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Massage Today
February, 2008, Vol. 08, Issue 02

Learn to Trust Your Gut

By Jenn Sommermann, LCMT

Many of us come to this field because we are intuitive by nature. We have strong instincts when it comes to helping people, and massage has become a natural adjunct to that; an extension of our intuition. But often, we are put in a position that causes us to question our judgment. Moreover, we often are employed where we cannot act on our judgment but have to work within the prescribed parameters of an employer or establishment. This worries me greatly. When we lose our right and our ability to trust our gut and act on our best judgment, even if it counters what our boss says, then we have lost control as health care providers and our profession in general. It is up to us to stand our ground, but more importantly, it is our duty to educate our employers so that no harm comes to our clients.

Many employers, nowadays, are not massage therapists. Spas are opening at alarming rates and businesspeople are the ones running the show. They do not know massage. They have not studied contraindications and pathologies. Their frame of reference is based on numbers and profit margins. I understand that and there is nothing wrong with it. I, too, am a businesswoman and am always concerned with a bottom line. However, when it comes to the client's health and well-being, I wish more employers looked to massage therapists for guidance around treatment and care. After all, this is their area of expertise. I am generalizing and this mutual relationship is starting to occur, but it is slow going.

This is what has prompted this article. A massage therapist called me the other day to discuss something that happened at the spa where she works. She considers herself a deep-tissue, medical-massage therapist. In her previous life, she was a registered nurse and still combines these worlds in her care for clients. She works at a spa, but the majority of her work is therapeutic and medically based. This is her passion. You may be thinking, "Then why is she working at a spa? Aren't the clients who go to spas there for relaxation and general Swedish massage?" Well yes, and no. Who are spa clients? People who just recovered from cancer, who have heart conditions, who have had strokes and are diabetic. The bottom line is that there is room for every type of therapist in a spa setting.

A client was "sold" a deep-tissue, medical massage at the urging of a receptionist. No history was taken. No pathologies were discussed. The receptionist felt that this "package" would be suitable for this client and charged accordingly. Note that the price for this service is one of the higher prices at this spa. During the verbal intake conducted by the therapist, it was discovered that this client had inflammatory joint disease, varicose veins and osteoporosis. Clearly, deep tissue was not the right course of treatment. The therapist acted accordingly and worked conservatively. She further educated the client that the massage he had purchased was inappropriate for his condition. "Then why did the receptionist sell it to me?" Put in a position to defend the spa and the receptionist, the therapist did her best but never should have been put in this position to begin with. Ultimately, the client was happy with the care and it all worked out.

Here is how I see this situation improving - education. As authorities in the field of massage therapy, especially in the absence of any other trained professionals, it is up to us to educate the employers and any staff that may work with the clients. This may not seem easy and may even be met with resistance. But don't we owe it to the clients to not only provide them with accurate care but also make sure they are paying for what their health history warrants? Be proactive and approach your employer. Tell him or her that you would like to be able to educate the staff so that each client gets the best possible care. In the end, that is good business.

Trust your gut. Work within the parameters of the client's condition, regardless of what service he or she purchased. Educate those that "sell" the services and educate the spa owners as to how beneficial this will be for the overall business model. It's up to us.

Click here for previous articles by Jenn Sommermann, LCMT.


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