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Complacency in the Therapy Room

June 12, 2015 4 min read


Doctors sometimes get a bad rap for becoming desensitized to their patients’ needs due to the sheer number of people they see every day. Of course, many Doctors remain completely professional in dealing with their patients, but most of us are familiar with the notion that Doctors can often seem less than interested in the well-being of the patient, just ushering people in and out without considering the emotional element that patients might be experiencing - especially if dealing with a potentially serious condition. Nevertheless, there is still an expectation most people still carry when they visit a physician: to be listened to in a human-to-human manner. We don’t want to be seen as merely a ‘patient’, but as a ‘person’ with valid concerns and feelings.

On the other hand, perhaps it is understandable that medical professionals are unable to maintain a genuine sympathy, day in day out, for years on end. The term ‘clinical’ generally refers to this kind of attitude. It is clearly not an accident that dictionary definition of this is ‘efficient and unemotional; coldly detached’.  Doctors may be getting away with complacency, but as massage therapists we know we need to present a consistent customer service ethic – and a personal, caring one at that. We do have a few things in common with Doctors, in that we are ostensibly working to provide a service or therapy that is beneficial to health. People come to us with expectations, and if we don’t fulfill them… well they just won’t come back! That’s one reason why Doctors may be less concerned about concealing their apathy than holistic therapists. They know that their customers will be back, regardless of the service – and if not, well it’s a simple case of "next, please!”

‘Putting a brave face on it’

So what of it when a massage therapist is having a bad day? Can they afford to let it show? It goes without saying that we are bound to be having a bad day from time to time. Massage can be very physically demanding! For example, a sports therapist could have a particularly challenging time of it if he or she was booked back-to-back with clients for a full day. What’s more, if he or she were a clinic employee, they may have had no say in the matter. Under such circumstances it seems highly likely that therapists are going to have to master the art of the ‘brave face’ from time to time.

There are any number of potential scenarios for a therapist to deal with on an average day. We usually try to conceal our stress because we understand that the customers don’t want to see an aggravated facial expression when they step into the therapy room for the treatment they’ve been looking forward to. So what if you’ve had a bad night’s sleep at home and an argument with your husband, and a rude, demanding customer comes in? Or if it’s the end of the day, your last customer turns out to be a large, muscular male and you know it’s going to be tough on your over-tired hands? The issues we face are real and can adversely affect us if we don’t develop a coping mechanism for them. But as we understand the general rules of customer service, we all know that it doesn’t pay to let resentment show, especially when a customer hasn’t done anything to challenge you.

Complacency is a multi-faceted trap

There are other ways in which we can become complacent. As a full-time massage therapist, we spend many days in the therapy room and things quickly become second nature to us. That can even be a plus point, as long as we don’t slip into auto-pilot mode. It is easy to become less observant and forget that every client is different, with unique needs and comfort zones. We may know the massage therapy etiquette like the backs of our hands, but does the client? Being a therapist is not necessarily just about the physical therapy. We need to be attentive to our clients because some of them might be nervous, shy, or just confused. If they’ve never had a massage before, they may not have any idea what is expected of them. We could leave them alone in the room just to come back five minutes later and find them still fully clothed and feeling awkward!

We shouldn’t forget that there are some fundamental processes to follow regardless of our mood, how familiar we are with the therapy or how busy or tired we are. A quality massage experience depends on several factors and clients don’t miss a trick with this. They are paying attention even when we aren’t, and our reputation as therapists depends on it.

Mood management – how do you cope?

When you’re having a challenging day in the therapy room, how do you ensure your mood, or fatigue goes unnoticed by clients? Do you think it’s important to do so, or do you prefer to be a little more authentic in the hope that clients will understand? What coping mechanisms do you have for dealing with stress at work? And lastly, do you have to make a concerted effort to avoid complacency? We would love to know!


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