Massage & Bodywork

September | October 2014

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I t p a y s t o b e A B M P C e r t i f i e d : w w w. a b m p . c o m / g o / c e r t i f i e d c e n t r a l 35 Laughing Fits and Euphoria Some clients release pent-up tension with laughing fits or intense sensations of euphoria. The therapist might notice the client is smiling, then some giggles might escape, and then full-on laughing might erupt. The client might laugh so hard that the massage is disrupted and the therapist has to stop and wait for the laughing to subside. While these types of emotional releases might seem easier to deal with than anger, fear, or grief, they are just as complex. MANAGING EMOTIONAL RELEASES When emotional release occurs during a massage session, the therapist must manage two processes. First, he must manage his response to the client's emotional expression while maintaining appropriate boundaries, and second, he must manage the process of ensuring that a safe, supportive atmosphere is maintained for the client. While the factors related to the expression of emotion by clients may be complex, the actual process of managing emotional release is simple. Perhaps the toughest part is managing the personal emotions the client's release may trigger in you. Maybe you were raised in a family where showing emotion was discouraged. As a result, witnessing another person's emotions frightens you or causes you to withdraw. Maybe the client's tears remind you of your own sadness over a recent event. While these responses are normal, they may prevent you from holding good boundaries while providing appropriate support for the client. EMOTIONAL RELEASE PRINCIPLES Your goal as a therapist is to create an environment where the client feels safe, supported, and honored, and where emotional expression is viewed as normal and acceptable. These 10 principles support the emotional processes of clients in a way that is appropriate in a massage session. Principle 1: Acknowledgement Physical changes will alert you to a client's emotional release. Watch for increased physical tension, changes in facial expression, breath holding or irregular breathing, misty eyes, tears, or overt signs of emotion like sobbing or prolonged laughter. When you perceive an emotional release, acknowledge it and immediately communicate to the client that emotional expression is normal, productive, and acceptable. For example, you might say, "Mary, I can see you are experiencing some feelings around this work I am doing on your neck. It's normal to have feelings emerge as tension is softened in muscles. By allowing your emotions to surface and move out of your body, you help to free tension on many different levels. Emotions are signs that we are making good progress." Principle 2: Presence, Responsiveness, and Contact During an emotional release, remain present and responsive to the client's needs without losing physical contact with the client's body. Depending on the intensity of the emotional release, you may need to stop the massage to allow the client to focus on her surfacing emotions. Explain to her what you are doing by saying something along the lines of, "Mary, I'm going to stop the massage for a moment so you can pay attention to what you are feeling. I'm right here with you." Don't remove your hands from the client as this could cause her to feel rejected or abandoned. Instead, place your hands in a holding position on a hand or foot, or lightly on the back, belly, shoulders, or under her neck. Don't place a hand on her head, forehead, or stroke her hair as this can feel too parental. Principle 3: Connect with Breath Suggest the client take slow, deep breaths. If the client is trying to stifle sobbing, remind him it is OK and perfectly normal to cry. Encourage the release of the chest muscles so that breathing can normalize. You might say something like, "Bob, don't feel like you have to hold back your feelings. It's OK and normal to express emotion in massage. Try to take a deep breath and release your chest. That's good. Keep breathing. I'm right here with you." Principle 4: Give the Client Time The body processes and releases emotions naturally when it is given the time and space it needs. If the client is actively processing an emotion and you are maintaining contact, all you may need to say is "I'm here. You're doing well." In fact, if the client is moving forward in her emotional processing, you don't want to interrupt her with too much verbalization. On the other hand, a client might try to rush her own process and say things like, "I'm OK and you don't have to wait for me." Let her know that this process is productive and may support the positive results she experiences with massage and to take the time she needs.

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