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Massage Today
February, 2010, Vol. 10, Issue 02

Communicating the Importance of Frequent Sessions

By Ben Benjamin, PhD

Question: How do you get a person to come two or three times a week to work on an injury? It's often tough to get a client to come once a week.

Answer: I am often asked this question by practitioners who are new to orthopedic massage. Working on people who have pain and injury problems is quite different from performing relaxation massage. Relaxation massage therapy might be effective if the client comes once a week, twice a month, or even once a month -- depending on the degree of stress the person's body is under.

In order for orthopedic massage to be effective, the client usually must come a minimum of twice a week, and sometimes more frequently. However, the sessions often can be shorter in duration; they are frequently just 30 minutes long.

If you take the time to set the context of your work, getting someone to come two or three times per week is not that difficult. What do I mean by setting the context of your work? Most therapists are anxious to get the client on the table and start working on them right away. When dealing with a pain problem, that's not the best way to begin.

Before doing any hands-on work, it's important to establish the therapeutic relationship -- take a slow and thorough history, do an assessment with whatever testing methods you use, talk to the client about the type of treatment you suggest and give the person plenty of time to ask you questions. This is all I do in the first session. At that point, I tell the client I want them to think seriously about whether or not they want the treatment. I tell them that it's a big commitment. I also explain that I don't take on any client unless I believe I have a good chance of being able to help them. Then I outline how I expect the treatment to progress.

For example, I might recommend the client come for one-hour sessions twice a week for six to eight weeks. Once they start to show improvement, I'd cut the sessions down to 45 minutes. As they continue to show improvement, I'd see them once a week for a while, and then once every other week. Meanwhile, I would be teaching the client exercises to do on a daily basis, and in certain cases, I might suggest they see a nutritionist for some dietary counseling.

After providing all of this information, I ask the client to think about their decision for a few days and then give me a call. Only if the person has absolutely decided to get treatment and insists on making an appointment right away, do I go ahead and give them an appointment at the end of the initial assessment session. Proceeding in this way helps to ensure that before clients begin treatment, they fully understand and agree to the time commitment that is necessary to enable their injury to heal. If an individual has a financial constraint, I will, in certain cases, take the person on for a nominal fee. If my life doesn't permit me to do that at the moment, I will refer them to someone else trained in orthopedic massage.

Click here for more information about Ben Benjamin, PhD.


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