Thai Massage is more than a collection of techniques
What might the elements of good Thai Massage therapy be? Let’s begin with some more technical elements – but we won’t stop there. Here are some suggestions:
Okay, that’s all fine and well, but… the list is missing one important element. What might that be?
It is YOU, the Thai Massage therapist. With this I don’t mean what you can do and what you have learned, but who you are as a human being and how you relate to your clients.
Let’s look at two examples.
A tale of two therapists
Let’s say there are two therapists who are equally skilled on a technical level.
One is the clinical type, the white-coated professional type. They keep their distance from the clients and make sure not to get entangled in any emotional or personal issues. They stick strictly to the professional routine and avoid talking more than absolutely necessary.
For this type of therapist, the client appears to be a collection of anatomical parts. Symptoms are only seen on a physical level, and talk of energy is rejected as unscientific and unproven.
The second type of therapist
Then there is a second type of therapist. These are warm-hearted persons who radiate good energy. They are kind, interested in the client, and willing to listen.
Such therapists are excellent communicators. They are willing and able to go with the flow to accommodate each individual client’s physical and even to some degree emotional needs.
Such practitioners instill trust and easily establish a good connection with their clients. In response, their clients spontaneously like them because they have an energy that in itself is an important element in the process of healing and well-being.
These kinds of therapists see clients as interconnected holistic organisms. They know how to move energy instead of just manipulating anatomical parts.
Which of these two types is likely to have an edge?
Chances are that the second type of therapist is more successful in getting repeat or referral business. They are better at finding the underlying causes of problems, are able to work on a more profound level, and have a higher rate of client satisfaction.
They add an energetic component to their techniques, they have good communication and social skills, and they use their intuition effectively.
Here is a disclaimer. I presented these two types of therapists as black-and-white examples for demonstration’s sake, to make it easy to see the difference between the two extremes. In reality, there is of course a wide grey area where the two types blend or overlap.
However, as a Westerner who has been living in Thailand for 20 years, I can spot those two types quite easily since I have one foot in both worlds.
The Eastern model of massage
The first type of therapist is more likely to be found in the Western world where the anatomical and clinical model is primarily taught and emphasized.
In Thailand, most therapists neither know about the clinical and anatomical aspects of Thai Massage nor do they care. All that matters to them is that their clients like the massage, that they feel better than before, and that they can help with their ailments.
The human element is naturally more important in Thailand. There is a lot more social interaction happening in Thai Massage shops compared to Western massage establishments.
Often the therapists actively try to strike up a conversation with their clients during the session. Thai Massage in Thailand is often as much a social event as it is a health treatment.
Another factor is that Thai Massage is often done in much more public settings compared to massage in the Western world. Nobody finds it strange to lie down for a Thai Massage on a mat in the middle of a busy market with hundreds of people milling around you.
Shades of grey in between Eastern and Western massage
Of course this is not a black-and-white issue. There are many highly aware and intuitive therapists in the Western world, and there are Thai Massage therapists in Thailand with zero social skills.
And both in Thailand and in the Western world there are a good many clients who just come to a massage session, and they couldn’t care less about energy or the therapist’s likability. They pay the fee, lie down, and that’s it.
Both in Thailand and in the Western world there are good and bad therapists and anything in between. But the fact remains that Western practitioners lean more toward the clinical, technical, and scientific side because that’s what is stressed in their education.
In contrast, Thai Massage therapists in Thailand focus more on holistic and energetic elements, plus the environment is more social and more easy-going.
Finding an edge with the human element as a Thai Massage therapist
My point is that the human and energetic elements play a much bigger role in massage therapy than we might think.
If you want to have an edge as a Thai Massage therapist, then it is probably a good idea to pay some more attention to the human and social elements in massage therapy.
If you want to develop a devoted clientele, if you want to remain in love with your work for a long time, and if you want to increase your chances of being effective, you need to go beyond techniques.
Knowing the technical skills of Thai Massage is just one aspect of your business. Your human skills and your social interaction can make the difference between a mediocre practice and a successful business.
My own story from the Thai Massage world
On a personal note, I met my Thai wife in a massage shop over 20 years ago where she worked as a Thai Massage therapist.
To this day she has clients from all over the world who love her massage skills just as much as her social skills and her ability to make clients feel welcomed and appreciated. Case in point from my own family!
Characteristics of good Thai Massage therapists
Such really good therapists know lots of techniques. They know how to modify them skillfully on an individual basis. They are excellent communicators. They are holistically minded, sensitive, intuitive, and can perceive energy.
They don’t just ‘give a Thai Massage’, but they know how to work therapeutically and help their clients with their problems.
They attract and keep clients easily, and they never stop learning and growing. And they are just really nice and pleasant people who naturally make clients feel comfortable, safe, and welcome.