Although just receiving a massage can be beneficial to a client, therapists who incorporate education into therapy sessions offer clients a better understanding of where and why they feel the way they feel. Many clients are unaware of where they store stress and tension in their bodies.
Therapists have an opportunity to cultivate self-awareness by teaching clients techniques to recognize and release stress and tension. These skills then become available to the clients in their everyday lives.
For example, a therapist may have a client stand in front of a mirror before undressing for a session. At the same time, the client is looking at themselves. The therapist can point out postural distortions (this shoulder is high, this hip rotated). Then the client closes their eyes and is asked to feel the distortions.
When the client is on the table, the therapist can build upon the exercise's self-awareness by pointing out tension related to the postural distortions. Additionally, by teaching clients to "talk to the tissues," therapists can facilitate the awareness of musculoskeletal imbalances and give clients a valuable tool to release the imbalances between sessions.
In one such "talk to the tissues" technique, the therapist asks the client to carry a message to the cells holding tension/pain/trauma. It goes something like this (the "good job" comes on the exhale):
"Take a deep breath in, guiding your breath straight to where my hands are holding... Good job. As you breathe in, feel this area expand and as you breathe out, feel the tension begin to release."
"Now, as you breathe, in I want you to use your breath to carry a message to all the cells holding the tension. As your breath drops off oxygen to these cells, it quietly whispers, 'I feel you. I am listening, and I appreciate all the work you do for me. I permit you to let go of any tension or pain you are ready to release. Let the tension flow to my breath so that I may carry it away for you.' Good job."
Make sure to ask the client's permission before facilitating a "talk to the tissues" technique. It is also important to be compassionate when identifying areas of concern and postural distortions to clients. It can be hurtful and inappropriate to make comments like "wow, you're a mess"! Instead, tell the client that the more they understand how their body holds tension, the more capable they will be to release it!
What techniques do you use to teach your clients about their bodies?