Compassion: A Vital Part of Massage Therapy

By Laura Allen
[Heart of Bodywork]

One definition of compassion is “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.” Another is “the human quality of understanding the suffering of others and wanting to do something to help alleviate that suffering.” A lot of massage therapists are caretaker-type people who sincerely want to help others. Many of the people who seek massage therapy are stressed out and/or in pain, and at least for an hour, they have the expectation of being ministered to by a compassionate and professional therapist who wants to help them get out of it … usually.

Unfortunately, some people are lacking in compassion. You can learn compassion; it is a character trait. Assuredly, it would have been easier to learn from compassionate parents as a child, but it can still be cultivated as an adult. This week on social media, a massage therapist (one who is compassionate), called my attention to a post from a therapist who was mad about a client who was a no-show. I have a cancellation policy of 24 hours, as do many therapists. That’s the best way to do business and protect your income: let your clients know your cancellation policy at first contact. Normally, I am in favor of charging for missed appointments.

But like everything, there are exceptions to the rule. Most of my own exceptions have been rooted in compassion, and I wish that had been the case with the therapist whose client failed to appear. The reason for the no-show: he had been at the hospital for four straight days with his dying mother, and the only thing on his mind was his mother, not his massage appointment. The comments from massage therapists about charging him for the appointment looked like a shark attack. The lack of compassion was dumbfounding. If any massage-seeking public saw the post and the comments, they are likely now forever deterred from getting a massage.

I have worked with many cancer patients and know from personal experience as a caregiver that there are days when they just can’t get out of bed or feel too nauseated to come. I have always given leeway to these clients and not charged for a short notice cancellation or missed appointment. I understood what their health situation was when I took them on as clients. I am not going to penalize someone on chemo for feeling so bad they can’t make an appointment; you may call it my ministry, or call it letting people take advantage of me, but I call it compassion, the same thing I would have called forgiving the client who was with his dying mother. There are a lot of therapists who need to cultivate compassion; all clients deserve to be treated with compassion, but especially those who are in crisis.