Supervision is a fairly new concept in the massage profession and the word is often very confusing to many. When I am talking about supervision for massage therapists, I am referring to the concept of clinical supervision – the process of working with a more experienced massage therapist to get the support that you need in your career – no matter if you are in a job or running your own business. It is a place to help process the work you do with clients so that you can be more supportive and effective as a massage therapist. It can help you stay on track in the face of many challenges in working with clients and building a business or in a job environment. It can help reduce the chances of burnout and increase your chances of success. Supervision provides a container that holds the helping relationship that a Massage therapist has with a client. The primary purpose for supervision is to protect the best interests of the client which in turn is really what will help you to be successful in a career in massage.
I found supervision back in around 2001- or rather it found me! When I first heard the word Supervision, I was confused too and I often wish there could be another word for it. Many think of the act of supervision as it is used in the workforce – someone telling someone what to do. Clinical supervision is the direct opposite. It does not mean that you are doing anything wrong! It does not mean you are not competent! It does mean that you are serious about your career and understand the value in getting support and asking for support!
The process of supervision is all about you and what you need at any given time.
It also includes taking an in depth look at why you help which is a core part of being a massage therapist. Exploring these motives can help you to set clearer boundaries that support you and your work. It will help you clarify your own needs and learn to get them met outside of your massage career so that you can allow yourself to be more client centered which is an important part of healing. You can learn that you are a channel for healing as each person has within them their own powers to heal and be happy. Knowing your own needs is also a basic component of money management and making money. Many massage therapists will feel guilty charging for what they do because massage is so wonderful, it of course should be free and available to everyone. It is also always a constant challenge to have the clients that you need.
Having regular supervision sessions can also help you understand who your ideal client is and work towards attracting them to your practice. An ideal client will understand and value massage first off. When you work on less than your ideal client, it is common to feel drained or even resentful. This can show up when having to deal with clients who always want a discount or don’t show up for an appointment or are always late for appointments. This also may involve eventually turning clients away who are less than your ideal client which will also bring up many feelings and issues.
Our work as massage therapists is also so personable that it brings up many relationship challenges, transference, dual relationships and other issues such as:
- Being friends with clients
- Trading services with clients
- Dating clients
- Wanting to give advice to clients
- Clients not wanting to speak up
- Thinking that you know what is best for them
- Clients having crushes on you
We also want to help others as much as possible and often will give up things like lunch hours, money and other boundaries thinking it will help get or keep a clients. Knowing your own needs and being able to make decisions that support them and learning from various challenges can actually help you to more effective in your work and business success.
What happens when you do not have the support you need is that you may feel more stress from working with clients and end up in some stage of burnout with injuries, depression or feelings of resentment that get in the way of your work as a massage therapist. It can be beneficial to use supervision right from the beginning rather than waiting for burnout or a very challenging situation. The best time to attend to burnout is before it happens. Supervision is just the attention massage therapists need to keep burnout at bay and be successful at what you do.