Can You Trust Your Massage Therapist?

In many cases, the difference between a basic massage provider and a massage therapist comes down to trust. Trusting in your therapist means you believe they are reliable, truthful, and that they have the ability to help you relax, reduce aches and pains, or help you meet other massage goals.  Most will agree that trust is earned, mostly by acting in a trustworthy manner.

As bodyworkers, we’re aware that clients enter a trust relationship when they walk through the door.  They are trusting that we know what we are doing, that we will keep them safe, that we have strong ethical boundaries, and that what we do will help, not harm, the client’s overall body, mind and spirit.

Here are a five things to consider when you’re answering the question “can you trust your massage therapist”?

  1. They are competent. Being competent means the therapist knows what they are doing. Many factors effect competence, but perhaps the most influential factor is education. The therapist should have graduated from an accredited school and be certified by a local, state, or national governing body.  In California, that means certification by the CAMTC, but other states have similar certification entities, and a national certification also exists. This certified have the right to use the formal title “Certified Massage Therapist”.  There is a difference in holding a license and certification.
  2. They listen.  If your therapist isn’t open to talk and listen, that’s a red flag.  In order to be effective, the therapist has to know how you feel, where your specific aches and pains are, and a bit about your history of injury and overall wellness. Expect to fill out some paperwork, and get asked a few questions before you begin your session. Even if you’re a “regular client”, there are still often changes in your body and mood that are relevant for your therapist.  Your therapist should also take time after the session to recap what they did, answer questions, and offer, as appropriate, home care tips to prolong the benefits of the massage and help alleviate aches and pains between sessions.
  3. They do what they say they will do. Nothing disappoints more than going in for a massage and expressing a specific concern, say, a sore shoulder, and then having the massage provider give you a relaxing, but totally untargeted bodywork session, without any extra attention to your concerns.  Be aware, however, that sometimes the therapist will work on body parts seemingly unrelated to your concern, like working on your shoulders when carpal tunnel syndrome is your issue, this shows expertise, not lack of concern.  Many times other muscles and body structures have a significant impact on areas of pain and soreness. Just be aware that the therapist should be generally working toward the goals of the session, which they should have determined before beginning.
  4. They are ethical. In massage therapy ethical behavior means the therapist acts in ways consistent with what society and individuals think are good values. Respecting personal boundaries, keeping client information strictly confidential, and respecting your privacy and modesty. This means, by the way, always working within their scope of practice and legal and regulatory requirements. It also means being trughtul about their own abilities, and refraining from any sexual conduct or activities during the course of your session.
  5. They value your opinion about their work.  Like any other service provider, the therapist can only get better with input from their clients.  Watch for the therapist to ask questions like “did my work help ease your pain and discomfort”? and “was there anything I could do differently that we might work on during your next visit”?  You can vote with your wallet, too.  Obviously making future appointments helps the therapist know you feel confident with their ability to help you.  It also really builds your therapist’s confidence.

Trusting your therapist has a significant impact on the effectiveness of the overall session. If you approach the session with an open mind and heart, the therapist can give you a better massage. You don’t have to worry about whether it will hurt too much, or if the touch might have a different meaning. It usually takes just a few minutes to determine trust and relax when you’re seeing a brand new therapist, but trust your “gut feelings” and don’t return, or choose a different therapist, if you’re feeling like you don’t trust your therapist after the session is over.

Think about the considerations above next time you visit your massage therapist and make sure you’re getting the most trustworthy therapist for the important work of helping you relax, rejuvenate and recover.