The Massage Client Interview is one of the most important parts of the massage session.
The Interview is how you gather information on what the client expects from their session as well as what they need. It will help you create a plan of action in applying what you know about massage and help you to perform an effective massage. It is the beginning of educating your clients about massage and what it is that it does and what you do specifically with massage. It also sets the stage for building trust and for starting the therapeutic relationship with a client.
You can start with an intake form with the standard information you want to collect but the real interview is where everything starts. Be sure to have a private area where you can ask these detailed questions or you can also ask during the session as you go.
What you really are doing is trying to get to the heart of why they are there so that you can address their needs and fulfill them in your massage session. Often people don’t know the real underlying reason for seeking massage, but their main goal is always to get out of pain or have less stress. What they really want is a better life that allows them to do more when they are pain free or have less stress. Getting to these real issues can help you in creating a treatment plan for them that includes repeat sessions for achieving that.
People also do not always want to share their information either for personal reasons or they just really do not know that this information could help them get a better massage. Because of transference and the power differential, clients often expect you to read their minds and just know what they need. I know for me when I get a massage, it is really hard to talk. I often go to a place deep inside part relaxation and probably part early childhood. The way touch makes people feel nurtured and cared for will do that.
It also helps to track what they say so you can bring that information into the next sessions. You can show progress that way too as they often may not seem like they are progressing but taking notes can help you to show them their progress. Here are some things to remember when talking with clients:
- Be sensitive to the personal information you will be getting from each client.
- Be aware of the non-verbal factors such as posture, gait and holding patterns of the body. Be aware of your own body language too.
- Learn to communicate just what it is that you do in a massage or what happens when different massage is applied to the body in different ways and explain what is best for their condition
- Allow enough time to complete a thorough interview. You can also ask questions as you are working
- Use active listening and show that you understand the client by para-phrasing or telling them what you heard them say
- Ask yes or no questions and also open ended questions.
- Most of the healing process happens in just being heard and acknowledged. It is part of the therapeutic relationship.
Create an intake form to make the process easier asking the questions you want to ask there first. Expand on them in the verbal interview.
Just asking the standard questions to rule out contraindications is really just the beginning of a good massage client interview. Engaging clients in their own healing process and becoming aware of their bodies is crucial for helping people to feel better and to also build your massage business.
What most people need no matter what they are suffering from or dealing with is to be listened too and believed. Just the act of listening can give people such a sense of relief and start the healing process. It doesn’t really matter what technique you use in your massage session.
Learning to listen is often a difficult challenge for massage therapists. It is also about asking the right questions of clients to get them to open up about their real issues. This isn’t psychotherapy but getting people to become more aware of their bodies.
Most massage therapists are taught to ask questions so that they will understand the clients condition better and know how to use their techniques on a client. This assumes that knowing about the condition will help find a solution or fix the problem. Most often issues do not have just one pat answer. When you change the goal of asking questions to one of empowering clients rather than fixing them the massage client interview will look quite different. It puts healing back in the hands of the massage client and focusing on what the client wants to have in their life rather than focusing on the problem. Empowering clients help clients discover their own powers of healing and helps guide them out of the victim mode that so often goes along with injuries and illness. A great book to help you to think of the massage client interview in a very different way than just trying to fix clients issues is called "Interviewing for Solutions by Peter DeJong. In it he describes a process of learning to interview clients with the goal of helping them to come up with their own solutions. Asking questions usually shows more about the person asking the question and their views and values. Being able to set your views and agendas aside will be the constant challenge for massage therapists especially since they are often taught to fix in massage schools. Using open ended questions can help. These are questions that open up a clients perspective. They can't be answered with just yes or no. Once the question is asked active listening is used to repeat the information back to the client so that clarification can be made.
- Great people as they arrive - shake their hand, look them in the eye. Make them feel comfortable. After all they are coming into a strange office to take their clothes off and have someone they don't know - touch them.
- What brings you in for a massage today?
- How long have you felt this way?
- Have you had this before?
- When was the last time you had a massage?
- Do you know what causes the pain/condition?
- Do you do anything that makes it feel better?
- Does it stop or hinder you from any of your daily activities?
- Have you used massage before for this condition and did it work?
- Don't use technical terms or names of muscles as you talk. Most do not know what you are talking about.
- Ask them what they do for a living and what hobbies or activities they pursue. That can often give you clues about what is needed. A chef will be using different muscles than someone sitting at a computer all day.
- Have you had massage before for this condition? Did it help? What type of massage was it? This can help you assess things more.
Rebooking ClientsThis whole process is also about educating clients about their bodies and about how massage can help them achieve their goals. Many do not understand how massage works and will expect to be 'fixed' in one session. The goal is to get regular weekly massage - yes weekly. Somewhere along the line we have gotten away from the weekly massage session and people have started to think that once a month is enough. (Can you guess where that comes from?) Most of my practice over the last 28 years have been working on people once a week for over 15-20 years - yes they really do come that often and for that long. People may also ask how often they should come in. Don't be afraid to say once a week. I even had a few clients who came in 2x a week for over 20 years and when I tell people that, you can see the jealous look in their eye. They need to give themselves permission to give that to themselves, no matter what the cost. Your website is also the first place to start educating clients about this. You should have articles on just that and a separate article on the many conditions you work with or a few good articles on stress and how regular weekly massage helps with that. At the end of the session, people should understand that coming weekly will help them achieve their goals not only for having less pain, but for having a better life. I had a client who said it best - "I came in with neck pain and didn't expect to leave feeling nicer towards my co-workers and partner". The real benefits of massage are:
- Feeling lighter and happier
- Being able to sleep better
- Being able to work with a clearer mind and more energy
- Having more energy and being pain free for engaging in family life
- Having more energy and being pain free for engaging in hobbies and activities.