by Nick Lakoff, Certified Massage Therapist
Finding the right massage therapist is not always an easy thing. Each of us has particular things they are looking for in the individual who is going to massage them. Choosing wisely could mean the difference between a dissatisfying experience and one that will keep you coming back over and over again. Here are a few things to look for when selecting a massage therapist before booking a session with them.
- First Impressions are crucial. The first thing to look for in a massage therapist is dress and deportment. How are they dressed and what does their body language say to you? Cleanliness is extremely important in massage therapy since there is direct skin to skin contact. Notice if they wash their hands before the session. Is there waterless disinfectant? Is the room clean and neat? Are the linens clean and fresh? Are their nails clean and trimmed properly? When I greet my clients before a session, I make sure that my appearance is professional and I have paid attention to my personal hygiene. My treatment room was always spotless and free of unpleasant odors. Many of my clients over the years have commented on this fact.
- Birds of a feather flock together. Are they a member of a reputable massage therapy organization? In North America, most states and provinces now regulate massage therapy on some level. It never hurts to contact these organizations to see if the therapist is indeed a member in good standing. If so, they can produce official receipts and you can also learn if there are any complaints on file about them. I was a member of my provincial massage therapy association for 15 years before I relocated to the Caribbean. Many of these organizations have minimum educational standards for membership and some even have a practical exam. At the very least, being a member of reputable organization is a positive starting point.
- Licence and registration please. Can your massage therapist’s credentials be verified easily? If the credentials are not hanging on the wall in their office, most reputable therapists have them on hand or at least photocopies or scans to prove they are qualified. You should feel comfortable making a request for this information, as it shows you care about what kind of treatment you want to receive. Although I did not hang my diplomas and certificates in my office, I did have a copy of them at all times in case a client requested to see them.
- Location, location, location! Is the area and premises where the massage will be given accessible and not too isolated? Will you have privacy to change? Is there a bathroom readily accessible? When setting up my practice, I always chose offices that were accessible, clean and bright, and relatively quiet in order to maximize my client’s massage experience. I always chose locations that were close to where the majority of my clients lived and worked. I would always have a closed room to perform my massages, so I could leave the room and allow them to change in privacy.
- Trust your gut. Last, but not least, you have to use your intuition to help you make the right decision for you. It helps if you ask many questions of the therapist beforehand or in person. A professional who is trying to gain you as a client will gladly and enthusiastically answer any questions that you have. Ask them what their massage philosophy is and see if they really listen to you when you talk to them. I have always taught massage therapists who worked with me over the years that we do not direct our clients in their massage experience; rather, we accompany them. In order to do that, and to provide the client with exactly (within reason) what they seek in a session, a therapist must listen and make good use of the information collected.
These are just some of the things to look for when shopping for a massage therapist. Feeling comfortable and confident that you are in capable hands enhances the overall massage experience and your satisfaction.
In my next column I will talk about what elements to expect in a massage therapy session.
Nick Lakoff is a certified practitioner in the following disciplines: Swedish Massage, Sports Massage, Reflexology, Acupressure, Myo-Fascial Release, Massage for Pregnancy, Swedish Chair Massage, Hot Stone Massage and Reiki.