah Jones?!

NO. LYRICS. Intelligible ones, that I can understand. (The music of Wah!, Deva Premal and Rasa is an exception: highly devotional and all mantras: not English, in other words…and I play each of these artists in session, depending on the client). I don’t want to hear songs I know, or listen to lyrics, when I get a massage.

Here are some of my favorite titles.

Here are some of my favorite titles.

When popular music is used in massage, the client’s memories and intellect are engaged. Suddenly the session isn’t about them relaxing and letting go, but now they’re thinking: either about why they like this song so much, or why they don’t. For someone like myself, who has performed a lot of music, the minute I hear an identifiable song I’m doing the lyrics in my head or analyzing the interpretation I hear. That sucks. I don’t want to be doing that in session, but I can’t turn it off my brain…and neither can your client.

Popular music (such as Norah Jones, or Eva Cassidy, or whomever….good grief, I’ve had massage where the practitioner wanted to start in with James Taylor of all things….didn’t even ask me how I felt about it) is bad news because the session becomes what the music you’re playing brings up for them, not about them letting go of whatever they came into the room with. So, save it for in-between clients music, like I save my Leonard Cohen and Neil Finn for changing over linens and reviewing files.

(And, need I mention that quite a lot of popular music has romantic connotations: and love songs are not appropriate in a professional massage therapy session. If you can think of one that is appropriate, please let me know? I will send you a cookie in the mail. Seriously. I could listen to Eva Cassidy all day but if anyone puts “Songbird” on during my massage they will get asked to choose something else!)

What kind of deeper questions can I ask of the music I’m hearing?

What kind of music would you choose for a client who has just lost their spouse of 35 years, and a young computer tech with chronic neck/upper back and chest tension? Would you play the same music for both? Yes, of course you could. Maybe you even should.

A small catalog of pure gold: all my favorite CDs (yes I still use CDs : ) right on my desk for easy selectin' and grabbin'.

A small catalog of pure gold: all my favorite CDs (yes I still use CDs : ) right on my desk for easy selectin’ and grabbin’.

But then again: maybe you shouldn’t. Here’s a few ways to review what you’ve got, to see if it matches up with who you’ve got coming (you do pick out music specifically for your clients, right? Oh Lord, please tell me I’m not the only one. Yes, I take a few minutes reviewing the clients of the day and their music preferences, and I get their preferences queued up. Is that a problem? I didn’t think so. Moving right along…. : )

  • Check out the song titles and the album artwork – do they resonate with you?
  • What is the composer/performer going for? Whatever he/she is aiming for, like it or not, that’s what your session will be about.
  • Are most of the songs slow and meditative or are there some real surprisingly energetic ones that won’t work during session? (Orinoco Flow, anyone…?) Secret Garden and George Winston are just like Enya, in this regard. I love love LOVE their music but suddenly: an Irish jig! Ragtime! Aghk! Not the end of the world, but jarring. These albums are best edited for your own massage mix CDs, which I will explain later.
  • If there are some more upbeat ones, are they still compatible with your work?
  • Are the songs in mostly a major or minor key? More important than you might realize, but consider the emotional state of your client. “Afterglow” and “The Spirit of Yoga” are two of my favorite albums but I can’t play them for certain people: overall the songs are in a minor key, and too pensive for anyone struggling with depression or grief.
  • Is there a lot of percussion? Is the drumming too prominent/too insistent? Bells dinging away? A riff that’s annoying rather than inspirational?

What if I clearly do NOT like the same kind of music you do, and yet I hope you enjoy my massage?

Silence is an option. A very good option. I’ve done this, and found it deeply restorative. I would rather have silence than anything not relaxing: like, James Taylor, which for me is cloying on good days and anathema on bad. (The practitioner playing it was very proud of the fact that he didn’t like “massage music.” The truce was: silence! BOTH of us were happy. )

Next installment: “How to Find Music You Like

What you just read is not my fault. It’s because my friend, colleague, co-conspirator and pants kicker Rowan Blaisdell talked me into it, and also, because I cannot resist a write-off: 31 Posts in 31 Days August Blog Challenge, Business Blogging School. Caution snuffed, perfectionism cast off like a smelly cloak: this is blog #9.

How to: Pick Good Music.Intro

Here begins a small primer on selecting not just average music for your massage therapy work, but really good stuff. This is for beginning practitioners, as well as seasoned professionals, who wish to look at “massage music” a little more in-depth, and give the role of music-in-session the status it deserves: the third presence in the room.

Let’s be clear: as a professional massage therapist, you do everything you can to make your session the very best it can be. You work at your office environment, getting everything just so:  you pick out your table, your linens and bolsters with a critical eye. “When my client comes in, will all of this make them feel like they are in the hands of a professional, who cares about their comfort down to the smallest detail?” is a question you may ask yourself.

You pick your oils: your lighting. Signage, business cards, business supplies. Stuff for when they’re warm. Stuff for when they’re cold. Stuff for a cold: lozenges, mints, tissues, hand sanitizer. (Yes, you do think this far ahead.)

You finally have a client on your table, and you’re ready to go to work. And, with the best of intentions, you put on the classic: the beautiful: the highly-lauded: Enya’s “Watermark.”

Enya's "Watermark" 1988

Enya’s “Watermark” 1988

It’s all going well – “Storms in Africa” is a little dramatic for the moment, but the music goes back to soothing, melodious, dreamy. And then: it happens. NOOO! NOT “ORINOCO FLOW”!  Your client, supine, opens their eyes briefly, stiffening as “SAILAWAYSAILAWAYSAILAWAY” blasts through the room. And you practically trip over your own feet, trying to get to the volume button and or click over to the next track as quickly as you can.


If you’ve been there/done that like me, know I empathize and that I’m here to help. The fact is not all music that seems befitting for massage actually works for massage, and not all music labeled “massage music” is going to be what YOU want for your session. Quite the opposite.

I began my quest for good massage music at the outset of my career, 13 years ago. Thousands of sessions later, I have a honed, toned catalog from which I can select with specific clients in mind…and every year I add to it.

“I love the music you play in session,” is a comment I frequently receive, and my response is, “I am very fussy about what I play, so I’m really glad to hear that you liked what I chose for you today.” And I make a note of their preference in their file!

I am a musician, myself. I grew up singing and playing piano. I sang four-part harmonies with my family, choir music in high school, show tunes in college, and the great American songbook all through my twenties and thirties. I am sensitive to music, and what it does – and doesn’t do – in a therapeutic setting.

Beginning — and ending, yes, please lord make it stop (awesome pop tune but dreadful surprise for a bodyworker) — with “Orinoco Flow.” Yikes.

Okay, that’s the intro, and now we’ll continue on to: “Deeper Questions to Ask About What You Play” and from there “How to Find Music You Like” and then “Kristen’s Personal Picks.” Which you probably won’t need, because you’ll have already answered a lot of your own questions with the previous installments. Nevertheless, I’ll put my own list out there, just in case. So you’ll have it handy. (Besides it gives me a chance to gush a little about some artists I’ve been listening to for years who have never let me down.)

What you just read is not my fault. It’s because my friend, colleague, co-conspirator and pants kicker Rowan Blaisdell talked me into it, and also, because I cannot resist a write-off: 31 Posts in 31 Days August Blog Challenge, Business Blogging School. Caution snuffed, perfectionism cast off like a smelly cloak: this is blog #8.