Understanding massage client relationships will help you in building your massage business just as much as any marketing plan or website. In learning about client relationships and learning to develop them you will be learning about yourself and your own needs -personal and business needs. When you are doing your best work, people will gladly refer their friends and co-workers too you without any other incentive.
Developing relationships with your clients means that you understand your role as a massage therapist and are able to set boundaries to support yourself. Boundaries are often thought of as being something that keeps people or things out of your life. Boundaries are actually what help you in valuing yourself and developing your self esteem. It is also what allows clients the space to heal.
It is a process though and doesn’t happen overnight. It will be ongoing throughout your career. You can get support for yourself through working with a supervisor or creating your own peer group.
Learning to set boundaries
Boundaries are the way to create a business that supports YOU as the business owner and protects the client. It is about setting boundaries to protect and preserve the therapeutic relationship that occurs between a massage therapist and the massage client.
Some of the challenges will be things like:
- becoming friends with clients
- charging what you need to make a good living
- setting cancellation fees that support you in making a living
- learning to enforce your boundaries yet maintain compassion
- setting your hours and services
- dating clients
- caring more about clients that you forget to take care of yourself
You will also be faced with many different types of ethical dilemmas that you will need to sort out one by one. Ethical dilemmas occur when people challenge your boundaries and you are not clear on what to do. Each situation will be different and can have a different answer. Each person has their own values that influence their decisions around boundaries. Ethics are not a straight forward answer as many seem to think. Laws are created to create stricter boundaries for all, but they can also be interpreted differently by each therapists.
Because massage clients come to massage therapists in a vulnerable state being in pain or under stress and also because they are in some state of undress under sheets lying on your massage table it creates a special dynamic called the therapeutic relationship. To really simplify the concept – it is when clients basically unconsciously or consciously think that you resemble a parent or early caretaker and act in ways that are based on that. It arises because people feel an imbalance of power and look up to you as a massage therapist to help them. It creates a sort of victim mentality and can interfere with healing or getting better. The way to healing is actually by creating boundaries that can help clients learn about themselves.
Learning about the process of transference and counter-transference will be an ongoing part of your massage business. It is helpful to get support in the form of supervision to help you in your career choices.Explore Books on Ethics on Amazon
Originally written Aug 10, 2010. updated Aug 4, 2020
Christine Andrew says
I’m writing as a potential massage client. I’ve often thought I’d like to have a massage everyday because massage helps me to feel healthy physically and mentally, but somehow I’ve been afraid that most therapists would think badly of me if they gave me a massage every day, considering me to be overindulging myself–and become resentful of me for that. I would be grateful if some therapists would comment frankly on that–on how they would feel, honestly, about giving a daily massage to someone. Does anyone deserve such luxury in your view?
Julie Onofrio says
I wouldn’t think that at all. If you can afford it, go for it. Bob Hope supposedly did that. It isn’t luxury. It is a necessity. I would probably go to different massage therapists just for different experiences.
thanks for asking
I’m a massage therapist myself and I wouldn’t mind massaging a client every day if that’s what they needed. You may want to consider every other day or three days a week instead only for health reasons, or start that routine before moving to every day.
As massage therapists, we judge far less than people think. I think, as a group, we’re very objective thinkers.
Corina Morser Graham says
I would like a massage every day too ! Ha ha ha. I have been massaging for almost 20 years. I had a very physical job prior. I worked as a meat wrapper and meat cutter. Very fast paced, lots of lifting, standing 8 hours day, 10 days straight, and repetitive movement that can create injury. Bottom line. You know your body and what it needs. If your in pain, massage helps. If its emotional pain, massage helps you relax. I had a massage 5 days a week in massage school for 6 months. I had a lot of scare tissue from my job and I worked out at the gym 2 hours a day 7 days a week for years. I was in great shape “Olympic Shape” but I also had lots of scare tissue. I had injury treatment focused massage in school for another 6 month. My body felt so healthy. I felt like I had a new body after being in massage school for 1 year. SOOOO…. After all that I would say ( get a massage 3 x week for 2 weeks and see how your body feels, then 2 x week for 3 more weeks and see how your body feels then get massage 1 x week for 3 weeks and see how your body feels ). The consistence will make a big difference in your overall health. Then go one month before getting a massage and see how your body feels. Then 1x month for maintenance. If you have pain maybe you need to go every 3 weeks or every 2 weeks. If you have high pressured job, 2 massages a week is good plan. Or like me multiple stresses some good some bad, massage has always help me regroup and keep going. For me in a perfect world, I would get as many massages as need to get healthy and then 1 massage weekly to stay healthy
( because massage therapist wait to long because their taking care of every one else). I get a massage about every 4 month, not good. If I do a bunch of gardening, hiking or a sport activity or I get and injury than I would get a few extra massage to get back to feeling good. If I go to long and carrying my pain around for days or weeks or months then it will take more massages to get back to feeling good. The only time I would say no massages every day is if you have a crush on your therapist and that’s why you want to be there ! Blessing and stay healthy. P.S. you might want to go to massage school if you love massage so much. Massage school is a place where people go to heal and then they help others heal. 🙂
Good advice on Massage client relationships. It does take awhile to find the right clients! I get tired of the men who ask for happy endings ! They are bold aren’t they ???! I tell them we are done here ! I then don’t see them ever again! It’s taken me years to find good respectable clients! I still am always working on building and searching for the right ones !