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  • Writer's pictureKirby Clark, MMT

Finding The Right Therapist

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

Keeping in theme of new beginnings and first-time massage clients, I wanted to expand on a thought I mentioned in this month’s previous post- how to find the therapist that best fits you! This can be a struggle, especially if you’re visiting a spa with many different therapists to choose from. It can even be tempting sometimes to throw in the towel and not continue to seek massage therapy services. But I am here to tell you that the right therapist is out there, you just have to find them!

Gender I add this one at my own hesitation. While gender is one of the most acceptable categories to filter therapists through while booking a massage, it has its drawbacks. One client recalled their booking experience with me, “when I called, they asked me if I wanted to book with a female therapist or a male therapist, I said ‘whichever one can give me the best massage!” And I think that kind of genderblind attitude is the appropriate response to have in regard to your massage therapist. It’s the 2020s; gender is at worst, a social construct, and at best, a spectrum- not a binary. Be that as it may, I also realize and respect that gender is very important to some people. Some clients think men give better massages; some clients think women do. In the end, a therapist’s gender has nothing to do with the quality of massage they can provide. Some clients however feel more comfortable with a therapist of their opposite gender, some feel more comfortable with a therapist of their same gender. That is a completely different preference, and one I think is valid. As a therapist, I remind myself that I may never know the experiences a client has gone through that shapes their massage preferences. Anything in the world could have happened to make them more comfortable with one gender over the other- and no matter what the situation is, their comfort is valid and takes priority over everything else.

Skills/Training/Experience Not every massage therapist was made the same. We’re all trained differently, we’ve all worked with different clientele, and we all have affinities for different kinds of massage. If you’re coming in for specific bodywork, ask when booking if your therapist is especially qualified or adept at that kind of care. Whether it’s a significant body region that needs attention or a specific modality you particularly like. You may also inquire about how long your therapist has been practicing massage therapy. Some client’s feel most comfortable with therapists that have been in the career for a good chunk of time, others like to help fresh licensees build their craft. It all depends on your specific needs as a client.

Specialized Modalities Not many people realize this, but massage therapy is a license and therefore requires continuing education hours in the renewal process. There are limitless different studies that a therapist can take continuing ed. hours in. A massage modality is a particular approach or style of bodywork, and there are myriad modalities out there! Some modalities are more geared toward rehabilitative work, some are more grounded in relaxation and spa-like- some are a little of both. Some modalities are based in western approaches, others are derived from traditional eastern practices – some combine the two. However, just because a therapist has a certification in a specialized modality, that doesn’t make them an expert in the area. For example, I have a certification in Reflexology, so I have a basic grasp on the subject. But I would not feel comfortable advertising myself as a reflexology therapist until I gain additional hours of study in the modality.

Language Barriers/Specialized Needs If you’re a client who requires additional special assistance during your massage or if a language barrier is present, you should make a note of that while booking your appointment. This can be as simple as letting your coordinator know that you’re currently prenatal, which requires supplemental body supports and a specific approach to the massage. Or letting us know that you’re booking an appointment for someone who speaks little English, in which case the spa may have a therapist who is bilingual. Personally, my Spanish is limited and poor, but I am often more comfortable than some of my colleagues in working with clients who speak Spanish. Or you may be quadriplegic and need extra help getting on and off the table. The more prepared you can make your therapist before the massage, the more efficiently the session will run.

And finally, a word about Deep Pressure vs. Deep Tissue Many clients come in the door with a common misconception that deep pressure and deep tissue are the same thing. And while there’s certainly room for the two to overlap, they are not the same thing. Deep Tissue is a modality and specific approach to massage with its own techniques. Deep Pressure is just how much force the therapist applies any massage modality. Your therapist can apply deep tissue techniques with light or medium pressure- in fact, I often do. And conversely, if you want deep pressure that doesn’t always mean you’re getting “deep tissue” techniques. If you want deep tissue work, inquire about your therapists training and experience; if you’re looking for deep pressure, make sure your therapist can comfortably provide deep pressure throughout the session beforehand.

It can be overwhelming and discouraging to get a massage that wasn’t 100% satisfying, but I promise that the therapist that’s a perfect fit is out there for you. Hopefully with these few things in mind, finding them might be easier with a little extra effort when booking.

Peace and Healing,

Kirby Clark, MMT

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