• Judith Goldberg

Things Your Therapist Should Know

“She already asked me three times if the temperature was good. I can’t tell her now that I’m starting to get a little cold from the air conditioner.”

“Shoot I really didn’t want her to touch my hair. I was planning on going somewhere after this”

“Ouch. That hurts a little too much. But I don’t want to tell her to go softer because I still want deep pressure on other parts of my body”

“I really don’t like people touching my feet. I thought this was just a back massage. What should I do?”

We’ve all been there. It can be really hard to speak up in the middle of a session. Even after wanting and ENCOURAGING women who come to see me to speak up, I still have such a hard time saying what I want when I am receiving a treatment.

I don’t know... I’m supposed to tell her exactly what I like?! This pressure. No, that’s too much, a little lighter. Yes, like that… I don’t want to boss her around. I don’t want to be too much. I don’t want her to think I’m annoying…

I want to encourage all you ladies - myself included! - to tell your practitioners what you like and what you don’t like; what feels comfortable and what feels uncomfortable. Communicating these things doesn’t mean that you are “too much,” annoying, bossy, needy or any of those not-so-positive descriptions you’ve thought up. Communicating to your practitioner or healer or therapist what you like and don’t like means that you are a helpful, admirable, respectable, self-aware, and receptive client.

When you tell a massage therapist, “I actually don’t like that so much” or “I would like it if you did more of that” what you are really saying is: “I trust that you can help me and I am receptive to what you are offering me.” Otherwise, why would you say anything? You only speak up when you believe that the other person can reciprocate. And when you say nothing, you actually close yourself off to receiving a treatment that could provide the relaxation, comfort and healing you were looking for, if only it was altered a centimeter this way or that.

And remember, you’re paying for this session. You’re paying for a service. So you are totally allowed to ask for what you think will enhance your experience.

Sometimes you may speak up - maybe for something to be repeated, or for the window in the room to be closed - and the practitioner may say no. Maybe they will even give you some attitude. That’s okay too. Every therapist also has a choice to say no, that’s allowed. You can then make the next decision: do you want to continue seeing this therapist or not? Both options are valid. Now you know what they offer so you can make a healthy, honest decision from there. (And of course we’re speaking about a “no” within a specific framework. When certain boundaries are crossed, “no” cannot and should not be taken as an answer.)

Most therapists I know however LOVE when their clients communicate. I know from your perspective it might seem like SUCH A BIG DEAL. “I just asked her to turn the air conditioner on, now I’m going to ask her to turn it off?” But from the practitioner’s perspective, it's so NOT a big deal. It’s just pressing a button. Or it's recognizing that of course one area of your body like more pressure and one area of your body likes less pressure. And if that little thing could make you, the client, happy, they would be so happy to hear! When my client lets me know if something I’m doing or saying isn’t comfortable for them, when they ask me for a blanket or another pillow, or give me very specific instructions of where to touch and how much pressure to apply, it brings me joy. Because most of the time, it’s so easy for me to do and it adds to the clients happiness.

And sometimes I can’t always say yes. If I’m super hot and my client asks to make the room hotter, I won’t be able to do my job well if I’m melting. But I can give her another blanket. Or maybe put the heater on for a little bit and then turn it off. Maybe my client wants more pressure, and after a long day I might not be able to apply more pressure. But knowing that feedback, I might be able to do something different that feels good to you but isn’t stressing my body. We can find a way to work together as long as we’re both respectful, receptive, and honest.

Of course, I’m not advocating telling someone how to do her job. I trust that each woman has an internal checker of what kind of “speaking up” I’m referring to. And what I’ve learned is that telling someone what you like and then receiving it from her adds ten-fold to the session. Or asking for a pillow to put under your legs and receiving that pillow with kindness and flexibility adds even more comfort and relaxation.

And who knows? Maybe that’s why you needed the session in the first place. The touch or the movement or the conversation are nice, but knowing that you can ask and be received graciously with love, and that there are two people who care deeply about your comfort and well being (yes the therapist, but even more importantly YOURSELF!) may just be the reason that makes you want to come back for another session.

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