Massage Tales, Modalities, Thoughts on the profession

When I’m Not Your Therapist

It happened again.  That moment with a new client where I realized with utter clarity that I am not the right massage therapist for this human.  The moment I knew:  about ten minutes into the massage, when the client said, “You can press harder.  I’m used to lots of pressure.”

I said, “Okay,” and thought, “I am not your therapist.”  Because this client wanted deep tissue, or this thing we often mistakenly call deep tissue.  And I am not a deep tissue therapist.

Don’t misunderstand me — I can (and do) work specifically, effectively, and therapeutically.  What I don’t do particularly well (and don’t care to) is to press REALLY HARD into someone’s tissues.  If that is the kind of bodywork your body wants, then I am definitely not your therapist.

I have a number of theories and twice as many opinions about deep tissue massage and when or whether it is actually necessary or effective.  I am pretty well convinced that the most profound effects come from work that is more gentle, based in finesse and knowledge and listening to the body of the person on the table.  I am also convinced that when a client is able to really be present, to drop fully and completely into their body, it is not necessary to be super aggressive.

There is an excellent (and I hope not cancelled) podcast called Change Agent.  On one of the episodes, the hosts explored the steps necessary to persuade someone to change their mind about something.  It came as no surprise to me that none of those steps involved shouting or force of any kind.  They talked about listening, seeking to understand.  About becoming vulnerable and sharing your own true and relevant experience.

This strikes me to be true for massage as well.  Massage is a conversation.  It is my nervous system (and knowledge and training), speaking to your nervous system (and wisdom and lived experience.)  It is the same with hands as it is with words — shouting is not conversation, it is argument.  Shouting is imposing my (or your) will, and that is just about the last thing I want to do as your massage therapist.

That being said, I am also aware that my particular touch may not feel right for everyone.  Our nervous systems speak different languages, and that’s okay.  I am happy to refer you (or anyone) to a therapist who is fluent in the language of you.

Because the other thing I a fully convinced of (and will write about later): scarcity is a dangerous myth.  Keeping a tight and jealous hold on my domain does not increase my prosperity, it does the opposite.  I am not in business to keep anyone from getting the best massage for their body.  Sometimes, that massage comes from me, and when it doesn’t, I will do what I can to help you find the person you need.





1 thought on “When I’m Not Your Therapist”

  1. Yes! I work very much the same way. When I see a client for the first time, part of my intake is explaining the difference between deep tissue and deep pressure. I tell them how I work and if it is something they are less familiar with to trust the process because I have had much better results with gentle work. I started adding it to my intake after a couple of negative reviews where clients said that I “couldn’t do” deep tissue massage. It isn’t that I can’t push hard on your body, it is that I won’t, and usually your body doesn’t want me to. I never push past what the tissue tells me to. I am always happy to provide referrals when they wan’t work that I won’t do, but I also try to educate about the importance of listening to your body and recognizing pain cues.


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