You Want to Be a Massage Therapist? Be Prepared for Some Unique Challenges

No job, no matter how much you love it, is not without challenges. Besides the usual service provider-client issues, including no shows or last-minute cancellations, clients expecting more for less, and difficult clients, there are other challenges that come with being a massage therapist. Some of them unique are to the profession. Knowing how to deal with them will have a significant impact on your success and professional satisfaction.

Here are a set of common challenges massage therapist deal with and what to do about them.

Pinpointing the problem: When healing is your goal, the more you understand about a client’s pain and expectations, the more effective you will be. But not everyone is a great communicator. For starters, not all clients understand the range of massage treatment options and so may ask for one type, which may not be effective for solving the problem. Other clients may fail to disclose an injury – such as a shoulder injury – which puts you at risk of causing further damage.  

During the intake session, be very direct in asking what problems the client is hoping to resolve and probe about previous injuries. Just in case a client is not forthcoming or does not think the injury is important, back yourself up with massage therapy insurance in case of a liability suit.

Bad hygiene: It is not every profession where a client’s hygiene issues can make the job “at hand” unpleasant or even unsafe. A client may have an issue with body odor or of greater concern, a rash or foot fungus, which has not cleared up. If the situation causes you worry, especially if there is a potential to contract the condition and/or pass it on to another client, have a polite but direct conversation about rescheduling. Choose words that show respect for the client but still convey your concerns.

Physical demands:  Massage therapy is physically demanding: It is important to set boundaries and care for yourself to enjoy a long and successful career. Take care of yourself physically on the job with proper ergonomics, which also means listening to your body when it tells you to take a break or slow down. Also, get enough sleep, stay hydrated, exercise, and eat right.

Emotional drain: Clients bring their problems to the session. Empathy is powerful and can contribute to healing, but you need to find balance. Being too empathetic can potentially distort your perception of a situation. Avoid getting too connected to any one client at the expense of giving your full attention to the needs of others.  When you bring empathy to the table, you can increase the potential for healing. Just be sure that it does not get in the way of your professional objectivity and excellence.

Free service: Friends and family members may want to take advantage of your skills for free and at their convenience. If you decide to provide service for free to family and close friends have them schedule appointments just as you would with a client.

Inappropriate client behavior:  Whether the issue is lewd comments or “seeing more than you need to” of a client sometimes you may have to deal with inappropriate client behavior.  If you deem the behavior inappropriate, tell a client to stop. If the behavior continues, you can end the session and ask the client to leave. If you are working for someone else, document exactly what happened and tell your supervisor.

There is a lot of satisfaction in being a massage therapist. Still, be prepared for some of the challenges that can interfere with your day-to-day enjoyment so that the positives outweigh the negatives.