Your massage is your own, so of course you have some latitude in customizing your experience. Massage therapy is one of those self-care treatments comparable to getting your hair done: you’re working with someone one-on-one in a vulnerable position. Not only are you in close physical proximity to your massage therapist, you’re undressed in a private room getting touched by them–it doesn’t get more vulnerable than that!
Naturally, a relationship of trust will develop between you and your therapist. Not only do we expect this, it’s encouraged! As your therapist gets to know your body’s unique needs and quirks, they can provide better massage with regular treatments. That personal trust and connection can play a vital role in the healing process.
Having said this, it’s important to understand that there are boundaries and limitations to that relationship, and that the conversation shared in a massage setting isn’t exempt from these.
What can I say?
Nothing, if you choose! As a rule, your practitioner will probably read your social cues. If you seem game to talk, they may engage you and start a chat while they work on you. If you don’t initiate a conversation, they’ll leave you to enjoy the massage in a peaceful, quiet setting.
You can also feel free to give your massage therapist feedback. Phrases like “That’s too deep!” or “Can you ease up on the pressure there?” or “That stroke is kind of chafing right there.” are all appropriate ways to help guide your practitioner and make your massage experience as good as it can be.
If you want to talk, that’s fine, but keep it light. Try to avoid heavy or potentially offensive topics. Would you discuss what you’re about to say with a stranger on the bus? If not, maybe reconsider your choice of topic.
If you’d like to talk and get to know your therapist over several sessions, that’s great. Just keep a few things in mind:
Massage therapist, not “Therapist”
It’s common for people come in for massage who are under serious stress. But the scope of massage therapy is only to address the physical component of healing and stress relief. The mental and psychological components should be handled by trained mental health professionals. You may develop a strong rapport with your massage therapist, but that doesn’t mean they have the training or skill to talk you through your stresses and emotional difficulties.
You wouldn’t expect a licensed family therapist or psychologist to give you a massage, would you? Of course not. The difference there is that those professionals don’t touch you, except to maybe shake your hand. A massage, however, can include a great deal of talking, and even emotional release. Clients under a great deal of stress have even been known to sob through their massage as painful emotions are released along with the muscle tension. But that doesn’t mean your massage therapist can or should become your therapist. Bring your mental health problems to a mental health professional.
Don’t ask for a date, for heaven’s sake
There’s nothing wrong with finding your massage therapist attractive, and the relatively intimate setting of touch therapy might unintentionally inspire romantic or sexual thoughts. But please: keep those thoughts and feelings to yourself during the massage.
Your massage therapist is there to help, and it’s completely inappropriate to flirt, touch them back, hold their hand, ask for dates, or try to initiate a romantic relationship with them. By the same token, your massage therapist has no business making romantic or sexual advances of any kind. In fact, such behavior at The Good Life Massage is grounds for termination.
Even if the advance would be innocent or welcome under different circumstances, it’s completely inappropriate during a massage. Besides, it makes the session far more uncomfortable and awkward. If you find that you’re developing romantic feelings for your massage therapist, consider getting your massage from someone else from now on. After all, we have several practitioners to choose from.
We won’t “take sides”
As people start talking, it can be natural to progressively get more personal. You might even feel comfortable enough to talk about personal relationships or conflicts. This is totally understandable. We all need to vent sometimes. But don’t expect your massage therapist to “take your side” or commiserate with you like a personal friend might. They might say “It sounds like you and your partner have some things to work out. I hope that works out okay,” or something equally neutral. We’ll help you release the physical tension from your whatever personal drama is impacting your life, but it’s not our place to join you in dwelling on it.
So, yes, go ahead and chat! Or don’t! But understand that your massage is a professional exchange. Yes, it’s a intimate, even a little personal, but within certain limits that are worth keeping in mind.
Tom Gunn is the marketing director and the blog editor for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to assist you with content marketing, social media, and logo/brand development by contacting him at firstname.lastname@example.org