As a general rule, massage therapists have chosen their profession because of their love of the human body and desire to help others feel good in their own body. Hardly anyone chooses to study bodywork in hopes of working 80 hours a week and earning a top tax bracket income. Nonetheless, marketing and growing one’s massage therapy practice repeatedly proves itself as the biggest challenge for many bodyworkers. There are classes you can take, people you can hire and jobs you can land that might keep a steady stream of high paying clients seeking your services. Although these strategies may work, there is also a fun, playful approach you can take if increasing your massage therapy business describes your desire.

The Playful Plan

Based upon the understanding that what you believe becomes your reality, a massage therapist can guide him or herself toward having a full practice with his or her imagination. By continually pretending to have the size and type of practice desired while being grateful for it, the universe has no choice but to deliver it.

The more a person engages in the motions of his or her mental game, the more he or she will believe its validity. Skeptics may think this imaginary game is bizarre; however, most successful business owners know the true value of mental creation. Each therapist’s vision of what he or she want will be unique, so consider these ideas for creating your ideal practice a template to be creatively altered just for you:

First, picture your ideal client load per day and per week. Then go through the motions of tending to your clientele including:

  • Using props, such as preparing any paperwork you would need for those clients.
  • Send yourself emails reminding you of your imagined schedule.
  • Write thank you notes to your real and imagined clients for their patronage.
  • During the hours when you hope to be booked, spend time by your massage table moving your body as you would when giving a massage.
  • Create imaginary clients in your mind with specific health issues and develop a treatment plan for each person. Move your body around the empty table and pretend you are administering that treatment.
  • Proceed like this each day as if you already are seeing your ideal client load.
  • Recognize how good it feels to have the practice you want and be thankful for each client – real or imaginary.

It is easy to see where this game is going; the more realistic your play becomes – the closer you are to it actualizing. However, be forewarned of its two conditions. Proponents of this method agree that it only works if you enjoy your imagined game and are grateful every step of the way.

The Reality of Placebo

Knowing about the placebo effect can help those trying to understand how this ‘build your practice game’ could possibly work. Reports in nearly every area of medicine have confounded the scientific community by claiming the effectiveness of various sham treatments. Placebos have helped alleviate pain, depression, anxiety, Parkinson’s disease, inflammatory disorders and even cancer.

Neurologists, psychoneuroimmunologists and psychologists have all been studying the brain for the past few decades to try and understand what exactly happens during the placebo effect. Although there is still much to uncover, investigators have decoded some of the biology of placebo responses, demonstrating that they stem from active processes in the brain.

A study by Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer provides some evidence that what we believe becomes reality. Besides challenging basic assumptions about the relationship between the physical body and the mind, Langer’s study also challenges assumptions about the nature of objective reality and the limits of the placebo effect.

By studying hotel maids, Langer looked at the perception of how much exercise someone gets and how it affects his or her body. Upon surveying hotel maids, Langer found that despite their jobs consisting of lugging heavy equipment and getting continual physical activity, about two thirds of the survey respondents reported not getting any exercise.

Even though the women in her study far exceeded the U.S. surgeon general’s recommendation for daily exercise, their bodies did not seem to benefit from their activity. Upon measuring the maids’ body fat, waist-to-hip ratio, blood pressure, weight and body mass index, the researchers found that these indicators matched the maids’ perceived amount of exercise, rather than their actual amount of exercise.

A month after informing one group of maids that the calories burned in their daily work tasks already met the surgeon general’s definition of an active lifestyle, they had a 10 percent drop in blood pressure and improvements in their weight and waist-to-hip ratio. Those who were not educated about the physical benefits of their job had no such changes. This outcome represents another application for the placebo effect. According to Langer, if you believe you are exercising, your body may respond as if it is.

For building a massage therapy practice, game-playing utilizes the same concept as Langer’s experiment. By adjusting your perception of how busy your practice is through imagination and prop utilization, enjoying the process and feeling grateful for your imagined success, you will be amazed at your ability to attract more and more clients into your daily schedule.



Byrne, Rhonda, The Power (Unabridged Audio CD), By Making Good LLC, Simon & Schuster Inc., 2010., Hotel Maids Challenge the Placebo Effect, Alix Spiegel, Retrieved January 15, 2010, NPR, 2011., Placebo Effect: A Cure in the Mind, Maj-Britt Niemi, Retrieved January 15, 2010, Scientific American Mind, February 2009.