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Tipping Massage Therapist

Guidelines To Help You Get The Most Out Of Your Session

By Karrie Osborn

Most massage aficionados remember the trepidation that came with their first massage. What should I expect? Will I have to take off my clothes? How much do I tip?

For relative newcomers to massage, the prospect of those first visits and their unknowns can be unnerving. Here are some basic bodywork etiquette guidelines to help you get the most out of your session, create a healthy client-therapist relationship, and address some of those unknowns.

Punctuality = Full Session
There's nothing worse than rushing into your massage appointment five minutes late. Not only is it nerve-racking, but it also eats into your valuable massage minutes. Do your best to be on time, and when possible, early. On-time clients start the massage more relaxed and focused, getting them that much closer to a place of healing calm.

When scheduling at a spa, most guests are asked to arrive early so they can prepare for their session and stow away belongings in the locker room. Arriving early enough also allows you time to enjoy the facility's amenities, such as a steam room, before the scheduled service begins. New massage clients are also asked to arrive a bit early to fill out health history intake forms.

If you do get held up in traffic and arrive late to your appointment, the therapist will probably not be able to give you a full session. Plan on the session staying on schedule, even if you aren't. Sometimes therapists will extend extra time if there are no appointments after yours, but don't count on it. Respect your therapist's time, call if you're going to be late, and understand that your session must end on time, regardless of when you arrived.

When it comes to cancellations, most spas and private practitioners require a 24-hour notice to avoid fees. Outside of an emergency situation, last-minute cancellations or missed appointments usually result in paying a percentage, or all, of the scheduled massage fee. Your therapist earmarked that hour for you and likely turned away other clients who could have benefited from that time. Every situation is different, so check with your therapist about his or her specific cancellation policy, then honor it.

Honor Your Body
Some people have a hard time even considering massage because they are so unhappy with their body. Primarily a female issue, poor body image can be extremely damaging, leading to eating disorders in many cases and negatively affecting the way people live. While it's hard to imagine that getting naked and lying on a massage table will make the situation any better for those dealing with self-esteem or body image issues, massage therapy and bodywork can do wonders.

According to bodyworker Merrill DeVito, massage helps integrate body and mind again, allowing clients to see things from different perspectives, bringing them back into awareness of their body, and showing them what it means to listen to their body. Bodywork can help mend the body-mind chasm that is created through self-hate, bringing the two pieces back together in a peaceful, healthy union.
Massage therapists and bodyworkers not only have advanced knowledge of tissues and structure, they also have a great appreciation for the human body as a whole, no matter its shape or size. "Massage therapists and bodyworkers don't look at their clients as fat, thin, ugly, or beautiful, but rather see the person as a joy and a privilege with which to work, " says spa consultant Charles Wiltsie. Whether working with a 350-pound woman on the massage table or a 100-pound man, massage therapists see bodies as bodies.

Shower Up
While most guidelines recommend showering before your massage, it's important to note that many therapists work with clients in less-than-hygienic conditions. Throughout the summer, you'll find massage therapists at cycling events, road races, and even triathlons. A weary cyclist staggering into the massage therapy tent at the end of an exhausting day's ride hardly smells like roses. For massage volunteers who work with the homeless population, judgment is not passed on those non-showered bodies either.

That said, if you find that your feet have endured a long sweaty day and you're just about to go in for your massage, take a moment to stop in the restroom first and wipe them down. And, if you're able to shower beforehand and wash away the grime and energy of the day's events, do so.

Consider Confidentiality
Even though massage therapists aren't medical doctors, nor are they held to the same doctor-patient privilege, they do hold their knowledge of you, your issues, and your sessions in confidence. If for some reason your therapist needs to confer with your primary or referring physician, he or she will have you fill out the proper release paperwork beforehand. That same confidence prevents therapists from talking with you about your friend's recent stone massage or what your husband discussed during his last session. So, make it easier for all, and don't ask.

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Should Solo Estheticians & Massage Therapists Accept Tips?
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