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Massage Today
January, 2014, Vol. 14, Issue 01

Do Your Clients Know How You Can Help Them?

By Ann Brown, LMT

When I meet someone, my self-introduction takes several steps. First, I'm a resort spa director. And I'm a licensed massage therapist, a nail technician and a cosmetologist. I put my credentials in order as to how I see my day-to-day duties and my business priorities.

I want people – especially our spa clients – to see my business priorities and expertise. The list shows my history of moving through the spa industry and building my career but, more importantly, it shows our clients they can trust I know what I am talking about.

When clients have an issue they need help with, they often don't know what they need or why they are in pain. As an LMT, you know what presents itself is rarely a surface issue. Put yourself in your client's shoes. They may not know what questions to ask or who has the answers they need. Or they may not even know that some of their habits and patterns might lead to problems now or in the future.

In April 2013, I dislocated my jaw from a piece of candy that got stuck on the left side of my upper and lower teeth. Immediately, I knew I had either fractured or dislocated my jaw from the fireworks that went off in my left ear.

I spent the next three weeks on a 100 percent liquid diet and in complete silence, and my recovery has really been quite a process to say the least. For any of you massage therapists that do TMJ/jaw work, you know this is a very unique area and must be handled with care. I have seen two dentists, two chiropractors and tried unsuccessfully to find a therapist in my area that had some jaw specialty.

massage - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark It wasn't until a recent trip to Florida to visit my 84-year-old mom that I finally found some real help. An industry friend referred me to an LMT that understood the jaw area and was trained in multiple modalities that might be able to help me with keeping the jaw tracking right and give me some insight to what the future might hold and if it might ever be back to normal.

The two 90-minute sessions were really fantastic, not just from the actual therapy performed, but also because of how much I learned from him. The sessions helped me to really uncover some patterns in myself. This LMT was able to connect the dots in a way that made me feel confident he would not hurt me and believe I could do something to improve the situation. I felt my clenching had done the most damage prior to the dislocation but, until these two sessions, I had no idea so many other structural issues were challenging to my recovery.

I think so many of us hold on to fear and physical and even emotional pain that, until the right therapist, referral, education or dialogue comes along, we tend to stay in a bit of paralysis. I almost don't like admitting it, being in the spa/wellness/massage industry, but even I was hesitant and a bit fearful going into the session with the LMT in Florida. I heard so many different opinions over the last seven months and I was confused myself as to the proper treatment that I was really unsure about a good outcome. I think I was able to trust this therapist based on the referral, his credentials, the terminology he used, the way he explained things to me about me, and his professional touch and ability to sense my pain and know my areas of concern by touch.

In our profession, we need to communicate with clients and build their trust. It is a tough field to find the right balance between relaxation/pampering and therapeutic work and a realistic guest expectation and outcome. To truly achieve results, it is imperative you clearly define who you are so the client can trust who you are. Share your bio, your mission, vision, education and specialization so a client in need can find you and put their fears at bay as you work together to reach a positive outcome. And then take it from you to them, ask the right questions, find out their goals and what might be holding them back from reaching them. I find a good communicator can almost do anything they put their mind too and this may take some practice or just asking everyone the same three to ten questions and starting to understand what the answers mean to them.

Most of us walking around in our 40s and up have some "things" going on that a therapist can really access and help us with remedies to achieve pain reduction, alignment and slow deterioration and help us realize poor patterns we almost don't even know we have. I am not suggesting that anyone go beyond the scope of massage, but even I am guilty of having body patterns that contributed to my jaw dislocation. I needed someone to point this out to me. My problem didn't stem from a piece of candy. It was some clenching and a left foot problem and a few other things I am aware of now and am working on to make sure my body stays as balanced as I can allow.

The experience has reinforced for me how we as massage therapists have a duty to give feedback and to help clients with their concerns. Communication is paramount. Asking the client their concerns and overall goals for any session is critical in a positive outcome.

Does your client know who you are and what you specialize in? How, when and where are you telling them? Do you walk your talk? Do you give homework? Do you know the goal of each of your clients? Can you help inform them about their body? I was lucky to find a therapist I was able to trust by his reputation, referrals and his credentials and his hands-on presence. I have learned so much about me from a jaw problem. I feel blessed, after my liquid diet, that I can chew and speak and now have a plan that addresses so much more than my jaw. I almost feel it is a gift to chew slowly and take my time at my meals, silly to think a dislocation of my jaw could provide some much good feedback of ways I need to improve. Our massage industry can help clients with wellness and prevention and slowing or turning around some ailments. I know I want to help, don't you?


Ann Brown, a licensed massage therapist, is a member of the International Spa Association's board of directors and serves as spa director at Spa Shiki at The Lodge of Four Seasons in Lake Ozark, Mo. She also provides management consulting services through Spa Insight Consulting.

 

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