I think I used to prize intuition more than I do now. In the beginning of my career, it was intuition that I coveted as the most necessary skill I needed to develop. It is also intuition which makes up the bulk of a budding massage therapist’s raw talent.
Intuition, however, is somewhat of a blanket term for three distinct skills: intuitive touch, reading body language, and communication.
Intuitive touch is the recognition of feedback - not necessarily from the person but from the tissue. Feeling tension and restriction is not a mechanical, nor even necessarily an objective process but requires on a sense of intuition in one’s approach to touch. One certainly feels tension and restriction but one also needs to intuit how that tension and restriction feels to the client and then judge via intuition what is going on.
Reading body language is very similar but not identical to intuitive touch. Reading a client’s body language requires intuition but of a different sort that intuitive touch.Unlikely intuitive touch, reading body language does not require physical contact though it is made easier if one is physically working with tissues. If a therapist is working, say, one someone’s foot, they are also looking for patterns of held tension elsewhere, perhaps looking at someone’s shoulders or breathing patterns, legs, ankles, hips or face. Reading body language gives the therapist further understanding of the experience of a client.
Communication also requires a sort of intuition. Productive communication asks the right questions and plastically moves from question to question as answers are given. Communicating effectively requires a sort of direct detective work that focuses both the therapist and the client on what is being worked and deciphering how it ought to be resolved. This is where the title of this piece comes into play. Sometimes intuitive touch and reading body language is enough, so why resort to talking things out?
Sometimes I’ll refrain from talking. Especially if a client requests silence or indicates to me in someway that they would rather have a silent treatment. Sometimes I myself want a silent treatment. I may want to simply work, intuitively, and not provoke an otherwise relaxed client. But most often, I won’t go into asking questions and looking for feedback from my client because my client has demonstrated they currently aren’t able or willing to communicate.
Communication is hard. It requires a lot of concentration to pick the right words to express the feeling of a trigger point: the referral pattern, the familiarity or lack thereof, the character, or a useful description. It is honestly hard and many people don’t feel comfortable doing it. I think it’s really helpful to use one’s time on the massage table to develop the skill of describing pain and discomfort: to explore those feelings that one would normally try so hard to avoid and then to breath through them and let them go. To best do this, I think, requires communication that puts the therapist right on the ball and the client in their bodies, focused on the treatment.
However, it takes practice and so often a treatment won’t consist of focused communication nor even ought to. Sometimes, truly, it’s just nice to not speak or be spoken to. It is nice to simply lay and experience. And despite my professional preferences, my utmost responsibility is to giving my clients quality health care which I have learnt is never prescriptive. Thus, to speak or not to speak is really a personal decision that is come to by either the therapist, the client or both and it will likely change from day to day as the concerns and priorities of treatments vary.