While massage therapists customarily focus on enhancing therapeutic effectiveness, the importance of a session’s conclusion may be forgotten.
By Nicole Cutler, L.Ac.
All healthcare professionals know that leaving a good impression on their clients is imperative for encouraging return business. While there are many reasons someone would choose to regularly visit the same massage therapist, the memory of his or her massage experience is highly likely to influence future appointments. Since the way a client feels at the end of his or her session is the most easily recalled portion of a massage, a deliberately conceived closing sequence is a crucial element for a massage therapist’s success.
There are several things to consider when choosing how to conclude your massage treatments. Some important considerations include:
- Time Restrictions – Especially important when clients are booked back-to-back, be realistic about the time factored in for closing moves and how long it will take for clients to get off the table, dress and leave. A client who feels hurried out the door will remember being rushed and not feeling relaxed.
- Medications – Be sure you know what drugs your client is taking and how they could influence the post-massage state. Certain medications may amplify massage’s relaxation effects requiring stimulation techniques at the end of the session. Because some medications can leave clients dizzy or unsteady after bodywork, the therapist must take additional steps to help these clients off the table and make sure they are steady on their feet.
- Desired Effect – Depending on the setting of your practice and the kind of bodywork you do, gear your session’s end toward the massage’s purpose. For example, a goal of relaxation should be matched by ultimately relaxing moves at the massage’s conclusion while a goal of alertness should be met by finishing with stimulating techniques.
- Personal Touches – One way to make your massage stand out from the crowd is to embed personal touches into your routine. Since clients most easily recall the conclusion of their session, instill something special into the massage’s end. This could include what you do (a signature massage technique), what you say (leading the client in a meditation or giving him or her post-massage verbal instructions) or something you leave for your client (such as a bottle of water, healthful recommendations or a future appointment card).
Once you have considered time restrictions, client medications, your desired effect and personalization, there are an infinite number of ways to effectively end a session. Whether you welcome these ideas into your routine or they motivate you to think about your own closing moves, seven tips for concluding a massage are listed below:
- Scalp Massage – An informal poll indicated that massage recipients often look forward to a scalp massage at the end of their treatment.
- Rhythmic Rocking – Because rhythmical motion makes muscle tension difficult to maintain, this technique is known to prompt relaxation. Additionally, the lulling effect of rhythmic rocking may induce feelings of safety and trust.
- Long Strokes – After having different muscle groups worked individually, clients often benefit from several long strokes towards the end of a massage to help them reconnect with the entirety of their body.
- Meditation – Some practitioners guide their clients through a closing meditation. This furthers the recipient’s relaxation while recruiting the mind to support their session’s effectiveness.
- Repeating – By repeating a simple element from the session’s start, a client has the feeling that they have come full circle under your care. This could include breathwork, centering, a nurturing hold, acupressure point stimulation, or any other appropriate approach.
- Getting Off the Table – Since each person will have his or her own preferences and needs, have a plan for rising that can be customized for each client. Some massage recipients treasure a few moments to lie down before getting up to dress and leave. Others will be unsteady after a session and need your assistance to safely get off the table.
- Appreciation – Verbally letting clients know that you appreciate their presence is valuable. In addition to making clients feel special, it also confirms that you recognize their deliberation in coming to you and prioritizing their health.
Whether you are a veteran bodyworker or a recent massage school graduate, periodically evaluating how clients come away from your sessions will only strengthen your practice. After considering time restraints, the massage’s goal, your client’s medications and how you want to personalize a session, you can formulate an impressionable massage conclusion. These seven tips may fit into your massage’s finish or they could inspire you to come up with your own ideas. By helping clients feel great in their body, listened to and cared for, a great massage conclusion will guarantee your clients come back for more.
http://www.amtamassage.org/findamassage/tips.html, 10 Tips to Get the Most From Your Massage, Retrieved August 14, 2008, American Massage Therapy Association, 2008.
MacDonald, Gayle, Massage for the Hospital Patient and Medically Frail Client, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2004: 149.
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