October 11, 2009

States of Undress

A regular client of mine who knows I blog for Find Touch told me one time that she thought I should write about undressing for massage from the client's point of view. Like many clients, she was sometimes confused as to what was expected of her in terms of getting on the table, and she felt that some therapists were oblivious to this confusion.

Well, that's probably true in some respects. When massage is your life, and you do several a day, you sometimes forget that clients aren't as "in the know" as you are. In terms of getting undressed, I usually choose to err on the side of caution and say something like " . . . so clothes off, leave your underwear on if that's more comfortable for you, and lie face down in the cradle, covered up like you're in bed." Sometimes I say "panties" instead of "underwear" when speaking to women because I have had clients leave on bras and girdles, which I personally feel prevents me from giving them a real massage.

I try to be clear on states of undress so that hopefully all clients will be comfortable in the knowledge that they are doing "the right thing." When they are comfortable, they are more relaxed. And if they "do the right thing" the first time, I don't have to carefully rescue the situation in order to keep them relaxed. For example, even with good instructions, I have come into rooms to find clients naked and uncovered on the table; clients wearing so much underwear I can't reach tissue; clients wearing robes and laying on top of the blankets; etc. In these situations, I strive to avoid embarrassing the client by calmly saying things like, "I'm just going to put this sheet over you so you stay warm" or "I'll leave and let you get under the covers without the robe; that way I can get into more of your tissue."

Of course, after I've seen a client for several sessions, I don't have to be so vigilant. But for new clients I always am. I remember a couple's massage I was part of when the other therapist asked his client a few questions, then whisked out the room, leaving me alone with them. "What am I supposed to do?" his client asked me, panicky. She had never had a massage, and had told her therapist, but he had completely forgotten to address the subject of undressing. I explained it to her, not wanting her to lose any of the benefits of the session due to lying there thinking, "Should I have left this on? Is he thinking I'm strange because I left my underwear on? Or did I take off too much? " I certainly wouldn't want to be in that position myself; so I try to make the parameters of undressing for massage very clear for my clients (and try to be very calm and nonchalant when they misunderstand).

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