A client looking for advice from practitioners:
Okay, I’ve been putting this off for a while, thinking I’d get over it, but I need some coaching here. How can I tell a massage practitioner that a lot of her presentation and delivery were really off-putting? Normally, if I go to a favorite restaurant, for example, and the service or food isn’t up to their usual standard, I’ll say something—as nicely and as quietly as I can, of course. I’m not angry; I just think they should know. If no one tells them, how would they be able to fix the issue before it becomes a problem? This is something I’m comfortable doing. Usually. WHY can’t I talk to a massage practitioner this way?
See, a couple of months ago, I was prescribed massage by my doctor. I picked a practitioner my chiropractor recommended. I met her the day I made the appointment. She was cheerful and positive and her office and room looked and smelled great. Fabulous. Sign me up.
Things went downhill when I climbed up on her table to begin. The headrest was merely a vertical slit in the foam. As cavalier as I am about public germs, I couldn’t get help obsessing over what kind of illnesses clients in sessions before me may have had. Can you even clean foam? And I won’t even get into the obvious imagery or the smell. Just ick. And this dear, kind, charming practitioner, who I would absolutely hang out with on any given day, was the loudest talker I have ever experienced. I tried both responding very quietly and not responding at all. Didn’t work. Oh, dear.
When it’s bodywork I have a problem with, I feel like I can respond as we move through the session. And if, in the end, our styles don’t match, okay, no problem. This practitioner’s bodywork itself was technically fine. This is more of a personal thing. I canceled the rest of my appointments with her. I feel like I should give her an explanation but I don’t know how to start. “Your table creeps me out and you’re loud,” is not a message designed to affect positive change.
Also, looking back, I don’t think I’ve ever had a practitioner encourage me to tell them if there is any aspect of the room or behavior that makes me uncomfortable—except music and pressure, of course.
Do you have a way clients can give suggestions and critique your work? A suggestion box, perhaps? Is it part of your initial intake list of expectations? Has any client ever shared concern in an impressively diplomatic way?
It is always difficult to hear that there are aspects of our work or environment that someone doesn’t like, but if you were feeling that way, chances are other people have too. I used to work at a place that didn’t have appropriate face cradles and it drove me nuts that I couldn’t clean the (for lack of a better word) hole properly, and I absolutely get what you mean about the smell (yuck). If she is in practice for herself it may be something she can take into consideration, but if she is working at a multi-practitioner establishment, it may just be the table she was given to work on and there is nothing she could do about it. That being said, voicing your concerns would also allow her to go to management to let them know that clients are complaining about it. If it is her table, just let her know that you are uncomfortable with the style of table she has and ask if there is an alternative besides putting your face in the slit. As for talking, it can be really hard to give personal feedback, but she should also know. I have clients who love to talk and clients who much prefer a silent session, and I will admit that if I have just been working with a talkative client, it can, on occasion, take a minute to get out of that mindset. If you choose to go back to this practitioner, perhaps during the check in before hand, you can say something along the lines of “I am looking for some relaxation, and would prefer not to chat”. As for the face cradle, before you schedule again, you could call (or email if you avoid confrontation like the plague) and ask if there is an alternative face cradle. If not, you may just need to see a different practitioner.
Great suggestions, Amanda, thank you!
As the main participant in your personal wellness care, it is your responsibility to offer feedback. The benefits are 2 fold, if your feedback it valid it provides a growth opportunity for your therapist. If your feedback require further clarification from the therapist, as to the logic behind an action or operating system. Doing so opens the channels of communication that fosters trust and therapeutic collaboration. It’s a win-win for everyone in the long run. A silent client will always be a dissatisfied client