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Practice Management 101

By Jenn Sommermann, LCMT

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Oh, The Places You Will Go

Massage therapists are notorious for not taking their own advice. Most of the therapists I know tell me they are too busy or can't afford to get regular massage. When asked, "When was your last massage?" I am often answered with a rolling of the eyes and the statement, "Way too long ago." Why is that? Schools train students that consistent massage has lasting benefits, and on an intuitive level we know it to be true. We advocate for our clients to schedule weekly, bi-monthly or monthly at the least, for their own benefit (and for the benefit of our pockets) yet most therapists don't walk the walk. In fact, I know therapists who lie to their clients so they don't have to admit they don't care for themselves the way they recommend their clients do. It's nothing short of madness.

Since the two greatest objections to receiving consistent massage are time and money, you must overcome these obstacles on a personal level if you expect your clients to do the same. How can you ask your clients to do something you are not willing to do? And if you've read any of my other articles or blog posts, you will recall that these objections of time and money are a CHOICE. After all, don't most people have the time and money they need for the things they value most? If your clients are not willing to spend time and money on massage, you haven't convinced them of the value. Moreover, you are not convinced in the value of your services and your profession if you don't receive regular bodywork yourself.

massage therapy - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Let's drop the money argument right away. There is no reason for you blame finances on your lapse in getting regular massage care. Barter it. You have a valuable service and most therapists would be thrilled to set up a trade. Remember, as per Internal Revenue Service regulations, bartering is considered taxable income but that's a topic for another article. Look up and type "barter" in the search bar for more information. Personally, I prefer to pay for services instead of bartering. The boundaries are cleaner as I usually don't work on the therapists I see for care. I also don't have room in my schedule for additional clients so fitting in a barter appointment would prove more stressful than paying out of pocket. Each situation is different, but with the option at your disposal, the money barrier is swiftly removed.

Time is a factor that you control. Sure we could all use more time. There isn't a person I know who isn't "way too busy" and desperate to find more hours in the day. Make caring for yourself a priority or sooner or later, you'll be useless to everyone. Many therapists start carrying a grudge after years of caring for clients and not caring for themselves in similar ways. These grudges can show up in your hands. Don't have time for a full hour massage? Get a chair massage or schedule a half an hour. You know the drill; find a way to fit it in. Enough said.

When asked how often I get massages, I can honestly look in someone's eyes and say, "every two weeks." I have done that for the 20 years I have been practicing with very few exceptions. Once a month I go to my regular therapist. She is consistent, works my injuries and knows my body very well. I rarely pay attention to what she is doing and often drift off to my happy place. Once a month, I go to someone I have never been to before and will probably never go back to. Even if I like the person, this experience is more research for me. Learning about the industry, picking up new techniques, I pay very close attention to every detail of the experience from the initial phone call to the exit interview.  In fact, I often don't confess my profession so I can be incognito. For some reason, when it is discovered that I am a massage therapist and educator, the conversation and the treatment changes.

Moreover, I like to get massages from other places in the country and the world. Whenever I travel, I take advantage of seeing a therapist that trained elsewhere. Technique and overall approach varies dramatically based on geography and I find the experience fascinating. Because I travel so much, I often find myself in airports with time to kill. This provides an excellent opportunity for a massage. Just last week, I was blown away in Atlanta by a woman who promised to make my feet "lighter than air" and get me to my flight on time. Her attention to my schedule meant I didn't have to look at my watch or be concerned about my departure. This was all part of the experience and as a result, she received a handsome tip. As promised, I floated to my gate after the treatment.

You may not travel as much as I do, but I guarantee you'll find yourself out of town at some point. Don't miss the chance to experience someone else's work. Don't miss the chance to take care of yourself. It is sure to be a positive experience for your body and your mind. And to quote one of my favorite doctors, "Oh the places you'll go."

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