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Ep 372 - Do the Next Right Thing with Diane Matkowski

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How do we balance emotional energy as practitioners? And if we lose it, how do we get it back? In this episode of The ABMP Podcast, Kristin and Darren are joined by Diane Matkowski to discuss how to find the positive and overlook the negative, how to check in with yourself pre- and post-session, and when to pause before you react.

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Author Bio

Diane was accredited by the Owens Institute of Massage and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and has an associate’s degree in business administration. She has been practicing therapeutic massage for more than 25 years and has been an ABMP member for 23 years!

Diane began her business, Freedom Massage, with only six clients. Presently, more than 12,000 clients have received therapeutic massage within the walls of her business.

She moderates a closed group for massage therapists on Facebook called the Massage Mentor Closed Group and is co-founder of the Massage Mentor Institute.

Diane is the author of The Massage Therapist’s Guidebook and The Body is Art. For more information, visit and


Darren Buford is senior director of communications and editor-in-chief for ABMP. He is editor of Massage & Bodywork magazine and has worked for ABMP for 22 years, and been involved in journalism at the association, trade, and consumer levels for 24 years. He has served as board member and president of the Western Publishing Association, as well as board member for Association Media & Publishing. Contact him at

Kristin Coverly, LMT is a massage therapist, educator, and the director of professional education at ABMP. She loves creating continuing education courses, events, and resources to support massage therapists and bodyworkers as they enhance their lives and practices. Contact her at





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Full Transcript

0:00:00.0 Kristin Coverly: Are you a massage or body work practitioner who's interested in equipment or amenities for your business? Touch America wants to save you money while providing quality equipment backed by personalized customer service from our family-owned company in North Carolina. Touch America offers a full line up of treatment tables to go along with Halotherapy Design and Supplies, Shirodhara kits, speakerless sound equipment, relaxation lounges and more. Receive a 20% discount at by applying your ABMP member discount code found on Visit today. 


0:00:50.4 Darren Buford: I'm Darren Buford. 


0:00:51.3 KC: And I'm Kristin Coverly. 


0:00:53.0 DB: And welcome to the ABMP podcast, a podcast where we speak with the massage and bodywork profession. Our guest today is Diane Matkowski. Diane was accredited by the Owens Institute of Massage and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and has an associate's degree in business administration. She has been practicing therapeutic massage for more than 25 years and has been an ABMP member for more than 20 of those years. Diane began her business Freedom massage with only six clients. Presently more than 12000 clients have received therapeutic massage within the walls of her business. She moderates a closed group for massage therapists only on Facebook called the Massage Mentor Closed Group, and is co-founder of the Massage Mentor Institute. Diane is the author of the Massage Therapist Guidebook and the Body is Art. We need to go back to this body is Art thing. I know we mentioned that last time you joined the pod. For more information, visit and the Hello, Diane and hello, Kristin. 


0:01:48.0 Diane Matkowski: Hello, hello. Hello. Hello. 


0:01:49.5 KC: Hi Diane. We are so thrilled to have you back on the ABMP podcast, one of our repeat guests. Today we're talking about something very interesting emotional energy. So let's start by making sure all of us are on the same page. Listeners, us everybody, what is emotional energy to you?  


0:02:07.2 DM: It's interesting because through the years, I think, I'm not sure about both of you. I think any definition shifts and changes as we grow and evolve things hopefully grow and evolve with us. My answer last week is hopefully different this week 'cause maybe I've done a little more work on myself. I've maybe looked at a few more trees and felt a little more sunshine. But in early 2000 this is what I wrote in my book, the Massage Therapist Guidebook. Emotional energy is a... Is subtle for massage therapists and can be the subtlest of all energy exchanges with clients. For the purpose of this book and for this podcast, this exchange would be best defined as how much energy is used through receiving the information about a client's feelings, health struggles, work, relationships, family and life, the emotional energy aspects Effect and the effect it has on massage therapists to process the information on how emotionally involved the therapist gets in the exchange. 


0:03:06.5 DM: I also go on to say, and I'll just continue with this. People may inadvertently trigger emotions in a massage therapist, and that needs to be noted. So that's the little touch on it as far as what I put in my book. And then today I wrote down just some what I thought it was emotional energy is understanding and managing our own emotions and being able to understand that those emotions can, influence others. And also that I I just like a side note, and I know I'm getting fired up, so I talk a lot is that emotions as body workers may be pondering the fact that the only way that emotions can be felt and expressed is through our body. So really how can we keep those separate in our work? If someone triggers us, it starts usually sometimes in my belly, it flutters up to my heart. 


0:04:01.2 DM: It'll start racing maybe if it's really a good one, if it's really a magnificent trigger, I might start sweating under my armpits. I might get mad, I get... I might get scared. Or for me, one of my favorites is I might shut down and just get quiet and hide. So again, but all those things are experienced inside of me, Darren, if I'm having those experiences. When I saw your handsome face, my heart started racing and I'm thinking, Darren, look at that handsome guy And the beautiful Kristin, I get to hang out with ABMP today. I was doing cartwheels inside and I was a little nervous, but you couldn't see any of those things. But I was experiencing them all inside of my body and my body is going to experience them different than your body and Kristin's body. So everyone's experiencing emotions and we're all experiencing them differently. 


0:04:50.9 DB: You're thinking what you're presenting here is potentially the way clients might affect you throughout the day, the way fellow practitioners might affect you in your practice, if you do work with other practitioners, other coworkers, if you're in an office, people walking on the street, the drive to work, all of those things are positive and or negative triggers. Yes. 


0:05:16.5 DM: Well, I mean there's so many things. That's one of the things that... I was off my, off the floor of my business for two years. I had a manager, she, she left and I went back on the floor and I was like, oh my God, I for... I forgot about some of this. 'cause in the background, my manager left. I have this going on here, I have that going on here. And then all of a sudden I'm in front of a client, I'm like, Zippity Do Da. It's a great day for a massage Like, I have to literally forget everything going on and get focused on them. And they're the only person in the room for me from beginning to end. I'm not gonna say little thoughts, I don't speak in there. I'm not a superhero, but I really do try to leave a lot at the door. So yeah, I think everyone all the time is feeling all kinds of things In our work You know, one of the things I noted is when people come to see us, they're in a... An interesting emotional space, aren't they? Because they're in pain. Most of them are in pain or discomfort, and which came first? The chicken or the egg are, are they grumpy because they're in pain or, are they in pain because they're grumpy? I don't know who knows? We're not sure. I mean, there's all kinds of studies on both perspectives. So... 


0:06:30.2 KC: Yeah. I'm gonna take us back a second, Diane. I think it's so interesting you're talking about having that experience of stepping back into the managerial role at your clinic and being reminded of, oh my gosh, okay, so here I am as a human being. I've got all the emotions swirling and I need to, number one, have the awareness that that's happening. And then two, have some tools to be able to shift from living full up in that experience to being in customer service, being in massage therapy mode, practitioner mode. So talk to us please about those two things. How'd you develop the awareness to really do some beautiful, effective emotional check-ins? And then two, what tools do you use to make that shift to transfer, to put those aside and then be with the client so that it is client-focused?  


0:07:17.5 DM: So one of the things that I found I don't know about you is a long time ago when I opened my business in 1995 I started hiring people and I was like, what the hell is happening? I mean, it, it's a whole new level when you're managing people. It really is. There's so many different things. And one of the first things that my first mentor, I, I just basically call everyone that helped me a mentor. 'cause it's true, right? So they said, Diane, you need to be selfish. I'm like, selfish. That is a horrible word. I'm not selfish. Look at me. I'm giving, you know, peace, love, and happiness. I'm a massage therapist. We're not selfish. But then the more time that went on, when I was running my business, initially, I didn't know how to fill my cup. I was what you would call, and I'm embarrassed to say this, but I'll be vulnerable. 


0:08:04.4 DM: I was what they call a people pleaser. So I would juggle balls, I would watch my therapist's kids while they were massaging. I was doing everything for everyone running around, you have a problem, let's talk about it. Let's do... You know, I didn't, I didn't realize that there was this whole other world called boundaries. But then suddenly, suddenly all these years later, my second, like when I went back on the floor recently, I realized I have to first understand myself, know what those triggers are, know what I feel like once they're creeping up inside of me, I can feel 'em. 


0:08:39.3 DB: Hey, can I return to something you mentioned earlier when you were talking about, managing all of those people when you were back on the floor again and you were in reactive mode and you were having to balance many, many, people and emotions, as a human being who manages a team of 13 people. I totally can, relate to that. And a thing that I wanted to mention to follow up on that was something called servant leadership. And I actually looked up, the definition, servant leader shares power, puts the needs of employees first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible. Instead of people working to serve the leader, the leader exists to serve the people. 


0:09:20.4 DM: I love, I mean that for me is the dream. And the thing is, is one of the things that I, I learned what I was go... Around going on about selfishness, you know, until I learned how to take care of myself and, regulate my own emotions and be aware of my own emotions, which is on my list of how to kind of do this thing is, is I, I couldn't, I couldn't be helpful. I was just kind of like flapping around in the wind, you know, I really had to learn about myself. And for me, honestly, that took a little therapy, that took a lot of exercise, that took a lot of mistakes and not being like, oh, darn it, I made a mistake, you know, I wiped the dirt off. I got up and I did it again. And if someone told me I didn't do a great job, sometimes that, that's hard to swallow. 


0:10:14.2 KC: I'm curious, Diane, do you talk with your team about emotional energy and help them develop skills to increase their awareness and tools?  


0:10:23.8 DM: I feel like there's like a subtle rules, like as far as, or help, I guess not rules, ways to be helpful. If you're working with a client and you work with them a few times and afterwards you're like, what happened? Who is this person? I feel so uncomfortable. I, I don't know what it is, Diane. I just feel so uncomfortable. You don't connect with everyone. It's not possible. That isn't... That is a, something that I feel like a lot of therapists get really depressed about. But let me tell you, you're not gonna connect with everyone on a physical or an emotional level. It's not gonna happen. So one of the ways that I help them manage their emotional energy is to give them permission not to see every client that comes in the door. If you work with someone a couple of times, that's why you have a team. 


0:11:07.0 DM: So when we have a client that's exceptionally, exceptionally needy or exceptionally, has like, you know, that client that needs a lot of things and I, I don't know how to describe them. It's not a bad thing or a good thing. They just, something I, I can't quite des... I don't wanna label it, but we would just give that person to Sarah. 'cause Sarah is like, whew. She has the patience of a saint, you know? So having a team too, you kind of, you all have different personalities and all of you can kind of cater to different personalities. 


0:11:44.0 DB: Diane, I, I gotta ask a follow up there. Do you keep notes that is shared with the team so they would know a situation like that?  


0:11:53.6 DM: There's a couple of reason we do that. One is because there's been times in my career where two years later a lawyer will call and say, Hey, so-and-so was in your office, could you please tell us? Blah, blah, blah. So one whew thank God I have notes. The other thing is two I have always said, and I put it in my book, is those little things too. The clients mention, I'll say, you know, my, my daughter's getting married and I'm so stressed out, I have to find a dress. So, you know, all those things. We leave really detailed note notes. One, are they a repeat client? How do they like their tables? Do they like a blanket? Do they like heat? Do they like a... Everything that the client likes is there at a glimpse for the next therapist? So we do, we don't get into details, but you know, we take very clear notes so that it's, I feel like the client, no, who doesn't love to be heard. So when a client sees one therapist sees another therapist, and they already kind of have an idea of what's going on, and they don't have to repeat themselves, the therapist says, Hey, I heard blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. They're like, what? I can't tell you how many times that's happened. So. 


0:13:00.4 DB: If it's okay, can I circle back around to the energy conversation? Because I... Kristin asked an awesome question about how you shift in that moment. You've got a few minutes, possibly new client trigger has occurred. How do you shift?  


0:13:14.8 DM: I have a couple of little things that I like. One is, I'll pause like I said, I'll pause. And one of the, the things that always gets me in, in my, in my body and in my head is, do I have everything I need right here, right now to be present for this client? Like, I am here for them. The client is key. How would I wanna be treated? So a lot of times I might even take the client upstairs, sit them down and say, could you just give me one minute, maybe do a couple of jumping jacks, you know, have a little tear come out, whatever's necessary, you know, gather myself and then remember, you know, the world is working for me, not against me. And whatever is there is gonna be waiting for me after this session, but this person is paying me big money for this session and I'm gonna give them the best session they've ever had. 


0:14:11.1 DM: So for me, 'cause again, it's like leading the horse. So if I go in the room and I'm like pissed off and then I'm not paying attention to them and I don't give 'em, you know, I'm kind of thinking about things. I'm kind of half in, half out the massage. After the massage, I'm gonna be second guessing myself, and then it takes more energy. So my whole day gets turned around. So like I said, I'm a big fan of, in, you know, some of my teachings is doing the next right thing. Just do the next right thing. That's all you have to do is the next right thing. 


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0:15:24.3 KC: Let's get back to our conversation. So before any client comes, I have a breathing technique that I do, and then I do this little practice where I think about three things that are very specific to the client. So it puts me out of thinking about myself and I'm thinking about the client. And at the end of the session, I do the reverse. I think of three things that are only unique to me and not about the client. And then it brings me back into my space. And so I find that if I do that each time, then it just becomes a practice and I expect it, and it's just part of it. I don't have to do emergency management. I'm just doing, this is part of how I appear for a session and how I end a session. 


0:16:09.1 DM: I think people should listen to Kristin on that one. That was a good one. 


0:16:13.3 DB: All right, Diane, let's shift. And I'm sure people are gonna wanna know what are some signs of imbalance. 


0:16:18.4 DM: I I think the things that I've noticed in, in my staff and myself is your patience gets shorter and then, you get tired. And then I, I notice sometimes there's like this blame thing if this would just be right, if this would just happen, everything would be okay. So I feel like just like this little slow drip of negativity comes over, self-doubt and all these things, even sometimes I think it could get as far as, am I in the wrong profession? You know, this just isn't for me. I can't deal with this. You know, I, I've had a lot of people, I, I, I wasn't expecting to talk about this, but you know, they... They're going through something. I know they're going through something. The group knows they're going through something. We're doing our best to either give them the space, give 'em the support they need, whatever it might be. 


0:17:06.2 DM: And they say that the hardest thing is being quiet for an hour in a room because they have to, like, they don't wanna think about it or feel it, you know? So again, it's like a real practice massage, I think is one of the greatest practices in the world about being in the now because literally when you're touching someone and taking care of them, being present is so key to really do a great job. And you are, you're alone with your thoughts And that client. That's the only thing in that room is you, your thoughts and that client. So really practicing being in the moment and doing whatever's necessary to get you in the moment. It's a huge, I, I don't know. I love massage in that. It's been a huge life lesson. Like I've had to become a, a better person and more self-aware every year of my life in this profession. So really, I think I'll be able to give back the way that I, I hope I get to give back and I do give back. 


0:18:02.7 DB: Because I do always, I try to do a little homework. And I got a little excited about our podcast today. I went to your mental and I looked at some signs of imbalance. So, let me know if these resonate with you, Diane and Kristin, or have ever occurred to you. Unnecessary arguments, complaining, gossiping, worrying, self-doubting, need for approval. 


0:18:31.6 KC: Never. 


0:18:37.0 DB: Perfect human specimen. 


0:18:39.7 DM: I think I, I just, I, and I hope that one of the, the first steps I think in everything is awareness is key. My dad used to say, Diane, awareness is key. It's just being okay with that We're human. And that perfection is, you know, something that I, I don't know we'll ever have. And then realizing we can't be perfect brings empathy. And again, empathy's a great way to regulate emotions because you realize most of the things that you're going through or feeling so is everyone else on the planet, just maybe in a little bit different ways. So that, that empathy sometimes helps me regulate my emotions and pause and slow it down because I realize who am I? I'm just like a blade of grass amongst many blades of grass, you know, like everyone is, we're all in this together. And, everyone has a story behind, you know, that's another thing I, I feel like you don't know what happened to a client before they come into your office. You have no idea what they're going through at home. Sometimes, you know, maybe it's, you will see a bruise, but sometimes you won't. Some of it's just emotional stuff. They're dealing with emotional stress. You know, there's so many things, there's so many stories in every session between the client, everyone in your office and you. So it really is just such a cool experience. It really is. 


0:19:54.0 KC: And I think it's also interesting too, you know, we talked about developing our own emotional intelligence and awareness of what's happening with our emotional state and our physical being and emotional being. But also I think that the practice of a client coming for a massage session brings them more in tune with what's happening in their own body physically and emotionally. So in a way, not only are we talking about using tools to, you know, sort of help manage our own state, but we're also introducing tools to our clients just through the simple practice of helping them and leading them through a session beginning to end. Don't you think?  


0:20:37.1 DM: I I really think, Judith asked, and I haven't actually, I haven't heard the teacher not talking about how we, well, one, it's like kind of meeting people where they are, right? And how we approach our sessions and how we approach our, our touch and, you know, creating a safe and sacred space, for clients and so that they can heal themselves, you know, so they can create that space. So yeah, I, I totally agree with, what you're saying as far as, you know, we need to create a space for clients and, it's a great opportunity for them to learn more about themselves. And I think too, sometimes that's why I like, I'm a big fan too, of maybe not oversharing and, keeping the narrative positive with clients. That was another way that I kind of balanced my own energy maintenance emotionally, was seeing the good instead of seeing the bad, pointing out the good instead of all people can go anywhere and find out what's wrong with them. I like for them when they come to see me, what's right with you? Let's talk about what's right. 'cause again, you see a huge shift in people In the way they walk in the way they carry themselves. And even pointing out something positive when they're on the table. Like, wow, your body really is very receptive to the Massage. They'll be like, really? Yeah, you're really good at getting massage, really. You know, so I've always tried to find some, I always look for the shiny in people. I try to find something good that's happening. 


0:22:07.6 DB: Alright, Diane, as we start to bring this podcast to a close here, let's just close with some tips. If we lose that balance, how do we get it back?  


0:22:23.9 DM: I think it's, the one would be self-awareness. You know, just check in with yourself, ask yourself some questions, give yourself some time. And for me, time doesn't include Netflix or, or stuff. I will lay on my floor in complete silence. And so my head calms down. Meditation for me is not that word anymore. It's mindfulness. So I mindfully lay on the floor until my head kind of settles. So I think self-awareness would be one. And then learning how to, like I was saying, kind of regulate, learning how to, you know, pause before you react and then create, you know, create instead of, reacting. And so you don't have to clean up, messes. And again, like motivating clients I think is really important. Motivating staff is like, if you're not motivating your staff, if you don't want your staff to be better, I want my staff to be better than I was. 


0:23:19.1 DM: I want them to make more money than I did when I was in the, in the, in the job that they're in. I want them to do better. So if you are not, creating a staff that's better than you, I don't know. I'd think about that one. And clients too. Motivating clients. And I think too, understanding, this is another thing that I think just deflates therapists. There's no such thing as perfection. And I think that not every single session, there's not gonna be a band waiting for you. Clients aren't always gonna think you're the best thing in the whole wide world, and that's okay. It's okay. Even if people don't like your session, it's, it's okay. Not everybody's for you. So take it easy on yourself and just keep showing up, doing the best you can. Taking classes, get on ABMP's website, take some free CEs. 


0:24:05.6 DM: And then listening, listening, listening. You know, learning universal. I call them universal social skills because society is changing and the way we speak to people is changing. So just really listening and pausing and, and really I think the greatest gift. One of my, I was really excited. I did a podcast with someone of my therapists and she said one of the greatest gifts we can give someone is them feeling heard. So again, practice listening. It takes a little bit of pressure off of you happen to know everything all the time. And I do think it, helps save a little bit with, some of your emotional energy. 


0:24:47.6 DB: I wanna thank our guest today, Diane Matkowski, for joining us. To find out more information about Diane, visit and the massage Thanks Diane, and thanks Kristin. 


0:25:00.7 DM: You guys are great. Thank you. 


0:25:01.2 KC: You are great. And thank you so much for this incredible conversation about emotional energy. I'm sure a lot of our listeners resonated with every single word you said. Thanks so much. 


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