How can research help me better serve my clients?

By Abram Herman
[Tell Me...]

Why Does Research Matter?

Research plays an important role in legitimizing practices, especially in the health-care field, to help providers gain acceptance from a larger group of consumers. Simply sharing an article about a newfound benefit of massage therapy, demonstrated through scientific research, could inspire clients to come in for another appointment. “I often post interesting articles on Facebook or email them to clients,” says therapist Diana Kane of Maryland. “It’s a great way to foster the idea that massage is good for more than a relaxing, pampering treatment to be indulged in from time to time.”

We already know some obvious benefits of massage therapy—massage feels good and reduces stress, which leads to better overall health. This is easily established through personal, subjective experience, and is also supported by broader clinical research studies that have documented these benefits.

When dealing with specific conditions, like cancer, fibromyalgia, and posttraumatic stress disorder, there is a growing body of evidence about the efficacy of massage, but a stronger level of evidence is needed to demonstrate the effectiveness of massage therapy and help therapists design sessions. “I feel more confident treating a client and producing results knowing that I have taken the necessary measures to treat them,” says Kathryn Keach in Colorado.


Putting Research to Work

One of the great benefits of incorporating research into your practice is that it can increase clients’ acceptance of your work. “If they can have that validation, they seem to take the treatment more seriously,” says Gloria Coppola of North Carolina. “We might know it works, but others like to see the proof, too.” Instilling faith in the treatment method you’ve proposed will help ensure the client is motivated and dedicated to seeing your treatment plan through to its fruition.

As Rob Smore in Nevada suggests, “The goal is to have clients become engaged in the process toward optimal health, thinking about why they are experiencing what they are feeling during the days and weeks they are not on the table.”

How can you attain this level of client participation? Become knowledgeable about research on massage therapy. Check out, where you can take the online course “Basics of Research Literacy” and sign up for the free International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork. For clients with specific conditions, search online for relevant information between sessions and send it to them. Post interesting articles related to the science of massage therapy on your Facebook page or Twitter account, or start an enewsletter or blog that allows you to regularly share such information. Make yourself available for clients’ questions, and if you don’t know the answers, offer to do some research and follow up later. These actions not only inform clients of some benefits they might otherwise overlook, but also enhance your professional image and show that you care—a win-win for everybody!