How much should I talk during a massage therapy session?

hiresWe’ve all been there… you get your client on the table, you get in “the zone” and you start the massage. All is well and then the client starts talking about their day, sports, or current events and they end up talking though the entire massage!

On the flip side, maybe they don’t say a word the entire time, which leaves you worried about how good your massage was.

Talking during a massage session seems to be one of those tricky areas that has no definitive “right or wrong” but we have a few suggestions on how to approach the situation.

Mirror the client

Most of the time, you can’t go wrong by simply matching the level of conversation that your client is comfortable with. If your client is a talker, try to stay engaged in the conversation and hold up your end of the dialog.

If your client talks about something you have no knowlegde or interest in (sports, politics, etc.) then be honest. Instead of trying to fake it, turn the conversation to what got your client interested in the subject. Ask about what they love about sports, or try to learn something by asking questions about the topic.

If your client is totally silent, however, this is probably a good indication that he or she is blissfully relaxed and is happy to enjoy the massage in silence. This is your cue to keep quiet aside from the occasional question about pressure, etc.

If your client is pretty quiet but speaks up here and there, respond but don’t take this as a cue to jabber the rest of the time. Always keep pace with the client’s conversation level and don’t try to “out-talk” them.

Respond with affirmation

If your client says things during the massage like “that feels great!” or “wow… that muscle was really sore!”, do your best to affirm their comments with positive feedback. A simple “so glad to hear it” or “yep… I’m glad you came to see me!” is enough to make sure your client feels comfortable.

Simple responses like this can keep your clients relaxed and comfortable but leave it at that unless your client follows up.

Talk to educate

When your clients talk about news, weather, or current events, this is just making basic conversation. However, if they turn the conversation to the specific issues you are treating, take the opportunity to educate them and explain exactly what you are doing.

Many of your clients are not as familiar with anatomy and physiology as you are and would welcome a short explanation of why you are performing a certain stroke or stretch. It helps put them even more at ease that you are a health care professional and establishes more credibility.

Conclusion

While there is no right or wrong, keep in mind that as massage therapists, we need to do everything we can to make our clients feel comfortable, safe, and whole. Little details like how much we talk can contribute to that goal.

What are your guidelines for talking during a massage? We’d love to hear your comments below!

 

Comments from original Massamio post:

Those are great points about chat in the massage room. I especially use the opportunity to educate. It not only helps the client learn but also shows them that you are paying attention to the technical part of the massage while you’re chatting.  As a massage instructor, I’d also add that talking while using your hands impairs your ability to perform spatial activities well. More plainly put, it makes palpation more difficult and technique suffers. It is a well researched problem of mixing left and right brain activities.  On the other hand, I’ve found that my longest term clients are the ones that bond with me by talking during massage. Some of them have even asked that I talk while I work because it soothes them. I try to stay aware of when the chat is hurting my technique and have even asked some clients to hold on for a few minutes until I finish a release. — Posted @ Monday, September 24, 2012 4:50 PM by tony preston

I agree with the article and with Tony Preston’s comment. I also try to mirror my client. It is much more difficult to carry a conversation and be in tune with the body. Sometimes I talk with my hands, so I lose my flow. That being said, some of my longest term clients are the ones that like to talk. A deeper bond and a sense of connection is created which too is important. I am in agreement with you – best rule of thumb is to mirror the client! — Posted @ Friday, January 18, 2013 9:15 AM by Maria Ward

First, I assess the reason for the chatter. Perhaps the person is nervous or agitated. Asking them to take a deep breath takes them out of their mind and into the body where deep relaxation is generated. I talk to them before the session and after, but not during since it interrupts the meditative aspect of the work. — Posted @ Wednesday, May 01, 2013 9:36 AM by Crystal Spicer, HHP

mirror , mirror on the wall, who’s the chattyest client of them all? Talk, don’t talk…the client should lead the way. The customer is always right! — Posted @ Thursday, May 16, 2013 10:26 AM by cheri

In my experience, massage incorporates mind, body and soul and in the past have found that some clients need to express their innermost feelings or concerns about life or emotions. I liken it to being a hairdresser; I chat to hairdressers, although when having a massage myself I tend to ‘zone out’ meditatively. I have often felt like a counsellor in massage and take the trust placed by my clients in their physical and emotional well-being very seriously. Each client is so unique, and I agree with the ‘rule of thumb’ practise of letting the client take the lead. However, as a practitioner, remember to take good care of yourself both physically and emotionally. Remain informed so that you can point out appropriate professional sectors which may be able to assist with issues outside the realm of massage therapists. — Posted @ Tuesday, August 20, 2013 3:30 AM by Sonia Hathaway

Sonia, thanks for sharing your thoughts. The analogy of a counselor is intriguing. I wonder how many therapists feel that way? I bet a lot do, and I bet clients have similar reciprocal feelings. — Posted @ Tuesday, August 20, 2013 1:58 PM by Benjamin McDonald

This is a really important issue in the massage session. What I have observed in the 20 years of practice and having a holistic health center with 14 therapists that the therapists has a tendency to talk too much. We have a responsibility as massage therapist to lead the client into what they need and that is stress relief and if they are talking a lot they cannot achieve what they came for. The most successful therapist who have people coming back talk very little and especially not about them. Its all about the client. Its their time to learn how to relax, deep breathing, silence etc…Its teaching the client how to spend the hour or so really taking care of themselves, that’s what they are paying us for. Many massage therapist get way to personal with their clients letting their clients know about their personal lives and whats going on vs taking care of the client — Posted @ Wednesday, August 28, 2013 7:37 AM by Charlotte Irwin

The client do not lead. Many feel because they client pays for a service, anything they do is ok. Chatting the whole session is not ok. They came for bodywork not psychotherapy. When they talk it is the conscious mind turned on not allowing body to heal properly. The only talking done should be relevant to the session like educating, gathering info or for releasing a certain body part. Talking about your weekend vacation or boy friend troubles is not massage. Many therapist feel it’s ok to talk because of fear of being disliked. Or they think they are healers so any troubled issues that arise, they think it’s their job to fix. We are only facilitators trained in bodywork and should stay with in body work realm. Basically many are willing to go beyond scope of practice to please client. We are trained in bodywork and the focus should be bodywork not talk therapy. Many think it’s listening to client but it’s not because the talk is not relevant to the body work and often the therapist give advice without knowing what they did which then makes it psychotherapy. Sure it might make them feel better but their life troubles is not bodywork. It’s all about ethics and staying within scope of practice. Why do you think massage training do not teach talking? Because it’s not within massage field. When people talk , I think it’s more of an ego thing than helping the client. There’s a reason there are training for many fields. Many therapist think they are answer to all issues client brings up. If one wants to talk then advertise that you do talk therapy in your massage service. That is proof of client’s need. When you don’t get much clients advertising that way. You know the truth. Most therapist talk because it’s what they want or think it helps client but science have proven massage is best done without chatting. Remember, engaging the client with the massage work is not the same as chatting. You can follow science or follow a therapist’s opinion. Most client don’t know that talking should be limited because clueless therapist don’t educate proper what consist of professional massage standard guidelines. Bottomline, if therapist is so proud of talking because they think it helps , why not advertise that with massage service and you’ll see the truth that clients don’t want that. — Posted @ Wednesday, December 11, 2013 1:39 PM by Menging Tang

I have found that the clients who value my treatments and who have kept coming back are those with whom I have developed a therapeutic relationship. They understand and appreciate the fact that they can talk about their issues and that I can facilitate THEIR thinking. As a holistic massage therapist, while I do work on the body, I believe that I am also there alongside them in mind and spirit. If we only deal with the physical body, we can lose sight of the whole person. It is not that we think are there to provide answers for all the issues our clients being up, but it does help to listen. We are, afterall, a CARING profession, in my opinion. — Posted @ Thursday, March 13, 2014 5:46 PM by Gerry Andrews

Excellent article. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and insights. It’s a real grey area, but I think your solutions are spot on!  I would love to share my own post, if you don’t mind? Let me know what you think. The post is on Massage Recovery Pain, which is a side effect some patients experience. Is it good or bad? You tell me!  http://www.nkmassage.co.uk/?p=167  — Posted @ Saturday, May 03, 2014 5:36 PM by NK Massage Therapy