When I sit down with a client and ask them how best I can help them today, the first thing that is on my mind is how best I can provide for them the space to be comfortable, not just on the table, but in communicating with me their desires, discomforts and anything else that might come up during the session. Then I promptly forget everything they say, put on my black gi, sneak through their ear into their mind and through my psycho-ninja superpowers I perform the best massage they have ever encountered.
And I have a bridge to sell you. However, the last sentence in the previous paragraph is a humorous example of a partial myth that I would like to comment on: Massage therapists have psychic powers.
As a massage therapist, I am trained to touch people. Whether it is deep, fast, light or slow, my job is to seek out the physical (and sometimes energetic) aspects of a person’s body and help change them in ways that the person cannot do themselves. By touching a person in a manner called palpation (the Wikipedia article was just too clinical for my tastes), I am learning about the quality, position, texture, shape and general feel of the tissue and making decisions as to how to work on it. This is a marvelous skill that I am very grateful to have been introduced to and is certainly a key element to my work.
It does not make me psychic, unfortunately, and I still need more information. The best way this is achieved is by watching my client and listening to them. Clients, this is where it is most important for you to say something and mean it. Tell me what your goals are for the session, show me where you have been hurting or are stiff, promptly inform me when I am doing uncomfortable work.
When I ask you for feedback, it is because I want to know that I am making the experience comfortable and safe for you. If I am working at a pressure or depth that is not to your liking and you do not speak up, I am going to keep working in that manner because you have not said anything, not because I ‘know what is good for you’. If you suck in your breath and tense up, I need to know from you whether you mean ‘ouch’ or ‘hurts so good’.
Verbal feedback is important to the therapeutic process, especially with new clients. The reason I can work on repeat clients with less verbal feedback is that we have already established what their physical reactions mean. It is a learning process for both of us and I believe that, even for the lightest, most palliative sessions knowing that I am providing the experience you want to the best of my ability is one of the best ways to help me do my work. The session is all about you: help me make it happen.