In my practice, I have always had a set routine.
When my client arrives, I have my clipboard and pen in hand with notes from previous sessions. I have a new SOAP chart and sometimes a body chart for my client and me to fill out.
And I’m ready to fire off my regular list of questions and actions:
- What can I help you with today?
- How is the hip/neck/foot/ (fill in the body part) doing today? Regarding your painful condition, how long have you had the pain, is the pain sporadic, what activities cause
- the pain, etc.
- Stand up and let me check or test your posture. Let me see you walk to that wall and back.
I have my clients well trained, and they dutifully describe this week’s history of their restricted movement, headache, back pain or latest sports injury. And then we move on to the massage and I work on the problems. It’s all about the specific, focusing mainly on the physical.
But I’m often left wondering, could I do more for my client? Did I really get to the source of the problem? Why do they keep coming back with the same complaint? How much does a client’s wellbeing or emotional stress affect the problem?
So I’ve recently changed my approach and started asking this first question: How do you want to feel today?
My clients give me quizzical looks, and are frequently stumped for an answer. But I keep pressing the question before asking anything else. How do you want to feel today? The question puts the client into a reflective, thinking mode, more in touch with what’s really going on inside them.
“Hmmm, how do I want to feel…?” I’m quiet after asking, not suggesting how I think they should feel, but giving them time to ponder. Often, with a burst of nervous laughter, they’ll say something like, “I want to feel like a million bucks!” or “Pain free!” But some responses are a little more introspective. “I just want to wake up in the morning and not dread the day again,” replied one longtime client with chronic left hip pain. Another client who is a runner with occasional minor injuries said, “I am just SO stressed with my situation at home. I just want to have that pressure taken away for a while.” Wow. I am almost always surprised by the response, and gain deeper insight into my client’s pain or inner turmoil.
Then based on their response, I ask the appropriate questions that will help me figure out how to treat them in a way to achieve that desire.
I’m sure I have many times treated a problem but not the person, a symptom but not the cause. I’ve discovered, or more accurately rediscovered, that focusing on the whole body first often goes far in resolving the specific complaint. Now, instead of diving in right away with deep tissue or trigger point techniques, I’m more likely to start slowly and generally with myofascial approaches, working from the core to peripheries, taking more time to “see with my hands”, following patterns of tension or referrals. I often end up applying deep tissue and trigger point work as needed, but I always begin with my focus on the whole physical and emotional client.
Most of my clients love the new approach, though some still want me just to work on a specific problem. As for me, I am more excited and energized about massage than ever, finally feeling like I’m giving my clients what they most desire.
Give it a try and ask your next clients, “How do you want to feel today?”