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.