Have you ever worked with a client that sucked the energy out of you? Most therapists have, whether they realize it or not. These especially needy clients often don't even realize that they are "attacking" their therapists.
Within the massage world, you may hear these clients referred to as "energy vampires." I choose not to categorize them this way, but instead to view them with an empathetic heart while at the same time protecting myself from the forces that want to drain me, transfer unhealthy energy to me, or that want to harm me in any way.
As a therapist, you can protect yourself and your energy by mentally preparing before each massage session and utilizing centering practices. The cost of not protecting yourself could include exhaustion, physical pain, sadness, nausea, dry mouth, headache, and an overall lack of emotional and physical energy.
Considering the alternative, centering practices should be included in all basic massage therapy programs so that students can practice the techniques and learn to protect themselves early in their careers.
Fundamentally, therapists must understand that compassion for the client cannot take precedence over self-preservation. Practitioners who understand this do not tend to absorb their client’s pain. This saves them from ending their sessions with stiff necks, limited range of motion, and other symptoms transferred from their clients.
Therapists to fail at this task cannot take care of their own energy needs and may eventually become so drained or pained that they must cancel, reschedule or cease to provide massage.
Students in my Mind-Body Integration courses often ask how I do such deeply emotional work without becoming drained. I tell them that they don't need a magic formula to successfully protect themselves from clients who want to drain or transfer energy. To me, it's really about understanding that the client is separate from yourself. What is theirs, and what is mine. I don't confuse the two.
Personally, I have a mantra that I say before every session that helps remind me that I am separate from the client, that I am only here to help the client as much as they're willing to be helped, and that the client’s energy is not to cross the invisible barrier that I imagine between them and myself. This is my practice, it works for me, but each therapist must develop their own protection protocol.
Below is a list of books that I have found valuable in helping me understand energy in the body, the development of self-awareness, and finding the centering necessary to protect myself from not only clients but also friends, family, and coworkers could deplete my positive energy.
Emotional Freedom by Judith Orloff
Positive Energy by Judith Orloff
The Psychology of the Body by Elliott Greene and Barbara Goodrich-Dunn
The Mindfulness Solution to Pain by Dr. Jackie Gardner-Nix
Molecules of Emotion by Candace Pert Ph.D.
Energy Medicine and Therapeutics and Human Performance by James Oschman
Energy Medicine The Scientific Basis by James Oschman
If you are interested in learning more, please tune in Wednesday, February 29th at 9 pm CST for my interview with The Massage Nerd himself, Ryan Hoyme! You can watch the show at www.Ustream.tv/channel/massaged, or if you would like to ask questions in the chat, sign-up for a free account at www.Ustream.tv.