What One Thing Has Made You a Better MT?

['Round the Table]

Listening and remembering something every client has told me about themselves—something physical, emotional, or personal. It could be the smallest detail of a story or a fact about them, and I make an effort to mention it on the next visit. They come to find I am sincere and I care. It could be their 5-year-old is entering elementary school for the first time, their cat ran away, or they just lost 40 pounds. Clients have recognized this quality and appreciate the attention I give them. The first few minutes of a massage, when you are listening, can be as important as the trigger point in the right rhomboid that needs to be tended to.

You might not remember every point that was spoken, but remember something significant. It makes a difference. 

MaryBeth Glian

Buffalo, New York


One thing that has made me a better massage therapist is receiving regular massage treatment. It’s like taking a class. Not only am I caring for myself and learning new techniques, I also experience the client’s perspective.

How comfortable is the table and face cradle, for example?

If my sinuses are acting up, I can only lay prone for a half hour. The bolster under my knees, when supine, affects my circulation and my legs fall asleep. I’m very healthy, so this may really affect someone who is less so.

Is it time for new sheets; have I been too chatty lately with my regular clients; and have I really heard my clients’ responses when asked how they’re feeling or what needs focus this session?

How do other MTs handle client issues like no-shows, tardiness, or raising rates? What CEUs are they taking and what has worked lately to gain new clients? Their room decor, office design, and location are always interesting to see in comparison, as well. Having a massage session from another MT helps me to review and fine-tune my own procedures, professionalism, and perspective.

Robin Byler Thomas

Tucson, Arizona


Listening to my clients. Each of them has a unique vocabulary to describe their condition. In learning that vocabulary, I gain insight into their condition, as well gaining new or better ways to help other clients.

David Koerner

Hiroshima, Japan


One class I took after school has given my massage business the highest client success rating yet. The class is called Vibro-muscular Harmonization Technique (VHT). It is taught across the country by Jock Ruddock. It is an amazing technique and my clients love it. Continuing education classes are out there by the hundreds, but finding one that truly makes you a better massage therapist is hard to find. My clients are so happy we found VHT, and so am I. This technique, added to my massage basics, has made me significantly better at satisfying my clients on the massage table.

Paula Cable

Liberty Hill, Texas


There is one thing I did out of necessity not long after graduation that has, to this day, made me a better MT—I slowed down. Being the enthusiastic new therapist I was, I now realize I wanted to do too much back then.

As I began my first job in a chiropractic office, my intention to help was there, but my real-world massage skills and business sense were still blooming. So, after learning the hard way about overworking by volunteering at a marathon one day, then having to work the next, I had no choice but to slow down my massage pace. I told myself that if I didn’t have time to massage the entire back it was OK; if I could only focus on the neck it was OK. I really listened to and appreciated the calming ocean waves and serene strings playing in the background a little more than normal.

Funny thing was, that was the first day that every single client left exceptionally overjoyed from their massages. Every person just raved about how wonderful they felt. I, too, felt joy and relief, knowing that I didn’t have to conquer every single adhesion all at once.

Sometimes, for the sake of our body, mind, and soul, we must simply make the time to just slow down.

 Reina Polanco

La Puente, California


To be a better MT, one must show to yourself that you love your profession. Having this kind of attitude will make you interested in performing therapy to your clients. Showing tender, loving care can also help attract additional clients by means of referrals from your regular clients.

Amparo M. Dematera

Nag City, Philippines


When I am upset and disappointed, I get a sense of constriction both mentally and physically and I’m no longer open to receive feedback from a client. Giving massage becomes a chore. It’s no longer an uplifting journey of pleasure mutually shared, and I can’t wait for the massage to end. I try to avoid this feeling at all costs and try to be very selective in my marketing.

I used to feel very disappointed when I could not satisfy everyone who called me for a massage and give them a great treatment. I do not feel this way anymore. There will be people who do not inspire you due to their negativity (no matter what you do or say, they will not be happy with you or your massage). There will be others who will judge you by a preconceived standard imprinted in their brain. No matter what technique or stroke you offer, it will not feel like “John’s or Mary’s massage.”

Stay calm. Do not beat yourself up or try to stand on your head and jump through hoops of fire. Save your psychic and physical energy for your next client. End the massage as politely as possible and tell them they will be happier with someone else or another establishment.

If a massage is not working out, it is like a relationship that is not working out. Don’t try to fix it or fight it; it is best ended and forgotten. Don’t let it ruin your day. Let it go and move on to the next massage ASAP to blot out this experience. I swiftly offer my services to someone who is going to deeply appreciate what I have to offer.

Bernard Zemble

Las Vegas, Nevada


One main aspect that has greatly influenced and improved both my life and my career is grief work. There’s a local group here called Bereavement Outreach that holds meetings every Thursday evening, alternating between educational sessions and sharing sessions for the bereaved and a support person. It was here that I was able to both understand the process of grief (the Kubler-Ross model and James Cherry’s book Handbook of Grief Recovery) and share what I was feeling. It was a very rocky journey, but one I needed to take. Another helpful book was Judith Viorst’s Necessary Losses.

Now, having been through some of my own process work, I’m able to connect with clients by acknowledging how grief and loss impacts our lives and shows up in our bodies, as well as relating to them during those very turbulent times. One doesn’t have to have major losses or issues to let go of, but learning about the process sure helps.

T.J. Tallet

Sacramento, California


The most important thing that’s made me a better massage therapist is working on clients. I customize each client’s treatments to their needs. If I had a second choice, it would be all the continuing education and networking I’ve done to increase my knowledge of the human body. And if I could have a third, it would be all the bodywork I’ve been receiving, even before I went to MT school. Not only did it help me become more aware of my body and its needs, but being a client has made me aware of what I did and didn’t like—the session, therapist, type of bodywork, etc. Combining these three things, I hope to make each client’s session now as relaxing and as therapeutic as possible.

Kimberly Rogers

Waupaca, Wisconsin


One thing that has made me a better massage therapist is to know how to pace myself. I recently did 7.5 hours with only 30-minute intervals. Let me tell you, I was wiped out completely the next day. The next time I started to book a lot, I gave myself at least an hour interval, and it has worked out much better. Some people are late, some people like to talk. I need at least some time to have a breather for myself. I have always worked hard and I found this to be the best way for my career to work for me.

Laura Bechtold (Segur)

Kirkwood, Missouri