Thursday, September 11, 2008

Massage Therapists: Shifting the focus of the client intake

What is right with you today? Have you ever been to a health care provider of any kind and had them ask you this or a similar question? In addition to aches, pains, and possible uncomfortable symptoms, has a practitioner taken the time to balance out what is wrong with shining a light on what may be right and good?

In a day-to-day massage practice, we see clients that are experiencing discomfort. They present with acute or chronic pain, sometimes week after week. As a therapist, it is all too easy to fall into focusing only what is out of balance within them, after all, they are seeking relief.

In reality, our lives (and bodies) will always have some positive attributes, no matter how much pain and suffering we might be experiencing. Inviting our clients to think about these strengths before a massage could have dramatic effects on their mental state. In addition, it may set you apart in the client’s mind as one of the only practitioners to use this approach.

Empowering clients is one of the hallmarks of a successful massage practice. I invite you to try an approach similar to this in a future session:

Therapist: “How might I help you today Judy?”

Client: “My neck is killing me and I have an uncomfortable pulling sensation in my lower back.”

Therapist: “Have you injured your body in any way in the past that may be contributing to this discomfort?”

Client: “No, it is probably a result of job stress. Work is demanding these days and in addition, I am in the last stages of a divorce. There are kids involved so as you can imagine, my world is crazy.”

Therapist: “I’m hearing that your job and family situation are causing you stress. I hope that we can give you some relief in your body today. Tell me Judy, is there an area of your body that feels healthy and strong, maybe an area that feels like you have a lot of resource that we might tap into during our session today?”

Client: “Well, I’m not sure.”

Therapist: “OK, is there something that is going well in your life or an event that you are looking forward to?”

Client: “Actually, now that you mention it, I have signed up for a series of yoga classes next week. I have been meaning to do it for years and I finally went to the studio and did it!”

Therapist: “Excellent! The postures that you practice will complement the work that we do together and I even think you will see it affect your level of experienced stress.”

Client: “That’s great to hear and I am excited about the classes.”

Notice how the tone of the intake changes as the therapist introduces a different focus; from what is painful to what has potential. Sometimes, the whole demeanor of a client can change by changing what you focus on as a therapist.

By inspiring clients to focus on the positive aspects of their lives, we may help them remember that which helps us in our healing process: the element of hope.

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