Under Pressure for More Pressure

The Client Who Demands Deeper

By David M. Lobenstine

There are phrases we massage therapists dread, such as “Can you work deeper?” “I thought this was a deep-tissue massage,” and “I want it to hurt.” You know what I’m talking about. You are in the middle of a marvelous routine on a client’s back, pouring your heart and soul and hands into their muscles, and the client asks for more pressure. Fine, you think. And you shift from your heel of hand to your forearm.

A minute later, the client says, “It’s still not deep enough.” Your breath shortens, your lips tighten, you feel the tension in your own shoulders building, and you push into their rhomboids with all your strength. You can feel your deltoids and biceps start to shake. You start to pay less attention to the client and more attention to the clock. You muddle through the rest of the session and leave the room quickly, shaking your head all the while. Spoiler alert: Your client probably isn’t happy. You definitely aren’t happy.

Clients who keep demanding deeper pressure are infuriating, but this kind of client is going to keep showing up. And your current approach to these clients probably isn’t working. So let’s try something different.

Here’s what I think: Yes, many of these clients will benefit from deeper work, but what these clients are really asking for is something more important—more engaged work. This client doesn’t need you to dig into their muscles with all your might. This client needs your help to inhabit their own body more fully. This client needs your help to feel your touch. How do we do this? First, we are going to see this client differently. Then, we are going to work with this client differently.

Seeing Differently

The problem of the demanding client is a problem of perception. These clients—the ones for whom your best work is never enough—are annoying. They are infuriating. They are bad people. They exist to ruin your day.

I have thought all these things. You probably have too, as you muddle your way through the session and hope they don’t come back. But as you know, this type of client is going to come back. So instead, let’s try to understand them.

Occasionally, you may get a client who is having a bad day and is just determined to have a bad experience on your table. Alternately, it is possible you may have the rare client who has some kind of condition, neurological or otherwise, where they are literally incapable of feeling pressure unless it is exceedingly deep. But, in the vast majority of cases, this situation is much, much simpler: You are just working with a client who, at this moment, is having a hard time sensing your pressure. And chances are, in general, this client has a hard time feeling their own body.

Your job is not to show this client how strong you are. Your job is to help them feel their own body—to become a bit more embodied. No small feat, for sure. But enabling a client to feel their body more fully is actually easier—and infinitely more rewarding—than trying to overwhelm their defenses and get them to submit to your Herculean cross-fiber friction. We are going to explore this very different way of seeing this demanding client, and then explore how you can work on them—how you can show them how to feel your touch, and their own body, in a more satisfying way.

Acknowledging the Autonomic

It is easy to think of each body on your table as a long pile of muscles, topped by skin, and perhaps interwoven with fascia. We spend each session trying to relax, lengthen, or release the muscles. That vision of our work—manually manipulating one muscle, and then another, and then another—is too simple. The only way a muscle changes is when the nervous system changes. The muscles are just meat. It is only via the sparks of nerve conduction that a muscle is animated. It is only a nerve firing that causes a muscle to contract—whether concentrically, eccentrically, or isometrically—and only the absence of nerve firing that allows a muscle to passively return to its resting length.        

As David Lauterstein says, “Muscles don’t relax or tense up of their own accord any more than lights turn on or off without electricity . . . . Thus, it would appear our therapeutic effects arise from communicating with the nervous system through the musculoskeletal system—not by directly manipulating it. Just as we communicate through cell phones, but are not talking to the phones themselves, we are sending messages to the nervous system using the foundational language of caring, skillful touch.”1

It is true that each of our strokes works with the muscles (and the skin, the fascia, and the endless numbers of receptors embedded within each of these layers), but all of those strokes have to work through the nervous system. As a result, we need to pay more attention to the nervous system while we work. When the client is lying passive on our table, their somatic (or “voluntary”) nervous system is at rest—they aren’t consciously moving their bodies (except to jerk their head out of the cradle and tell us they need more pressure!). But what is at work—what is always at work, every moment of our lives—is the autonomic nervous system.

The autonomic nervous system consists of two halves: the parasympathetic branch—which we refer to as “rest and digest”—and the sympathetic branch—which we refer to as “fight or flight.” These two halves are constantly at work, responding to every shift in our environment, trying to maintain homeostasis within the body.

That homeostasis, however, seems increasingly tricky to find. Today it seems that our world is always on and constantly striving; we all walk around with endless to-do lists, and humble brag about how stressed out we are. It is easy, in this world, for the sympathetic nervous system to become overactive. Many of us, after all, seem to be perpetually fighting through (or fleeing from) the endless obligations that surround us. The innumerable ways stress impacts our physiology—from weight gain to depression to cardiovascular disorders—is enormously complicated and beyond the scope of this article. But as we can see in our own lives, and in those of our clients, it is much more likely these days to be doing and striving and accomplishing, rather than to be resting and digesting!

There is no way to verify this, but I believe that, more often than not, the client that demands deeper pressure is already in this imbalanced state.

In every one of us, both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are constantly firing to ensure the body’s basic function. But we know from extreme cases—like people with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—that the sympathetic nervous system can work too well—it can become stuck or overactive or hyperaroused. This overactive state does not require the extreme trauma of war or abuse that we associate with PTSD; it can happen just with the regular stresses of life. In short, these clients are doing more fighting and fleeing than resting and digesting. And their musculature manifests this imbalance.

Once we see the outsized role of the sympathetic nervous system, we can better understand these clients. One of the most perplexing aspects of these “demanding deeper” clients is how different they are from one another. We often complain about the bulky guy with the football-player build—he is the obvious example of the client who is always asking for more pressure. But he is far from the only one. These clients run the gamut of body types and personalities. Some of my most demanding clients have been very petite women, often former dancers, with tiny frames and sinewy muscles, who seemed like they wanted me to excavate down to their very bones. What does this widely varied group all share? They are stuck in sympathetic nervous system activation. Working with this underlying element is the key, whether the client is towering or tiny.

Check Yourself

As we see this client differently, we also need to see ourselves differently. The reason we therapists spend so much time complaining about these clients is not just because of these clients. We are the other half of the equation. We need to examine our work, and we need to examine our emotions.

First, the work. Think back to the most recent annoying, demanding, never-satisfied client you had. It is possible that they kept asking for more pressure because you weren’t giving them enough pressure. Every once in a while, we just phone it in. For some of us—especially those heading toward burnout—we phone it in far more often than just once in a while.

So, be honest with yourself. During that aggravating session, were you distracted or not really engaged with the unique particulars of that client? Were you just going through the motions, massaging on autopilot? That client might have asked for more pressure because that is often the only thing a client knows how to ask for when a session doesn’t feel right. It is possible that what they really wanted was your attention. They wanted to feel you actually engaging with their body, rather than just sliding back and forth over it, over and over and over again. We’ll explore some ways to find your focus again.

The second issue is emotional. We need to acknowledge that our reactions to these clients are really about us. About the muck of fear and insecurity and misgivings we each carry around with us every day of our lives and we bring into each treatment we give. These clients only push our buttons because we have buttons that are primed to be pushed. I believe these clients frustrate us so much because they are a reminder of an uncomfortable truth: we can’t help everyone.

Many of us found this profession because we have a deep and often unexplained need to help other people. We believe we are healers. We believe our hands can soothe. It is humbling, and sometimes humiliating, when we are reminded otherwise. After all, what is a healer who cannot heal?

But our emotional tumult—that sudden spike of frustration when a client complains and that determination to prove the demanding client wrong—is proof of the value of these clients. I believe we need these clients. I believe they may even be essential for our careers because they remind us of our own emotional muck. In short, they remind us of the corrosive impact of our own egos. Think about it. We often get caught in an antagonistic relationship with these clients. Just as their sympathetic nervous system is likely revved up, inhibiting their ability to feel, our response comes straight from our own sympathetic nervous system, and we get ready to fight. Not literally, but muscularly. We tense up, determined to show the client how strong we are. That is the ego at work.

There is even something satisfying about antagonism. We get to be a little self-righteous. We are the healers, after all—we know what the client needs. That is the ego at work. And who among us hasn’t relished telling the story of a demanding client later that day in the break room? Commiserating with your similarly aggrieved colleagues at the spa, lamenting the craziness you all have to deal with, shaking your heads and rolling your eyes all the while. Again: the ego.

But those ego-driven emotions are soul-sapping, and career-shortening. They don’t do anything good for the client—after all, our frustrated, pain-inducing efforts to shut the client up only confirms their own sense of self-righteousness, as someone who needs really deep work. And it doesn’t do anything good for you. After that brief thrill that comes with complaining, you are left with a body that is a little more run-down, and a mind and heart that are a little less content.

In order to see this client differently, we need to change our perception. One thing I suggest in my continuing education workshops is to try and feel gratitude toward this client. Yes, this is hard. Yes, my students shake their heads and laugh when I suggest this. But hear me out. Even though the client doesn’t know it, they are prompting us to check in with our head and heart and hands. The session becomes something to learn from, rather than something to just survive. 

Working Differently

Shifting your perception just a bit—seeing that client differently, checking in with your own head and heart and hands—can infuse any session with new purpose and possibility. But that said, you still have to finish the session. So how do we integrate seeing differently with actually working differently?

I have found a number of simple but transformative steps that can shift a client from angry to amazed. They all stem from the same principle: engage more. If you make your session feel more engaged, you make the client feel more engaged with their own body.

The Downside of Deep

Engaging more can manifest on several levels, from changing the way you use lubricant to specific techniques you can try. Some of these manifestations are tiny and practical, while others are big and abstract. But they all start from the same place: Don’t try to work deeper.

When the client demands deeper, we use more muscles. Our back and neck stiffen, our shoulders start to creep up toward our ears, and we try to pummel our client, to overwhelm their muscles into submission. But that instinctual response doesn’t fix the problem; in fact, it expands it.

Creating more pressure via more muscle contraction places great strain on our own bodies, and feeds the exhaustion and injury and burnout—physical and also emotional—that is so pervasive in our industry. But there is another downside: it rarely does any good for the client.

That client is asking for more pressure, as we have seen, because of their activated sympathetic nervous system. Because their muscles are already conditioned toward fighting or fleeing. Because their unconscious body is already tensing, already primed to anticipate the next possible threat. Now, you are standing over that client, trying to muscle their body into submission. You become the threat their body is anticipating! Even though their rational mind is saying they want more pressure, the much deeper, more instinctive part of their brain, the hippocampus, acts unconsciously and doesn’t like the idea of some random person digging their hands into their rhomboids.2 So how does their body respond? The sympathetic nervous system is even further activated. The body goes on even higher alert. The muscles tighten further.

There are a few instances where digging as hard as possible seems to produce good results, but I think those instances are the exceptions that prove the rule. It is possible that you are able to force a few muscles to “relax” (whatever that actually means neurologically). The effect is likely temporary, because you have mashed the tissue but haven’t done anything to the underlying issue. Similarly, you may have the occasional client who says your work feels good—that they like the pain. That statement may be true, but they aren’t benefitting from your touch. Chances are, they are so detached from their own bodies that pain feels like a good thing, because it feels, well, like something. Or, they are so chronically tight, or suffering from chronic pain of another kind, that the pain you are causing does feel good—because it is a distraction from the other pain they are used to.

But from the perspective of the nervous system, pain is a warning—it is an alarm from the body that injury or other tissue damage is coming. Thus, more pain is never beneficial. So even if they say the pain feels good, you are not actually helping them to be more at ease in their own skin. You are just replacing one problem with another.

Instead of trying to work deeper, try to work more engaged. Your strokes need to be more engaged with the client’s tissue—and that starts by you becoming more engaged with your own body.

Ways to Engage

To be clear, working more engaged does not mean lightening your touch. I believe in very deep work. But I also believe that deep work is most effective—with every client, but especially with the demanding clients—if it is created using less muscular effort and more of your body weight and your breath.

The Principle of Pouring

There is a way we can give the client more pressure that is both safe for us and beneficial for them. In my continuing education classes, I call this the principle of pouring. When we pour our body weight into the client, rather than push with our muscles, we can create the pressure the client needs without triggering their sympathetic nervous system.

Using the principle of pouring, our pressure is soothing rather than aggressive, so the client’s sympathetic nervous system firing decreases, and their parasympathetic nervous system comes to the fore. As their muscles begin to relax, they can feel our pressure more, and they can appreciate our work. They leave the session more in touch with their own body. (The added benefit is that pouring with your body weight is vastly easier—and more satisfying—for your body and brain.)

This principle is easy to understand, but hard to put into practice. Here are the three simplest ways you can enact it in your next session: think low, slow, less.


Lower your table. Before your next session, lower your table a couple notches and see what happens. Because your client is farther away from you, you can increase the proportion of your body weight that you can apply—no muscular effort required! The result is you will be giving more pressure to your client while expending less effort, since you won’t be contracting your muscles to create that level of pressure. Because you are not using muscular effort—not trying to overwhelm the client—you will be offering more pressure and a more engaged touch at the same time. The benefits of lowering your table become even more pronounced if you also bend your knees and think more consciously about working from your hips and lower body, rather than from your upper body—similar to tai chi. For more information, see “Pour, Don’t Push: How to Massage with Greater Depth and Ease” (Massage & Bodywork, November/December 2016, page 64).


Slow your strokes. When a client asks for more pressure, instead of digging in, think of slowing down. It is easy to respond to the demanding client with our ego—by trying to do more, making our strokes bigger and faster, dazzling that client with our skills. But if you make your strokes slower, you give your client more chance to feel each moment of contact. Your client doesn’t care how many effleurage strokes you do; your client just wants to feel meaningful, intentional, sustained contact.


Use less lubricant. Sometimes when clients ask for more pressure, the problem is just that you are moving too quickly across the tissue, rather than sinking down into the tissue. This problem—of sliding, rather than sinking—is pervasive but easily solved. Use less oil (or whatever other lubricant you use). For more on this problem, see “Less is More: A More Effective Way to Use Lubricant” (Massage & Bodywork, January/February 2020, page 80). With too much oil, it is hard to actually contact the client in any sustained and meaningful way, because we are just slipping along the skin. Decrease the amount of lubricant you apply. If you have already slathered up your client, apologize and use a hand towel to wipe off the excess. You’ll be surprised at how that tiny change instantly shifts the quality and depth of your contact.

Notice that low, slow, less all build on each other—each one makes the others even more effective. Any of these alone are useful, but all three together are even more transformative. Used together, they enable you to engage more with the client while still taking care of your own body.

Work with Your Exhale

Along with your body weight, your breath is probably the most powerful tool you are not using. Your breath sets the tone and pace for your session, and unconsciously influences both your experience giving the massage and your client’s experience receiving it. Here’s why.

As we know, the autonomic nervous system is beyond our conscious control. You can’t prevent your pupils from dilating, stop your palms from sweating, or increase the rate of peristalsis, no matter how hard you try. But there is one exception: your breath. Your breath is the one thing that you can consciously control and that also impacts your autonomic nervous system.3 Taking big forceful inhalations increases the firing of your sympathetic nervous system. (Think of the boxer before the opening bell, who is revving themselves up—who is literally trying to activate their fight reflex.) In the opposite direction, long, slow, easy exhalations increase the firing of your parasympathetic nervous system.

It is difficult to decrease sympathetic nervous system firing in that demanding client if your own sympathetic nervous system is activated. We need to model that shift in our own bodies. The quickest and simplest way is not by talking to the client and trying to rationally convince them to relax, and it is not by using fancy techniques or tools. It is by using your breath.

Let your inhalation happen as your body needs, but then each time you breathe out, think of lengthening and softening that exhale. Your attention to a slow, effortless exhale will enhance that “rest and digest” half of your nervous system. That will help you stay relaxed and nonreactive, no matter how frustrating the client is. That slow, easy exhale will also help you slow down your strokes so that each will feel more engaged and intentional and satisfying. That feeling is contagious; your client will start to feel more satisfied because your work is more satisfying.

Just as we can get revved up by a demanding client, so too can we calm down a demanding client—all without saying a word. We are always unconsciously picking up queues from the people around us—even when we’re lying facedown and half asleep on a massage table. As you consciously slow your breathing, your client’s breath will unconsciously follow yours. That slower breath diminishes their sympathetic arousal. As their unconscious body is less focused on fighting or fleeing, they are more able to feel the amazing work that you are offering them. Paying attention to your exhalation is a perpetual possibility within each session, a way of keeping your own body calm and connected, and a way of encouraging that client to be a little more at home and at peace in their own body.

The End Is Everything

Regardless of the style of massage you practice—or what techniques you use—pay particular attention to the end of your strokes. Allow your pressure to remain constant throughout the stroke, and then linger at the end of each stroke.

In my experience teaching other therapists, a common habit we get caught in is to already start thinking about the next stroke we are going to do before we finish the stroke we are currently performing. We are trying so hard to make our sessions beautiful and seamless and flowing that our attention is constantly diverted away from the contact we are giving right here, in this moment. We are already preparing for that beautiful transition to the next stroke, to the next part of the body. Even though that distraction comes from the best intentions, it is still distraction.

This habit is a particular problem with the demanding deeper client. Part of the reason they keep asking for more is because they too are not in the present moment. They are distracted by whatever else is happening in their brains, and distracted from the actual sensation of your touch. If we are distracted and they are distracted, then our work is just compounding the problem.

When we are distracted, the end of the stroke can feel perfunctory or a little rushed. You might give a gorgeous effleurage down the paraspinal muscles, but then you abruptly lift your hands to get ready for the next stroke, rather than completing the stroke all the way into the sacrum. Instead, do the opposite. Think of the end of the stroke as the most important part. Try elongating each stroke for just a couple seconds longer, and you’ll give the client that delicious sustained contact they need. Your sustained attention to the end of the stroke will help to sink their own attention into that stroke, into your contact, into their body.

Holding and Allowing

Nearly every massage stroke consists of pressing your hand (or thumb, or elbow) down into the client’s body, but there is another option. Place your hand underneath the client, and let their body sink into your hand. This technique is particularly useful for demanding clients. You are not digging down into their tissue, and therefore you don’t risk activating their fight-or-flight response. Instead, you are simply creating a platform for that particular part of their body, holding that part of the body ever so slightly off the table, and allowing that part to soften in its own time, in its own way. 

Clients often have their longest, largest, most satisfying exhales of the whole session when I use the holding and allowing technique. For people who are often unaware of their own bodies, who have a hard time feeling the specifics of their tissues, this technique is particularly remarkable. You are challenging their proprioception—their sense of where that particular body part is in space—and thus confusing their built-in sense of their body as rigid and fixed. That moment of confusion can become a moment of proprioceptive insight, as that part of the body realizes that it doesn’t have to maintain that unconscious pattern of holding.

Of course, the client doesn’t say any of this aloud. Rather, this is an internal, largely unconscious, process, all in the space of a few exhalations. It is one of the best examples I have found of “letting go”—an idea that we as therapists often invoke, and often push our clients to do, with mixed results. Here, instead, you are creating the literal position for that letting go by elevating that body part ever so slightly on your fingertips and then allowing the client’s musculature to let go of their habitual, held position and sink a bit further into your fingertips. See “3 Places to Hold and Allow” on page 76 for ways to use this beautifully simple and surprisingly effective technique.

3 Places to Hold and Allow

For the demanding-deeper client, there are three places I find most useful to hold: the rib cage, the shoulder blade, and the base of the skull. Here’s how it works.

Rib Cage

This example is for the right side of the ribs (reverse the directions for the left ribs).

1. Client is prone, back undraped. Stand on the left side of the table, level with the client’s shoulders.

2. Bend your knees and hips slightly. Hinging at your hips (rather than bending from your spine), lean across the body so that the fingertips of your right hand touch the sheet beneath the client’s right-side ribs.

3. Wrap your right hand gently around the client’s lateral ribs. Make sure your hand is in the middle of the rib cage, so that you are neither so low that you are pressing into the lower (floating) ribs nor so high that you are contacting breast tissue.

4. Lift the ribs ever so slightly off the table, but do so by leaning your hips back slightly (as if you are starting to sit down in a chair), rather than yanking the client with your arm muscles.

5. Now, wrap your left hand gently around the lateral ribs as well, but scoop those left fingertips a little farther under the front of the body. Remove your right hand as you slide your left hand into place. Your left fingertips should be on the anterior rib cage, rather than the lateral rib cage. Think of scooping and holding the tissue gently in your hand, rather than gripping or poking with your fingers.

6. Allow your fingers to mold into the intercostal spaces—the spaces between the ribs—so that you are directly contacting the intercostal muscles.

7. This step is the most important of all: do nothing. The fingertips of your left hand are creating a platform that the right-side rib cage is sinking into. Gently lean your body weight away from the client, giving the client’s right side a chance to flop or sink or melt as it is ready.

8. Maintain your own slow, easy exhale as you wait for the client’s rib cage to start to let go of unconscious tension.

9. If you want to amplify the results:

• Add a very slow forward and back rocking from your whole body, to increase the proprioceptive confusion and encourage that muscular melting.

• Place your right palm over the client’s paraspinal muscles at the same level as your left hand, so that your two hands are creating a sandwich around the front and back of the ribs. Sink your body weight slowly into that right hand, so that you are compressing your left hand into the table, and compressing the intercostal spaces further into the platform of your left fingertips. You can also add a very slight undulation up and down, thus modeling that feeling of melting for the client.


Shoulder Blade

This example is for the right shoulder (reverse for the left shoulder).

1. Stand on the side of the table, next to the client’s right shoulder.

2. Wrap your left hand over the top of the shoulder and lean backward to lift the shoulder slightly off the table. Then, slide your right hand fully underneath the shoulder blade.

3. Your right fingertips should be touching the paraspinal muscles between the scapula and the spine and the heel of your right hand should be touching the lateral edge of the scapula or the shoulder joint, depending on the size of your hand relative to the size of the client.

4. Sit on a stool or kneel on your knees, so that your forearm is level with the table.

5. Keep your hand and wrist as relaxed as possible. Point your fingertips up toward the ceiling. Imagine that your hand is curved into the shape of a backwards C. Or, imagine that you are creating a scoop shape with your hand, as if you are taking a sip of water from the faucet.

6. This step is the most important of all: do nothing.

7. With that “scoop” or C-shape, you have created a platform: the client’s right-side paraspinal muscles should be resting against your fingertips, just an inch or two off the table. The whole rest of that right shoulder blade will be draped across your hand, also slightly off the table.

8. It may take a few seconds, but the client’s shoulder will start to droop or sink or melt into your fingertips and hand.

9. Maintain your own slow, easy exhale as you wait for the client to let go of whatever position the shoulder is unconsciously held in.

10. If you want to amplify the results:

• Add a very slow, undulating rocking from your whole body, to increase the proprioceptive confusion and encourage that muscular melting.

• Place your left fingertips along the sternum, or your left palm over the client’s pectoral muscles and lateral edge of the shoulder. Either way, your two hands are creating a sandwich around the front and back of the shoulder. Stand up and sink your body weight slowly into that left hand, so that you are further compressing the shoulder into the platform of your right fingertips. You can also undulate up and down ever so slightly, thus modeling that feeling of melting for the client.

Suboccipitals/Base of the Skull

1. Sit at the head of the table.

2. Scoop both of your hands under the client’s skull, so that your fingertips are making contact with the suboccipital muscles at the base of the skull.

3. Repeat steps 5–9 above.


Using these tips and techniques, you have the chance to act with compassion rather than frustration, with empathy rather than antagonism. We can forge a new cycle, in which our engaged touch enables the client to become more engaged with their own body. As you contact your client with ease rather than effort, you model a healthier possibility for their own autonomic nervous system—and encourage the decrease in sympathetic nervous system firing and the increase in parasympathetic firing. By enabling your clients to feel more of your touch, you enable them to be more at home and more at ease in their own bodies.

But it is also possible that you will make all of these changes—that you will become a wellspring of empathy and offer an abundance of mindful techniques and strategies—and your client will still ask for more pressure. It is possible that you will do everything “right” and your client will still be disappointed. Making peace with this reality is just as important as all the tips and techniques. Because this reality, though disappointing, is essential to our growth as therapists. We will only be truly satisfied therapists—and, I believe, our most effective possible selves—when we accept that we cannot help everybody.

Not only can we not help everyone, I believe we cannot fix anyone. We can only facilitate their own ability to heal and accompany that person on their own path toward health and satisfaction. We can perhaps remove a few obstacles on that path. But we cannot carry them through the woods of life.

It is hard to accept the limits of our work. After all, we massage therapists have just as much ego as anyone else. It is easy to believe we have the answer. But such is a false and dangerous hope. Because if we continue to believe we can “fix” everyone, there is no way out of that cycle of overwork and frustration. This is an impossible and counterproductive burden.

Instead of a fixer, think of yourself as a facilitator. Feel the relief that comes from that shift in perception. The best we can do is listen with attention to our clients, and work with them mindfully.

You won’t be the answer for every client. But once you accept that, I believe your work will get easier, more satisfying, and more effective. When you accept that some clients will be disappointed, you allow yourself to truly be with each and every client. You allow yourself to do your best work—mindful, attentive, engaged—with every client, and you allow yourself the joy (and occasional frustration) of seeing what emerges.


1. David Lauterstein, “Life in the Bones,” Massage & Bodywork, September/October 2019, page 79.

2. Louis Cozolino, “The Triune Brain: Three Brains Attempting to Work as One,” Psychotherapy Networker, December 12, 2013, www.psychotherapynetworker.org/blog/details/48/the-triune-brain-three-brains-attempting-to-work-as.

3. Matthew MacKinnon, “The Science of Slow Deep Breathing: Learn About the Powerful Health Benefits of Slow Deep Breathing,” Psychology Today.

David M. Lobenstine has been a massage therapist, teacher, and writer for more than a decade. He is a graduate of the Swedish Institute and Vassar College. He has worked in a variety of settings—from luxury spas to the US Open Tennis Tournament to a hospice to now, exclusively, his own private practice. He teaches in person and online. His aim, with his clients and in his teaching and writing, is to enhance self-awareness, so therapists can do what they love with efficiency and ease. Find him at davidlobenstine@gmail.com and www.bodybrainbreath.com.