As a massage therapist, it can be a challenge to manage client expectations. You might have a client who attempts to control every aspect of your session by telling you what to do and where to go, keeping you from getting into your flow. Even worse, after you complete the session they manipulate you into getting a little bit more massage here or there, even though their time is up.
This type of client can be frustrating, energy draining and ultimately lead to resentment and burnout. You are a massage therapist, uniquely qualified by your training, and experience, so I don’t want that for you.
Here are 4 of my favorite tips to help you deal with challenging clients so you can keep doing amazing work and be recognized (and paid!) for your skill and expertise.
1. Lead the Session
As a licensed massage therapist, you must lead your session from the very beginning. Set the stage to be the leader so your client will want to follow you.
Sometimes, people want to control because they don’t trust you yet. It might be the first time they’ve worked with you or maybe they’ve had a bad experience in the past. Use a confident tone and set the agenda so your client knows exactly what to expect.
Communicating clearly and often throughout the session really helps to put them at ease.
Here is an example of setting the agenda for a client:
The first thing we’re gonna do is gonna release all these muscles around the back and that’ll relax the body enough. If we work the neighborhood around your area of concern, then your body will let us in even faster, with greater ease and less recovery time.
When your client understands what your game plan is, they don’t have to be in charge.
Use an assessment prior to beginning the bodywork to show them what you see and let them know you’re going to assess them again post-treatment. When that is complete, you’ll be making recommendations for how they can continue with any progress you’ve made in the session.
Use a confident tone, set the agenda and pre/post assessment to establish trust with your clients.
2. Cultivate Neutrality
Feelings of frustration, overwhelm and low energy can be signs to indicate it’s time to cultivate neutrality.
Cultivating neutrality means that you have taken care of yourself. Your cup is full and you are ready to give. Here are some things you can do to for self-care:
- Fill yourself up with nutritious food
- Prioritize good sleep
- Consistent exercise
- Meditate and say your prayers
- Chant before your sessions
Use these tools to get into your center. They can support you in understanding where a client may be coming from. The goal is to expand your ability to consider and have compassion for what might be going on for them at this moment. You will have the capacity to hold space for them.
Practicing self-care is one of the best ways you can support your clients.
3. Balance Healthy Boundaries and Nurturing Care
In Lomi Lomi Hawaiian massage we learn to meet people where they are on the spectrum of wellness. Clients who make demands and continually try to control the sessions may not know HOW to relax.
Hearing “Just try to relax” may be triggering because they feel they are being set up for failure. Let’s give them something they can do to participate in their own wellness and set them up for success.
Help your clients get into a place of empowerment. We want to flip the script from controlling to empowered, so one technique is to begin the session with three deep breaths.
Ask your client to take some long exhales. Invite the spirit of Aloha in that divine breath to come all the way down through the body. Create a visualization so they see each breath pouring over any areas of tension in their body.
Everybody knows how to breathe, even if they don’t know how to relax. This is an easy way to get them in the mood and set them up for working together with you.
You can also lead them through a meditation or visualization. When you get to a spot with a lot of tension say, “Let’s work together to support the release of this.”
Have them visualize a space in which they feel the most relaxed and supported. For example, lying on their back, floating in the ocean, feeling weightless.
Another option, ask them to imagine they’re under a waterfall. With each exhale, feel the water coming down and crashing from the crown of their head out their fingertips, out their toes. Imagine it’s moving all or any stagnation out the fingertips and the toes.
When you help your clients to visualize, you help them use their mind to find a place of meditative relaxation. They will be able to keep going back to that place whenever they feel stressed or out of control.
Lastly, you can give them something to do. Sometimes, an assisted stretch or a verbal prompt to contract and release a muscle group allows the client to participate in the work. Suddenly, we are working together instead of resisting one another.
Lastly, I love to just educate my clients on what Lomi is all about. I share the process of how we work and when we will address their areas of concern.
- Working through the layers from light to deep
- Using the breath
- Engaging and working together to bring the body into alignment.
Leading your clients means sharing the process. Teach them to use the breath, visualizations and movement so they can be empowered to have more control over their own body in a positive way.
At the end of the session, tell them the next steps in their healing journey. Your clients will be way more likely to follow your recommendations because you’ve demonstrated your skill and mastery.
Lead your clients with your expertise. They will come to trust you as a trusted advisor, get amazing results and be happy, repeat clients for a very long time.
Now, I’m curious…How do you get your client to relax? What are some of the ways that you support your client? Leave a message in the comments below.
Kumu Jeana Iwalani Naluai