Make Your Own Magic

10 Inspiring Guidelines For Your Practice

By Tera Johnson-Swartz

If you expect success in business, you must first establish a solid foundation based on your principles. Here are 10 golden rules that can apply to not only massage, but just about any profession.

1. Honor Your Profession and Its Name
We’ve all heard the antiquated and slang terms relating to massage: back/body rub, masseuse, massage parlor, etc. Sometimes they are said in jest between colleagues, but other times clients say them without awareness of the possible negative connotations. You can only expect your peers and clientele to repeat and support what you allow. Take your profession and title seriously by educating those around you of the proper language used to differentiate a professional, therapeutic massage with an unprofessional, illegal service in the sex trade.

2. Dress to Impress
Our attire matters. Taking the time and effort to put ourselves together before meeting a client speaks volumes about professionalism and how we view ourselves in the health-care profession. In high-end spas and wellness centers, employees are often supplied with uniforms or dress codes, asserting a clear definition of the mood or tone their establishment is trying to convey. In your own practice, even if you wear the same shirt and pants every day, so long as they are clean and pressed, you will surely impress patrons with a polished, professional appearance.

3. Create and Uphold Clearly Defined Boundaries
It may feel a little uncomfortable at first to verbally explain your policies and then have new clients sign a waiver confirming understanding of those policies. However, what is written on paper, as well as upheld in practice, oftentimes gets lost in translation. When a client repeatedly shows up late for a session or fails to respect the policies presented on your initial meeting, and you are put in a position to enforce the consequences, it can sometimes feel like you’re running the risk of losing business. The vital lesson is to create boundaries you can not only write and verbally explain, but also confidently uphold. Clients will respect you for having boundaries and for clearly defining and implementing them.

4. Respect Your Day(s) of Rest
We spend a great deal of time serving others and giving of ourselves. Taking the time to recuperate and rest our bodies and minds will allow us to be fully present in each session. Whether you need a full day, or a series of days, to recharge your emotional and physical energy levels, remember you can only give to others what you have given to yourself first.

5. Honor Your Clients and Your Peers
Remembering to center yourself and focus your complete attention on whomever is in your presence can be a code of honor in our easily distracted technological world. This simple devotion sets a precedent of integrity to those around you by showing a subtle sign of leadership. In doing so, you are silently paving the way for your clients, as well as colleagues, to practice such attentiveness and care.

6. Pay It Forward
Sometimes we don’t have the resources to regularly donate money or expensive goods as often as we’d like. However, we do have something that is equally valuable and appreciated. The gift of massage is a selfless, thoughtful contribution as well as an inexpensive form of advertising through publicity and promotion. If there is a cause you would like to support, don’t feel like you have to wait for an event or fundraiser to cross your path. Contact an existing organization and explain what you would like to contribute. Whether it’s a gift certificate, a chair massage, or a percentage of your profits for a specific service, you can always set the bar to raise awareness for something you believe deserves recognition.

7. Privacy is the Best Policy
While HIPAA regulations clearly define the privacy policies regarding health information, discretion goes beyond that of the general paperwork we keep under lock and key. Oftentimes, our clients are very open about sharing some of the highs and lows in their lives, and that, too, should constitute a level of confidentiality. Avoiding discussions or the sharing of personal information with friends, peers, and other clients about a conversation you had with a certain individual provides a sense of security and trust that goes far beyond a simple signature on a HIPAA form.

8. Learn from Others
Massage is the one profession that supports stealing—techniques, that is—from your colleagues and peers. It’s true. Look at the styles and methods of others as learning opportunities to make you a better therapist. Also, providing a subtle change in pressure, style, or modality during a session with a particular move or technique you learned from another therapist can remind your regulars you’re not set in a routine that prevents you from exploring new methods in massage.

9. Be Honest
If you are asked to perform a particular technique or modality, there is no shame in saying, “Sorry, but I’m not familiar with that,” or simply recommending clients meet with another colleague who is better acquainted with a particular modality. If anything, clients will respect you more for being upfront with them as well as offering an alternative reference. Think of it this way: a general practitioner doesn’t attempt open-heart surgery just as an open-heart surgeon doesn’t focus on general physicals, but each equally value the other and their expertise.

10. Be Grateful
We may sometimes look at our colleagues with a sense of jealousy or envy at their appeared success in practice. They may seem to have it all together, with a busier schedule and more repeat clients in a month than we feel we could have in a year. It is important to be grateful for what you have, not frustrated about what you are lacking. Positive energy and intentions beget positive energy and results. Reminding yourself what initially attracted you to massage can give great inspiration when you’re at a low point in your business. Being grateful doesn’t mean you have to be grateful for your clients or income alone, but for the freedom this profession gives those of us who embrace it. We are free to work independently, as an employee, or a combination of the two; free to master as many unique styles as we wish; and ultimately free to be who we truly are without the burden of changing ourselves to meet the demands of a traditional career path.

Tera Johnson-Swartz has been a licensed massage therapist for nearly 10 years and is based out of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Studying under some of the top health-care practitioners in the country, Johnson-Swartz has developed techniques specifically beneficial for pain relief, discomfort, and overall well-being. Beyond massage, she is a freelance writer, independent childbirth and lactation educator, health educator and fitness instructor, and celebrates her freedom of self-employment with her husband, Michael, and their two young children, Livingston and Bess.