There is no such thing as an average day, but it's a good idea to examine events in which you are likely to be involved. It is important to consider responsibilities that coincide with these events. Just remember that experience is your best teacher. By palpating, listening, questioning, and massaging, you will further develop your skills and knowledge, which promotes competence and confidence. You will learn that mastery comes not only in the doing but also in the deciding. Many small decisions are made in the course of a workday.

Now, let's focus on the time frame beginning when you report to work until the client arrives. If at all possible, it is a good idea to arrive 30-60 minutes before your first appointment. Check messages, return calls, check and respond to emails, look over your schedule, pull and review client intake forms etc. It is a good idea to contact each person the day before the scheduled massage to verify the appointment; this reduces confusion about appointment times and minimized "no shows."

Next, check your massage table. Are the knobs that connect the table legs to the tabletop loose? If so, tighten them. Dress your massage table and prepare your room for your client to experience the ultimate ambiance-view your room as a client would. When your client enters the room, have the music playing, the lights dim, the room warm with a nice inviting smell, having the room visually appealing and ready to go.

Let’s discuss how to prepare YOU for the massage. Wash and dry your hands as well as your forearms with warm water. This not only sanitizes your hands, but warms them up as well.  Spend some time preparing yourself mentally and physically for each massage. Grounding and centering yourself should be an integral part of your therapy session.  If you feel distracted and not present with your client, then you will not be able to give the best massage possible.  Breathing and body movements are some techniques that you can use to prepare yourself.

Using a mirror, critique your own appearance. Is your hair in place? Are your lips and nose clean? Next, are your nails trimmed, neat, and clean? Is your breath fresh? Are your pockets empty of keys and loose change? Have you removed your jewelry? Is your cell phone put away or turned off?

Greet your with a smile, making eye contact and him or her by name. People love to hear their name! If this is your first time to meet the client, introduce yourself and escort the person to the area where the intake will take place. Always be calm, confident, friendly, caring, courteous, and attentive in the presence of your client. The therapeutic relationship that you build with your client will evolve over time and it is built on a foundation of trust and good communication skills, which build rapport. To show respect to the client and the relationship, avoid using tobacco in any form during work hours. This includes in between massage sessions. The smell of tobacco is offensive and ESPECIALLY to nonsmoking clients. Therapists are unaware of their tobacco odor; it can be detected on their clothes, hands, hair, and linens.

If your client is new, ask them to fill out the intake form and be sure to obtain consent for treatment. If the person is a previous or regular client, then review your documentation notes from previous sessions and record any feedback from the client. Next, perform any assessments that are related to the treatment and the client’s needs/requests that were gathered from the interview. Explain to the client what will take place during the session and why.  Ask the client if they have any questions and if so, answer them to the best of your ability. If you do not know the answer to a question or if you are unsure, tell the client that you are unsure, however you will research it and get back with them. You are trying to build a rapport based on good communication as well as trust and it is better to not know than to give an answer than is incorrect.

Before you begin the massage, address the client’s care and comfort needs such as room temperature, blanket, or the placement of bolsters or pillows.  Remind the client about the importance of being relaxed and offering feedback during the massage.

It is very important to stay within the length of time for the massage session that was determined by the client. These are scheduled anywhere from 30 minute to 120 minute increments.  Focus on the client’s areas of complaint, however do not make miss any areas that were requested to be worked on and be sure not to make the massage feel rushed.

While your client is dressing, wash your hands and write any progress notes.  Ask the client for useful information that can be used in documentation such as “Do you feel any change?” “Has your pain decreased?” “Has your range of motion in your neck improved?” “Has your headache gone away?”

Have any information that you wish to give your client.  Information sheets can be anything from tips on how to use ice, heat, self-massage, relaxation techniques, the importance of increasing water intake etc.  Without the educational element of massage therapy, the massage session may be no more than an expensive Band-Aid.  Avoid just putting out fires; show clients how to prevent them and get them involved as well as excited about taking care of themselves.  It is best to offer your client a glass or bottle of water right away.

Collect fees if you have not already done so, and ask the client if they would like to reschedule.  How often a client schedules a massage can be HIGHLY influenced by the therapist but is determined by the client.  Massage rarely resolves issues in one session that have been bothering clients for years.  Depending on his or her health concerns or situation, it is best to suggest/recommend massage either weekly, biweekly, every 3 weeks or monthly.  Let them make the decision of when they think they should receive massage and how often. This way you are educating the client to develop a maintenance program, avoiding coming only when they are in pain.  This approach also builds trust and confidence between the client and therapist by empowering the client.

It is highly important that you take care of yourself so that you can be your optimum best to take care of others.  Eat right, get plenty of rest, exercise, drink plenty of water etc. Spend time doing things that not only you enjoy but relax you also.  Schedule a certain amount of time off each week and get regular massages yourself.  Remember you cannot give away what you do not have and that recharging your own batteries is VITAL!!!  “Though I am grateful for the blessings of wealth, it hasn’t changed who I am.  My feet are still on the ground.  I’m just wearing better shoes.”  -Oprah Winfrey

Sherri Drackley
Massage Therapy Instructor
Fort Worth Campus