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What I look for in a massage - a massage therapist shares her checklist

By West Norwood Therapies Team, Oct 12 2015 09:00AM

Our aroma-sports fusion massage specialist, Jennie Duck, shares her personal checklist for a satisfying massage experience

Part of my behind-the-scenes work as a massage therapist is going for massages…I know I'm lucky to have this as an aspect to my job! I have regular massages partly because I believe in what I do and I find that it is hugely beneficial to my body and mind – I can feel when I haven’t had one for a few weeks.

But I choose to go to different massage therapists and try to find new practitioners and clinics to visit. I find this really helps me to consider the experience from the client perspective – how you are treated as a new client and what specifically makes me feel comfortable (or not!) – and I usually come away having learned some new techniques, or at least an idea of new ways of working with people.

I’ve found it hard to find practitioners that I would choose to go and see time and again. Other than my fabulous WNT colleagues of course, who I see regularly and for different reasons (more on that in my blog choosing a therapist at WNT).

Everyone is different and I’m sure you have your own checklist, but here is a list of the main factors I look for in a good massage experience:

* Intuitive touch. This is a big one, and can make all the difference. Massage therapists should have a good grounding in practical technique, but what makes a great massage is the ability to go with the flow and be able to ‘tune in’ and find what needs working and how much to work it

* Firm touch. Lots of my clients agree with me on this – nothing worse than a ‘stroke-y’ or tentative massage. It’s not just getting stuck in that I’m looking for, it’s assertiveness of the touch, I want to feel like I can trust the therapist from the outset and that they know what they're doing

* Thoroughness. I want to feel like I get value for money, massage isn’t cheap. As a massage therapist myself I understand that there is a limit to what can be achieved in one session, often several are needed to make any real progress. But I do expect the therapist to do as much as they can in the session, based on what I want on the day

* Warmth. So many treatment rooms are cold, or the towel doesn’t cover your feet…I find it impossible to fully relax if I have cold toes and I like to be cosy when I don’t have clothes on! This is why I still use the electric blanket on our treatment table in summer. It’s not to everyone’s liking, especially for a more vigorous massage, so I turn it off if a client asks for this…which brings me on to…

* Good but minimal communication. I want to feel like a therapist knows what I’m looking for and makes it easy for me to ask for an adjustment in temperature, pressure, music etc. But I generally don’t want to chat to someone all the way through – I like to zone out and switch off (other than considering all these factors of course!) unless I know the therapist in which case I often do want to chat all the way through. If a therapist starts to chatter at the beginning and doesn’t respond to my mono-syllabic responses by piping down it suggests to me they are not sensitive enough to attend to my needs and I will be unlikely to ever go back

* The therapist respecting me as a client rather than a colleague. When massage therapists find out I’m a fellow therapist they often ask me to do a swap rather than me pay, or they want to chat about work that I might want to switch off from. I do plenty of swaps with colleagues and if I’m choosing to pay to see a new therapist I want this to be a contractual. Boundaries are important and if I go to someone as a client I want to be treated as such

* Environment. I had an excellent massage recently – good touch, firm pressure, thorough, nice bit of work around the head and neck (often therapists skip this or are afraid of doing much to the neck). But the room was bare and clinical with a horrible carpet. I didn’t feel welcome or warm (though temperature-wise I was fine) and it definitely detracted from the overall experience for me

* A good connection to the therapist. Last but not least, I need to like the therapist! This is, even more than the last few points, an entirely subjective matter, it is important to me that I warm to the person and feel comfortable in their presence. In fact, this has over-ridden several of the above factors before.

All of these factors affect my experience in having a massage and they also play into how I run my own practise. Of course no therapist or treatment suits everyone – which is part of the reason we have a diverse group at West Norwood Therapies and encourage clients to see whoever would help them best at any particular time - read about our ethos at our blog We are West Norwood Therapies

Jennie Duck is at West Norwood Therapies on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays

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