One of the biggest acts of self care is setting your policies and procedures and learning to enforce them in a way that supports your values. It also helps create the framework for the therapeutic relationship. When clients/potential clients know where you stand and what they are responsible for it shows them where your boundaries are and helps to create a safe place for them. Creating policies and procedures is about creating boundaries for yourself and your business to protect yourself, support yourself and to provide the best care for the client.
This is one of the hardest things for massage therapists to understand for some reason. Many massage therapists want to just be flexible and set their hours around clients schedules working Saturdays, Sundays, evenings and holidays. That might work if you don’t have a life or family/friends that you value spending time with. It may even get you a lot of clients but when you really take a look at those clients ask yourself if you feel energized and nourished working these hours or do you feel depleted and find it hard to go in at those times.
Some of the things that you need to carefully think about and outline in your policies and procedures are things like:
- Hours of operation
- No show and cancellations rules and fees
- Policies around being late to an appointment
- Policies for behaving on the table and off the table.
- Policies around payment and setting fees.
- Policies for the level of engagement you have with clients.
While these things may seem like just simple things to do they can have a powerful impact on your business.
Setting Your Hours of Operation
When you set your hours of business around what works best for you and your values it is self care. You have needs to spend time with family and friends and to live your life. When you set your hours around a clients schedule and do things like go in at the last minute or accept a client when you had plans to go to a play or something like that it is giving away your self. When you do things that violate your own values (boundaries) you will end up feeling drained or in the worst case resentful. This usually will lead to burnout in your career.
Taking the steps to enforce your policies is taking a step in building your own self esteem. It is also a process and won’t happen overnight. You may in the beginning see yourself taking clients at all hours of the day, night and weekends thinking it is what you need to get by. You may see yourself letting clients get away with not showing up for their appointments and letting things like that slide. It is OK to do that. I am not saying that it is wrong to do that in any way. It is all a part of the learning process of becoming a successful massage therapist.
No Show and Cancellation Fees
Setting a no show and cancellation fee is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your client. Letting your client know that your time is valuable will let them know you demand respect. It also helps them to take their health and wellness more seriously. Letting clients run all over you timewise can be draining and frustrating. I have a whole page on no show and cancellation fees.
How to help clients get the most out of their massage session.
Massage therapists seem to complain a lot on Facebook about the problems with clients who talk too much, demand too much or are just frustrating to work with. Part of the problem is that the therapists have let the client get away with it for so long that it gets too draining for them that they usually end up wanting to fire the client and want to brag about it on Facebook.
Letting clients know that this is a massage session and that the focus is on their body and that they are paying you for a massage – not to be their therapist or sex worker.
You can let clients know by having a page on your website and/or a handout at your office that gives them suggestions for getting the most out of their session. Many people on the massage table are also put into sort of a trance state through touch and are unable to speak up even about simple things like is the room too hot or cold or is the music great or awful. Include this option in your article and other things that you want in your sessions.
Setting Your Fees for Massage therapy and enforcing payments
People need to know what your fees are and they also need to know that you raise them accordingly. People who pull the old ‘oh I forgot my wallet’ and I will pay you next time and then the next time turns out to be a month or a year need to be held accountable.
People who complain about raising your rates often bring up interesting issues. Long time clients who say they support you and your business may balk at you raising your rates saying things like… I am such a regular client you should give me a discount. When you enforce your payment policy and fee increase, you risk losing clients. You have to be prepared for any consequences to setting boundaries.
Should you become friends with clients or should you work on friends/family members?
It is inevitable that you will have such regular clients that there is no way to avoid becoming more like a friend. You will hear about their lives and families that you will often become more of a part of it over many years. You will work on their spouses, parents, children and their friends. You will grieve when they leave or pass away.
Working on people who are your friends already or family members always seems to bring up boundary issues too. Your friends and family may want you to work on them for free. It is often when they want the work for free that your boundary goes up and you think…no I am not working for free. At other times when a friend or family member is in great need, you happily work on them for free. Setting boundaries around this will involve seeing how you feel on a regular basis.