Have you ever had an experience where a company promised the moon but delivered a pebble? It is disappointing, to say the least! Our relationships with our customers are based on trust. If we live up to our promises, that trust will build. The therapeutic relationship will deepen, allowing for greater therapeutic success.
As therapists, we make both spoken and unspoken promises to our clients. We must be aware of both, as it is our responsibility to guide the therapeutic relationship with honesty and integrity. It is also important to recognize the difference between a commitment you make to the client and an expectation the client may have. Client expectations, when left unmet, can also be disappointing for the client. However, the therapist may not always be aware of these expectations and may not have had the opportunity to clarify which expectations are unrealistic. Good communication between the therapist and client can often help avoid this situation.
Promises can include a variety of factors. Here are a few that I have encountered as both a client and a therapist.
It may seem obvious, but if you promote therapy as “60 minutes” or “1 hour,” a client will expect 60 full minutes of massage. Many therapists actually offer 50-minute therapies, with 10 minutes being scheduled for the client to get on and off the table. Either way is fine, but make sure you have clearly communicated what to expect to the client. Ideally, the clarification is in several places, including the service's description on your website, brochures, and verbally at intake.
Many practices charge different prices for different therapies. For example, a Swedish massage may cost less than a Sports massage. You may also have a client who used to receive Neuromuscular therapy from a competitor or another therapist within the same office. Just as there are distinct differences between Swedish and Sports, there will undoubtedly be some variation in the way the two different therapists perform the same therapy. Regardless, the core characteristic of the requested session should be identifiable by the client. No one wants to ask for Neuromuscular or pay extra for Sports and get a Swedish session instead.
Clients look forward to receiving their massages. They schedule in advance, put it on their calendars, and count the moments until they receive their therapy. When therapists canceling or are late for appointments, it can result in the client feeling undervalued. No one likes to feel undervalued. Without question, there are times when something out of our control comes up, and we have no choice but to reschedule. In these cases, it can go a long way to call the client and explain the situation instead of texting or emailing.
I make it a policy never to promise results. The therapeutic process involves much more than just the therapist’s skill. You can be an incredibly skilled therapist but still not help a client with their treatment goals. Instead of promising to relieve this or that pain, it can be a better idea to make sure you understand the client’s goals for treatment and commit to working with them toward those goals.
What other commitments or promises do you feel occur within the therapeutic relationship, and how do you ensure you live up to them?