On Wednesday, I did my last massage for a favorite regular client (T.H.). He shook my hand and said “It’s been great working with you!” Likewise. He’s moving away from Kansas City and I hope he finds an outstanding replacement in his new home town! It can be tough finding a good massage therapist, particularly if you’ve had a good one for some time. That therapist gets to know your body’s peculiarities, and you get comfortable with the type of work she does. You may not know exactly what to call the kind of work she does. Even if my client finds a skilled MT (massage therapist) in his new hometown, he may simply not like her style of work.
In honor of T.H. I decided to write a guide to finding a massage therapist. Below I recommend that you use your existing massage therapist as a source for guidance, let the technique take a back seat to what your goals for the session are, and above all KEEP making appointments until you find an MT that is right for you.
At Solaris Massage, we like to say that you can’t have too many massage therapists. All of them will agree that you shouldn’t wait TOO long to get back into a regular routine when circumstances require a change in therapist!
If you have a good rapport with an existing massage therapist, I’d suggest you ask that person for advice in finding a new MT. To be more specific, have your current MT write down or e-mail you the name of the type of work she does for you. This could describe a technique (myofascial release, tapotement, accupressure, reflexology), or it could describe a specific protocol learned at a professional seminar (Cranio-Sacral Therapy, Ashiatsu, etc.). Under the best circumstances your current MT will be able to recommend an actual therapist or reputable business for you to call. In lieu of that, knowing the name of the technique you prefer can go a long way in finding a new MT who does similar work to your old one.
You can use these terms to do an internet search for a practitioner or shop in your new area. But no matter what, keep an open mind and know that you will need to EXPERIENCE the work of an MT to know whether you will actually like it or not.
If you don’t currently have a massage therapist, it’s good to start by asking friends about or reading reviews for places that are in a convenient location for you. While the location should be convenient, it’s important to remember that a great massage can occur in humble surroundings. Some people really prefer a super-shiny spa like experience, but this is not always where the best practitioners work. Many work out of small offices, or within other businesses, and they do great work in unexpected places. Whatever your priority, just be clear and to the point about what you prefer when you make contact. Remember that the person answering the phone may not actually BE the massage therapist.
When you find a place that you are ready to try, I suggest making a one hour appointment for starters. Each place has a slightly different intake process, but the best time to share specific information about yourself is once you are actually at the massage appointment talking to your MT. Again, if you have the names of techniques your previous MT used, you should feel free to share this with your new MT. Now, this doesn’t mean you should expect your new MT to KNOW all those techniques, or to apply them in EXACTLY the same way. They are worth mentioning for reference. This will give your new MT some idea of what you like. It’s important to keep your mind open to the possibility of this new MT having a very different approach that is also effective. Just like a musician brings his own flavor to each song he plays, each massage therapist brings their own style to the various techniques she applies.
If you don’t have an existing MT and list of techniques you already like, try focusing on what you hope accomplish in your massage session. This could be “I have a stressful desk job and I just need to unplug,” or “I travel a lot and my lower back is KILLING me!” You don’t ever need to know the name of a technique to get a good massage from a skilled practitioner.
Above all, be willing to try, and try again. If your regular schedule includes a monthly massage, keep trying a different MT each month until you find one that you like. This might mean going to different MT’s at the same shop, or trying various MT’s around town. No matter what reviews, friends, or websites say, the only opinion that matters is yours. Even the very best massage therapist is not the RIGHT massage therapist for everyone. It may take sometime to find the right MT for you, but your body will thank you for the effort!