Due to its benefits becoming more widely known, an increasing number of people are booking massage for the first time ever. Unfortunately, many seasoned bodyworkers are so accustomed to their routine that they easily forget about the fears often accompanying first time massage recipients. For many people, the idea of taking off their clothing to receive a touch-based therapy from a stranger sounds to be anything but relaxing. However, therapists who are sensitive to a first time recipient’s anticipation can help these clients feel at ease right away.

Massage therapists commit to long hours of learning and log in countless practice sessions before they even enter the professional arena. By the time their career is established, most bodyworkers are completely comfortable and trustful of intentional, therapeutic, physical touch. However, this comfort level with touch therapy is not shared by everyone. Considering the concentrated focus massage therapists must have on how the human body’s form and function impact health and wellness, they may not always be thinking of a client’s massage worries. Upon learning that an upcoming session is your client’s first massage experience, directly addressing several common uncertainties can help them relax so they can have a positive experience.

Some unknowns that could be anxiety-provoking to massage newcomers, include:

  1. Should I take off all my clothes? – Casually informing a client to take off as much as they wish is usually too vague for a first-timer. If you offer massage where the recipient is clothed (such as Shiatsu Anma), make sure to provide this as an option for anyone potentially shy about disrobing. Otherwise, describe the clothing options in detail, such as leaving underwear and bra on or taking everything off. Make certain you explain that, regardless of what the client wears, he or she will be professionally draped to fully conceal his or her private regions.
  2. Should I assist? – A person unaccustomed to massage may be unsure about assisting the therapist when a part of his or her body is lifted or moved. To prevent this uncertainty, explain that, unless specifically requested, clients should resist any attempts to help you. Furthermore, encourage recipients to be a limp noodle in order to support the session’s therapeutic benefits.
  3. Should I speak up? – Make sure to ask your client what his or her goals are for your session, and to keep you informed if he or she is uncomfortable with your degree of pressure, the temperature of the room, etc. Because newbies might be shy in conveying their needs, periodically ask your clients how they are feeling.
  4. Should I tip? – While the answer to this question depends on your employment situation, tipping policies should be shared with all clients. Although this may be uncomfortable for some massage therapists to address directly, most first-time massage recipients don’t know if tipping is appropriate. A discrete sign explaining a standard tip percentage if a client is pleased or describing any other type of tip policy removes the awkwardness associated with not knowing what is expected.
  5. Should I chit-chat? – A common question first-time massage recipients have is whether or not they should talk to their therapist during a massage. At the onset of a massage, directing clients to close their eyes and relax helps put many people at ease. While most people enjoy meditating or forgetting about their worries during a massage, some will chit-chat to mask insecurities and nervousness. Gentle encouragement to focus on breathing and/or directing a client in some guided imagery (see article 5 Tips for Combining Guided Imagery with Massage) are great tools to help someone relax and forget about his or her conversation concerns.

Preemptively addressing these five common preoccupations of a new massage recipient helps ease the first time jitters. Once someone relaxes into receiving a treatment, massage’s therapeutic benefits can really take effect – and chances are you will have gained a new, regular client.

Recommended Study:

Ethics: Therapeutic Relationships
Shiatsu Anma Therapy