The massage hammer story
Recently I published a video in my “ Tips And Tricks” Thai Massage education series. In this episode I showed the use of a mechanical massage tool, a ‘massage hammer’.
When I posted the video on youtube, someone left a comment saying that the use of this tool felt like “cheating” to him, since the client paid for the use of his hands. He said that he would use this tool on a client, but he could not charge him for this time.
Here is what I do in my Thai Massage practice. I have a couple of quite large, heavy and stiff male clients who need intense work on the back, glutes and hamstrings.
When I initially introduced this tool, they both liked it. It puts out heat via an infrared lamp which works very well to loosen up tight muscles, and the vibrations are quite effective.
One of these clients asks me to use the massage hammer during almost every session.
He says “Why don’t you put the heat on this spot”. I cannot generate this heat with my hands, but the tool can.
Of course I don’t use it for the entire session, just as a supplement for 10 or 15 minutes of a two hour session.
Clients don’t pay for our hands, but for results and a good experience
This got me thinking about what clients really want from their massage therapists. In my experience they don’t pay for our hands, they pay for results.
It does not matter if those results come in the form of hands, elbows, knees, feet or a massage hammer.
The only thing which matters is if the client feels better after the session than before, if the issues have been addressed effectively, and if the client enjoyed the experience.
My youtube commentator who felt that this would be “cheating” only established a limitation in his own mind.
Actually just the opposite is true. My clients feel that I am the only therapist in town who provides such an additional service, who goes above and beyond your typical massage to get them the results they want and need.
The idea that this tool should only be used as a freebie after the ‘real’ session masks the fact that I had to purchase it and that I am able to use it quite skillfully.
Bottom line is: Clients do not pay for the use of specific body
parts – they are paying for results. If it feels good to them,
if it is effective, if it works, then it is appropriate.
After thinking about all this, I remembered several other incidents in my massage career where I learned that what clients really want is not necessarily what we as therapists think.
The reluctant energy worker
Once I had a client, a woman with serious lower back issues. This area felt stiff, frozen and lifeless. I did my usual Thai Massage therapy, working with my hands, trying to loosen it up.
However I felt that I did not make much progress. Then I intuitively felt that I should just place my hands on her lower back and run energy into it along with positive and healing intentions.
I did that for a minute or two, but then I started to feel guilty. Like my above youtube commentator, I thought that this woman was paying me to use my hands in typical Thai Massage fashion. So I stopped doing the energy transmission and kept on pressing and rubbing and rocking.
After the massage was over she told me that one part of the session was her favorite and had felt better than anything else. What do you think it was? You guessed it, it was the part where I just placed my hands on her back and ran healing energy into it.
My own mind had prevented me from doing what she had really wanted and needed. Her body was too locked up to respond to physical manipulations, but it responded well to an energetic approach.
I learned from this experience to keep an open mind, trust my intuition and not get locked into a preconceived notion what the client really wants.
The princess at the high end destination spa
Once I was working at a very high end and luxurious destination spa. One of the guests was a princess who was a real terror. She complained about every therapist, she did not like any of the sessions, and all the therapists were trying to hide from her. Finally I was asked to work on her since I had a different skill set.
I tried my usual Thai Massage therapy work, massaging, manipulating, rocking – she did not like it and started to complain. Then I intuitively felt like switching gears completely. I explained that her issue could not be addressed effectively with massage alone and needed a different approach.
Next I led her through an extended visualization session where she herself got to work on her issues. I have used this method on many clients when I felt it appropriate, and in this case it worked beautifully.
She had never experienced the power of her own mind before when directed by a skilled therapist. In the end she was happy with the session, no complaints at all, and I was glad I had found a way to help her with what she really wanted, not a treatment protocol, but results.
The massage client who had been gang raped
Once I had a regular client who had recently gone though the horrific experience of being gang raped. She had lost her trust in people, had nightmares and flash backs.
When I worked on her, she talked almost incessantly throughout the entire session. She told me the entire incident in detail, and her life story on top of it.
It soon became obvious to me that she did not really care as much about the massage. What she really wanted was a person whom she could trust, who would listen to her without judging her, and whom she could tell anything that was on her mind.
I never had to say much besides just acknowledging her and dropping a few positive words here and there.
She was a regular client of mine for a long time, and she kept up this pattern. I could have stuck to my rules and told her that talking this much would reduce the benefit of the session. But the point is that she did not care about the benefits of the massage.
She needed someone to talk to, and she was so grateful and relieved that I facilitated this for her. I am sure she liked my massage as well, but this was clearly not her priority.
She wanted a different result from what she officially paid me for. She needed to work off her anxiety and stress and fear by getting it off her chest, by being heard, and being acknowledged.
Should I have told her to go see a psychologist instead? No, she felt comfortable with me, and she got the result that she wanted. All I had to do is let go of my preconceived notion of how a ‘real’ massage session should be.
There are many ways to help people. With some flexibility and good intuition we can expand the definition of our massage practice in some cases to accommodate clients who need something ‘out of the box’.
All those experiences told me that:
- We as therapists don’t always know what our clients really want
- Our clients don’t always know what they really need
- It is useful to have some additional skills in addition to a typical Thai massage education
- We need to keep an open mind and heart to feel what is really best and needed for our clients
- We need to understand that clients don’t pay for our hands or techniques, they pay for results
The author, Shama Kern, has been specializing in Thai Massage education for 16 years. He is the the founder of Thai Healing Massage Academy and the creator of 20 Thai Massage online training courses.