There are a lot of massage therapists out there. With so many, how do you know you are choosing the right one? Each therapist works differently, and while many of us have similar styles, none of us is exactly the same. Whether you have received a lot of massage, or are hoping to book your first, finding the right therapist can make or break the experience for you.
Here are a 5 tips for selecting a massage therapist to work with.
1. Call first
It is a great idea to call and speak with the massage therapist before booking a session. I have had several people call to talk about my massage style recently, and some have been a good fit, while others are looking for a style that I don't do. By calling to talk to me before booking, they are hopefully ensuring that once they book, they will be getting the kind of massage they hope for. When you call, you can ask about specific modalities or techniques you like, or you can describe the type of massage you want and ask if the therapist works that way. By speaking to the therapist first, you can also get an idea of their personality, which can be helpful in decision making. It also gives you a chance to make sure that the therapist can work with you if you have special requirements due to a specific condition like pregnancy/postpartum, heart disease, cancer, fibromyalgia, etc.
2. Only be loyal to a therapist you like
I love repeat clients, and I love referrals, but it is important that you only rebook with a therapist you like. It won't hurt my feelings if you don't rebook with me. If I am not the right therapist for you, I want you to find that therapist. I am happy to provide referrals to people who ask, and don't want you to feel obligated to rebook just because you came to me first. More often than not, I am aware if a massage hasn't gone well, and it is as uncomfortable for me as it is for you. Feel free to try out multiple therapists if you need to in order to find the person you work best with. Once you find that therapist, stick with them. You should only go back to someplace if you have a good experience. I think it is important to point out that this applies to all fields. If you don't like you dentist, or hair stylist, or doctor, find someone else who is a better fit.
3. Don't leave unnecessary bad reviews
While writing reviews may not help you in your search for a massage therapist, it can help or impede someone in the pursuit of theirs. Leaving negative reviews is not only mean spirited, but may have more of an impact than you think. People rarely actually read the reviews themselves, but tend to just look at the star ratings. Leaving negative reviews lowers the star rating. So if you are leaving a 3 star review because the therapist didn't use a specific style that you like, another person who may prefer that therapist's style may not even consider booking, because the star rating is low enough that they don't click on it. While the therapist that you have seen may not be the right fit for you, they may be perfect for someone else. Don't deter other people unless there was something truly upsetting.
Good reasons to leave bad reviews are things like the therapist or staff were rude to you, the facilities were unclean, you got injured, there were unethical practices, etc. Those are things about the business that are negative. Having a therapist who wasn't a good fit for you is not a good reason to leave a bad review.
When writing a review, I also encourage you to consider where you are leaving it. Two of the most popular review sites are Google and Yelp. Google posts every review that is written, and good reviews help to boost the businesses rankings in search results. Yelp filters out reviews. They are more likely to post your review if you write a lot of them, and leave them regularly, however, they have some very unethical business practices. If a business advertises with them, and then stops, they purposely "filter" out the good reviews and only leave the bad ones. Since I stopped advertising with them, they refuse to post anything over a 3 star review. I have had several 4 and 5 star reviews that no one sees, so what people see when they look at my business as well as many other small businesses is not actually representative of what people think.
4. Look in your own area first
While it is flattering to have someone travel to see me, I would prefer that people don't go out of their way. Getting to your massage shouldn't be stressful. Massage therapists are just like anyone else. Sometimes we get sick, or have family emergencies. On the off chance that your therapist has to reschedule, you don't want to have gotten up super early, or already driven 2 hours just to be rescheduled.
As a birth doula, I may be called in just before or even during a massage session, and while I try to communicate with birth clients to determine if I need to reschedule massages, there is always the possibility of a rapid labor that pulls me out of a massage. If you have come a long way to see me, only to have a mama go into labor and need me, this could be very upsetting.
5. Look for deals
I'm not talking about being a bargain hunter, because frankly, most professionals don't like bargain hunters. What I mean is, many massage therapists are happy to offer a discount to first time clients or offer free consultations. If it is a therapist working at a spa or clinic, they may not have as much freedom, but the place may offer an introductory rate, especially if it means you might come back.
I offer a free 30 minute treatment planning consultation. While there isn't a lot of hands on during the consultation, you get an idea of my personality and my work. I go over your history with you, do a full postural analysis, and do some palpation on the table. This gives me an idea of the kind of work you need, and how much you may need. At the end of your consultation, we sit down and discuss my findings, and I present you with a personalized suggested treatment plan. It is up to you whether or not you stick with the plan, and there is no obligation to become a paying client if you find that I'm not the right fit.
To summarize, the best way to find a therapist that you like is to call around to different massage therapists in your area. If money is an issue, see if you can find therapists who will run deals for new clients, or who do free consultations. Most importantly, take review sites with a grain of salt. Many of them are not representative of the businesses. Once you find a therapist you like, stick with them. If you don't like someone, move on without being mean spirited. Everyone has a different style. Just because one therapist doesn't work well for you, doesn't mean they are bad at what they do.
Meet the Author
Amanda Tarver, (LMT, CEIM, PES, RMT) is a massage therapist and birth worker in the Chicago area. She is dedicated to using a combination of bodywork and education to help people live a better quality of life.