Finding Support

By Jennie Hastings Stancu
[Savvy Self-Care]

As massage therapists and bodyworkers, we are used to playing a support role in people’s lives. Our clients walk into our treatment rooms injured, stressed, and tired, and through the support we provide them, they leave feeling rejuvenated, relaxed, and on the mend.
But what about us? As healing professionals, where do we find the support we need to offer our clients the best care possible without compromising our own health? How do we stay strong and vibrant? No one can be expected to be an endless font of support for others without also receiving plenty of care and attention themselves. For the sake of our long and healthy careers, let’s take a look at where we can find support.

Support Starts at Home
Receiving support begins with a decision. It requires us to acknowledge that no matter who we are, life, and our work, is an ever-balancing cycle of giving and receiving. Regardless of how effective we already are, we will always be made more sustainable, and more effective, by being able to receive support ourselves.
As we begin to name our foundational supports, it is impossible to overemphasize the importance of the care we give ourselves. A nurse I spoke to recently gave me the idea of giving oneself the first 10 percent of the day. For someone who is awake 16 hours a day, that would be about an hour and a half. If we all took the first 90 minutes of the day to do the things that truly nourish us, we would be setting ourselves up to be fully present and coming from a place of abundance for the rest of the day.
During your morning routine, you can do any combination of things that prepare you for the day and inspire you. I like to do things like meditate, write in my journal, drink the perfect cup of coffee, look at the sunrise, and cook brown rice. Maybe you would like to head right to the gym or take your dog out for a walk. Reading inspirational literature, writing or speaking affirmations, or doing some stretches or self-massage might be a part of the support you start your day with. It really doesn’t matter what you do, as long as what you do supports you.

Support While You Work
While at work, there are many ways to weave support into your day. Some of my ideas may be such a basic instinct for you that you’ve never thought of them as support before, but I’ll ask you to consider that these things create the conditions for your work to happen more easily and put less stress on you.
Simply adding heat to your treatment will support your work, because when your clients have a warm place to lie down, their muscles begin to relax more quickly and more deeply than in a cold room. Consider a massage-table warmer, hot stones, or hot water bags and bottles to add heat to your client’s muscles without you having to heat the whole building.
Alternately, if you have a place to keep ice packs, using cold therapy during a treatment can also support the results your client receives without taxing your hands, arms, or shoulders. I’ve noticed most of my clients love receiving an ice pack on an inflamed joint or muscle, even if it’s cold outside.
Using oils and creams containing health-supporting herbs can help you help your client without additional physical effort on your part. The use of arnica, camphor, eucalyptus, marjoram, and other herbs in your massage oil can penetrate into your client’s muscles and make your work feel more effective. You will need your client’s permission, of course, as some people are sensitive to scents.
Some of the tools a therapist can use to help support the massage or bodywork experience include bolsters, eye pillows, and music. All of these go into creating a setting that helps a client’s body relax even before you touch her.
What I want to remind you is that even during a treatment you do not have to do everything yourself. A smart evaluation of the setting in which you provide your work can be a way to take some of the pressure off your own body. This allows you to have a longer, healthier career, helping more people than you could otherwise.

Support for the Long Run
In the field of social work, another profession where the therapist works closely with individuals to support them in a healing process, there is a strategy called supervision. This is a time when the therapist can talk with a mentor about the work they are doing. During supervision, therapists process the challenges they face providing care for their patients and receive support and feedback from their mentors.
For massage therapists and bodyworkers, having someone in your life who is specifically there to support you through the challenges of your work is vital to career health and longevity. Maybe you find this relationship in a mentor—a friend who is further along the path of this profession than you. Maybe you talk to your therapist or coach about it. Be aware that friends and loved ones are usually not so helpful with this kind of thing, as well meaning as they are.
When it comes to finding support, it is important to assemble an all-star team of people and tools to back you up. It starts with a healthy relationship with yourself and the willingness to receive the gifts of time and care. Then you weave support into the work you do with clients by incorporating the tools that allow your work to shine. And finally, you find the people who can help you be your best.
Remember, you’re not alone in this profession, even if it seems that way sometimes. You’ve got lots of people who want you to succeed (especially here at ABMP), and the wisdom to create the perfect supportive structures for your life and practice.

Jennie Hastings Stancu, LMT, is author of The Inspired Massage Therapist (Massage Blossom Books, 2012). She lives in Portland, Maine, and is the creator of Blossom for Women, where she specializes in helping healers and those living through heartbreaking loss. You can contact her at