Submitted By D.M., LMT
One of my regular clients was 30 minutes late for her session for the first time in 7 months. She called first, saying she had a difficult day, but will come in and get whatever time was left. When she arrived she was crying; a loved one was dying and she didn’t know how to let go. Because of the trust she has in me, she talked and cried openly. I said to her, “I’m sorry,” and asked if she wanted/needed a hug. With her head she said “yes” and hugged me. I asked her if she still wanted her massage, and I also explained to her that, due to her situation, she will not be charged this time. She said, “I want my massage, I need it.” She cried through her session and I tried as much as possible to be sensible with her pain. I noticed that she was clearing the tears from her eyes, so I asked if she would like me to leave one of her arms out of the sheet and she said yes. When the session was over and she stepped out of the room crying, she said to me, “Thank you so much, I feel better now and I know I’ll be fine after I let go, but it is just difficult.” I told her, “You’re welcome. I know how you feel.” I was referring to 2011 went I lost 5 loved ones in 3 months, one after the other, and I was disabled by the pain, unable to live my normal life. As Massage Therapists we must remember that we heal the body and soul, to be sensible, to be human.
If you were confronted with the same situation again, how might you handle things differently?
Response from D.M., LMT
Every client is different; they have different needs and daily life situations just like us. I believe I handled this situation the correct way by being sensible to my client needs and providing a therapeutic massage. I may handle another situation like this one differently depending on my client’s needs. My next crying client may be angry and mad because the loved one is leaving them, so I’m sure I will not offer a hug to that client.
Response from Institute for Integrative Healthcare Studies
Massage therapy is one of those professions that has connections to many different facets. While restricted to the limits of a scope of practice, the very nature of massage creates an intimate connection to clients. They not only share their physical aches and pains, but also often they will share their emotional ones. Clients will talk about what is happening in their lives, their spouses, as well as their children. They will share the emotions felt about birth, illness and death. They will complain about work or financial struggles.
Even if it is not the intention of the client to discuss such things, once they are receiving massage they often relax and let down emotional barriers. A person who has dealt with domestic abuse or abuse in childhood may suddenly remember things not thought of for 20 years and have an emotional release. It is said that the body remembers what the mind forgets.
It is important for massage therapists to have some basic knowledge about the psychological connection to bodywork in order to know how to deal effectively with an unexpected emotional crisis. Sometimes a referral to a support program or psychologist is in order but, sometimes, like in the above example, a simple hug is all it takes.
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