'Round the Table

['Round the Table]

I believe the most challenging moments arise with regular clientele. You want to keep things fresh and new for them and avoid the cookie-cutter treatments, but at the same time, provide them with the aspects of bodywork and quality of service that keeps them coming back for more.

Alena Knecht
Williamsport, Pennsylvania


My most challenging moment as a massage therapist was six months long. My mom was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. During her end-of-life care, I was her primary caregiver. I tried many schedule variations to keep working, but in the end, I could not. I did learn a valuable lesson that is easy to preach, but much more difficult to practice.  Taking good care of yourself must be first on the list each day, because ultimately how you care for yourself is indicative of how you care for others.

Maryanne Gilbert Golden, Colorado


In my nearly 14 years of massage therapy, I’ve faced many challenges: cash flow problems, hiring the wrong therapists, inappropriate clients, time management, and many others. But the biggest challenge ever is probably the one I face right now: making the decision (or not) to retire from massage.

I’ve been planning it for years, always saying that “next year” will probably be it, that my schedule has gotten too busy, that my hands are worn out, that I don’t enjoy it like I used to.

But then I think about my clients who have brought as much care and healing to my life as I have to theirs. I think about how much I love to see them cross the threshold, how much I enjoy the stories and insights they share, and how they have become a part of my life. Gosh, how I would miss them ... I feel tears building up just writing this.

And truthfully, I do think about the money. Yes, I now have another career as a spa consultant and trainer. I can focus exclusively on that business and make up for the difference pretty quickly, I’d imagine.

But what will feed my spirit like seeing and helping these people? What other career is out there that is so special, fulfilling, and satisfying, where you really know you make a difference in the lives of others? Maybe next year ...

Felicia Brown
Greensboro, North Carolina


One challenge that stands out above the rest was a client that I saw my last day working in student clinic (I’ll call her Jane Doe). Jane claimed to be an RN from the local hospital, needing to unwind from a long shift. As I worked on her arms (she was supine on the table), her eyes were glassy and she seemed checked out. She started crying 15 minutes into the session. I stopped and sat with her, thinking she may have suffered some kind of abuse sometime in her life. She ended up admitting to smoking marijuana a few days prior, but she still couldn’t relax and wanted to leave. With that startling admission, I stepped out. When she was ready to leave, I made sure that she was okay to travel—even offering to call a taxi. She eventually left, very embarrassed by what had happened. I talked to the clinic supervisor and documented what had transpired. When the school tried to track her down, it turned out that the information she wrote on the client info form was bogus and the phone number she gave when she called to make the appointment had been disconnected. I don’t know why she came that night, but I was glad at how I was able to remain calm and professional. Not being able to handle such a moment had been a worry of mine during school. Jane Doe’s actions alerted us soon-to-be graduates of things we may come across in our practices.

Kimberly Rogers Waupaca, Wisconsin


My most challenging moment was when I realized just how many massages I would have to do each week to make a decent living. My idealism crashed heavily into the reality of business. After much thought, I decided I was prepared to follow through with my plans, but it was a harsh wake-up call.

W. Dayton King Mattoon, Illinois


My most challenging moment was realizing that I just cannot fix every problem.

Melissa Young
Tifton, Georgia


My most challenging moment is telling clients that I am increasing my fees. I have a mobile spa, and my profit has decreased due to high gas prices, etc. So, I have decided to charge an extra 50 cents a mile for any single service. I hate to go up on my fees, but like anything else, the consumer always foots the bill when inflation gets out of control.

Kim Neal
Houston, Texas


The most challenging, but yet the most rewarding, was when my son passed away unexpectedly from sudden infant death syndrome. It was a very traumatic time, but I truly believe, to this day, that being able to massage my clients, to heal them in turn, helped me to heal. Without my profession, six years later, I’d still be a mess, as would my wife. Massaging her has helped to heal her also.

Christopher P. Mazzio
West Chester, Pennsylvania


After reviewing a new male client’s history form and explaining how my session was going to proceed, he then asked when “the release” was going to happen. At first I thought he meant muscle release, and then judging by the look on his face I realized he meant something else. It took me a quick minute to decide what the next move was: either get the guy out my door fast, arm myself with my phone and 911, or run down the hall for some help. Instead, I calmly discussed his request with him, discovering that he was from South America and had moved here very recently. In South America, “releases” were common practice, he told me, and he frequented a therapist twice weekly for such services. He pleaded with me, vowing not to tell anyone, to pay me more, anything. Finally, I laid down my bottom line with him. I felt sorry for him. He was more a victim of a new culture than a “dirty old man,” so I decided to give him an ultimatum. I explained that I would give him a full-hour massage if he promised not to ask me for a release again, that I would not touch him in any way other than for the massage and that he would not touch himself in any way. If he could not agree to that, he was free to go, no harm done. He chose to stay, and we had an incident-free session and great conversation about his life in South America. I learned to be cautious, but to ask questions. We can learn quite a bit from our clients.

Aimee Hoppenjan Milwaukee, Wisconsin


I would have to say the most challenging moments for me are not physical. They happen to take place on an energetic plane: when someone has a preconceived idea about massage, or they are so high strung that they can’t seem to relax for a minute. I try to guide them through imagery and breathwork to help let go of the walls and give in to the process of letting go completely. The challenging part of it is to be able to relax your client so much they forget the walls that they have put up and surrender to the moment. During these difficult situations, my breathwork is so important. It helps to keep me grounded and helps to transmute what is being experienced into something my client can surrender to. The process takes anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. When clients finally let go, I can almost hear their bodies say, “Ahhh, what took you so long?”

Schantell Taylor Waianae, Hawaii


I had a new client come to me for relief of leg pain after having surgery on her big toe. Any leg pain after surgery is a red flag for blood clots. I asked her appropriate questions regarding her pain. She stated that the pain had begun in her lower calf and had progressed up into her upper calf in about 12 hours. The color of her foot differed from her other, and she had mild swelling in her leg. I had to tell the client I was concerned about a possible blood clot. I called the physician who I have recruited to be my consultant for such instances, right from the massage table so the client could hear the conversation. The doctor advised her to go to the emergency room. I took the client and waited with her. The doctor came in. He was chewing tobacco, and asked her why she was there. She told him. He looked at her leg, palpated it, asked two questions and said, “Well, how am I supposed to fix what isn’t broken?” My client was so disgusted, she shut down and said she was fine. Then, we left. Outside, I told her that I was still concerned and wanted her to seek another opinion before getting a massage. Thankfully, she got the second opinion and was cleared for massage. She is now a regular client, and she knows that I put her health ahead of money. I am grateful to have an “on call doctor” to consult with for these emergencies. It was a frustrating experience, but my client is okay.

Linn Ash
Bucyrus, Ohio


My most challenging moments are when I have a client on my table who is expecting something other than the therapeutic massage I offer. I have learned how to handle these situations with respect and dignity. I am very frustrated with the bad name that licensed massage therapists are plagued with because of the people hiding behind the massage therapist name. The problem is very serious in our area and my hope is that other therapists team up together with me to try and stop the problem as much as possible.

Kirsten Pogue
Fair Oaks, California


I have a regular client who I see weekly and she was going in for a surgery to remove a small growth on her neck. Well, all went horribly wrong and she ended up with very limited movement in her neck and could not open her jaw more than half an inch. Her doctor told her that massage would help with getting the range of motion back and also help with all the excess scar tissue. It was a big challenge for me because I’ve never come across anything like this before. I started seeing her four times a week and focusing on working just the head, jaw, neck, and shoulder areas. We were both amazed how quickly her body was responding to the treatments. I have a friend who does ultrasound treatments for facials and sent my client to her. With the combination of massage and ultrasound, my client got back all of her range of motion. It also helped unlock her jaw and helped with the scar tissue.

Ann Wayman
Huntington Beach, California