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L i s te n to T h e A B M P Po d c a s t a t a b m m /p o d c a s t s o r w h e reve r yo u a cce s s yo u r favo r i te p o d c a s t s 33 THE SESSION OPENING In our brief verbal intake, I requested specific attention to my ankles and feet due to a previous injury. My left ankle experiences the most discomfort. Upon entering the massage room to begin our session, she walked directly to my left ankle, undraped it, and said "Let's start here and get it out of the way." I'm not even paraphrasing. There was no session opening. Even if you are performing a session that is specific to a region rather than a full-body massage, it is extremely important to begin and end by addressing the body as a whole. The purpose is to center the client, connect them to their body, create a stimulus to the autonomic nervous system to shift into parasympathetic, and establish client comfort and safety by introducing them slowly to your energy and your touch. This can easily be done with slow compressions from neck to feet in a line down the spine, out the hips, and down the legs. Even holding the feet for a moment to tune and connect in, then doing a light feather stroke over the drape from the feet, up the legs and spine, and out the arms is beneficial. Abruptly beginning somewhere with no opening ritual, let alone beginning at the most painful part of the client's body in an openly verbal effort to "get it out of the way," does not set a good tone for the session—nor does it communicate a loving intention to the body. The body is attuned to such messages and is likely to put up a guard rather than surrender to the practitioner's hands. THE USE ‡OR MISUSEˆ OF COMMUNICATION During my session, I asked the therapist several times to lighten the pressure. The pressure stayed the same. I told her in the verbal intake that the bottoms of my feet are very sensitive. She spent an excessive amount of time on the bottoms of my feet, grinding on a particular spot that kept causing me to flinch. She said, "Wow, your body must be needing this!" Nope. That's not what my body is saying. That's not what I am saying. She used a massage gun on a tight area of my back. When she placed it on my back, my body flinched again. Admittedly, I was already on edge. Even so, when using a vibrational tool, it is important to place your hand on or around the spot you intend to apply it to prepare the body and nervous system for application. Even better would be to also say, "I'm about to apply this tool to the lower left side of your back." Even if your body-reading skills seem to be telling you one thing, what comes out of your client's mouth is what you need to listen to. If they ask for moderate pressure, don't go deep. If they say an area is especially sensitive, treat the sensitive area with the utmost respect and caution. Recognize that flinching is a protective response. Back off and ask your client how they want you to proceed. Asking, "Would you like me to move on? I could also use lighter and broader strokes if that would be more soothing" puts your client in the driver's seat where they belong. It is, after all, a client-centered session. THE SESSION CLOSING I had also requested extra work on my neck. It was a 90-minute session, so addressing both was easily possible while still giving a basic full-body massage (which is what I asked for). At five minutes prior to the session ending, she said she only had five minutes left to address my neck. When a client asks for attention to specific areas, be sure you make time for them. Negotiate at the beginning of the session, so you are both on the same page. Say, "How about I spend 10 minutes on each foot/ankle, 15 minutes on your neck, and then spend the remaining time addressing the rest of your body?" The client can accept or counter your offer and, most importantly, they feel heard. This is their time to be used as they wish. If you are mid-session and realize you are running out of time, simply inform your client and ask them how they want to proceed. Say, "I know we planned on 15 minutes of neck work. Since I'm short on time, would you prefer I only spend 10 minutes on your neck, or would you prefer I spend less time on your arms and stick with 15 minutes on your neck?" It's that simple. LESSONS LEARNED Although my session was chock-full of lessons, the primary takeaway was: Make time to be a client. Pay attention to the details. Go as far as to review your old class notes on the qualities of an excellent massage experience. Foundations are established for a reason: because they are solid and can be built upon (not instead of ). Each and every layer of the foundation matters, and each layer can make the difference in the success of your practice. Since 2000, Cindy Williams, LMT, has been actively involved in the massage profession as a practitioner, school administrator, instructor, curriculum developer, and mentor. She maintains a part-time private practice as a massage and yoga instructor, and is a full-time freelance educational content writer. Contact her at Make time to be a client. Pay attention to the details. Go as far as to review your old class notes on the qualities of an excellent massage experience.

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