Massage is the Healing Art of Touch
Massage therapy is inherently sensual. The therapist's trained hands understand the muscle groups and fascial tissue that can seize and cause pain to the client, and kneading these muscles with skill can provide immense relief. The client must trust the therapist and yield to the treatment.
Comfort with this level of intimacy varies widely from patient to patient. Body image and modesty are serious considerations, so the therapist must approach the treatment with the highest level of respect. The goal is for the client to become fully relaxed and to focus on the treatment.
Helping Clients Feel Comfortable
The personal comfort of clients seeking massage therapy is the first and foremost consideration. As soon as they arrive at the clinic, they should feel at ease. It may be their first experience with massage, and there might be some degree of nervousness.
A warm greeting is the first step in that direction, followed by a brief interview about their complaint. How can massage help them, especially if they are new to the treatment?
In many parts of Canada, clients fill out forms to describe their condition. It’s useful to understand their issue prior to treatment, and to address any apprehensions they might have. Clear communication between the patient and therapist is crucial.
Talk About It
Let the client know soon after they arrive if they are expected to undress entirely or remain partially clothed. Ask what they would prefer. Let them know how the process typically unfolds, and offer instruction about using towels or linens as covers once they are on the treatment table. Tell them what you are going to do in terms of adjusting the drapes to expose the treatment area.
This kind of relaxed conversation will help prevent any awkward moments, and make the client feel more at ease. For many clients, a massage may be a totally new experience, so it's helpful to put yourself "in their shoes."
The Art of Modesty Draping
Modesty draping is the technique of using folded sheets or towels to cover the client's body, except for the area being worked on.
A sheet folded once is twice as thick.
Percale sheets provide good coverage to parts of the body not being worked on. As sheets age and undergo dozens (or hundreds) of washes, they tend to become increasingly sheer. This compromises their effectiveness as modesty drapes. Keep a fresh inventory of new massage table linens on hand so the client is assured of their privacy.
Cotton towels and bath sheets also provide excellent modesty draping, and they may stand up better to spilled oils, lotions, and gels. The thickness of terry cloth cotton naturally provides a soft, yet opaque barrier for the client. It also keeps them warm.
Drape as You Go
While working on the shoulders and upper back, the folded sheet or towel can be used to cover the lower back, buttocks, and upper legs. Without exposing the client's full body, it can then be folded under to expose the lower back, and so on.
After the Treatment
After the treatment, it’s kind to allow the client private time to themselves, and to get dressed on their own time.
It’s useful for both parties to discuss the effectiveness of the treatment. How do they feel? Is there improvement or relief?
Consider providing the client with an opportunity to relax after the treatment. Share a cup of tea or offer them a parting gift as a small gesture of appreciation and bonding.
Following up with a phone call or text a few days after the treatment is a great way to keep in touch and build strong client loyalty.
Ethics and Professionalism for Massage Therapists
This excellent book by Dr. Cidalia Paiva has just been released in its new second edition. With over 100 pages of new content, the book discusses key subjects such as boundaries, informed consent, and privacy, among many other topics. The book is considered mandatory reading by many RMT instructors.
With an empathic approach that puts the comfort of the client first, massage treatment can be a rewarding and healing process.