As I mature in my practice, I find I am developing more of a style and defining ethos to my work. Part of this ethos is sincerely engendering long term benefit into my work. It's easy, I think, for one's massage therapy practice to develop into providing band-aid solutions for client's problems. It's made easier when I think band-aid's are often what clients think they want. That is, I think clients sometimes seek immediate relief irrespective of what may come afterward, even if what might come after their immediate relief is the return of their symptoms in full with absolutely no long term change. Putting it that way it doesn't even sound too bad. Relief is, after all, still relief even if it is only brief.
However, in thinking about my practice and the health of my clients, I am not satisfied in band-aid solutions. The work I do and the investment of my client ought, I think, provide some long term benefit for them. Though it may make for a financially healthy practice to have clients return regularly, irrespective of whether it is because they have to or because they want to. I find personal and professional satisfaction in sincerely trying to affect lasting change and having clients return not because they are still looking for change but because they are so satisfied with the change they are seeing, they want more.
Of course sometimes the best one can do is provide short term relief and that is not something to be looked down upon. Relief is valuable, especially for those experiencing profound pain or discomfort. However, as an aspiration for my work, I look toward providing care that persists.
Though deep tissue manipulation is a staple of my work, I find the most profound way of doing this is by advancing my client's ability to let go and relax in the treatment through breathing and visualization. By the end of an hour laying on a heated table, most anyone would be relaxed whether receiving a massage or not. However, for some, it takes a better part of that hour to get to a point of letting go, even with the use of relaxation techniques. For many, I think the delay comes from a detachment from the activity of relaxing and the active role one plays in one's own letting go.
In my current practice, I try to focus my clients on their breathing, on visualizing and describing the sensation of the work and their bodies response to it, not only so they are less distracted and more present on the table for the work being done, but also so that they may have something tangible to take home with them. That is, I think that practice of letting go is something one brings with them to later appointments and carries with them when they experience discomfort in other contexts. I think through my client's efforts, they get better at relaxing. Because of this I think the work we accomplish during the time that we have is better spent with more time available to focus on specific issues.
It's my hope that my clients take some of what they learn on the table and apply it to how they respond to their discomforts in their day to day lives. If, for example, a client has a head ache at work, I hope they are able to take a deep breath, focus on the sensation, and try to let go rather than, say, tense up further and wait for the ibuprofen to kick in (a common strategy)! By being confronted by discomfort that one then overcomes through breathing, I think my clients learn new patterns of coping that serve them outside my office. At least that is my hope.