8 Steps to Calm an Anxious Massage Client

May 31, 2018

As a massage therapist, maintaining happy and relaxed clients is key to building a successful career.

Whilst many clients will be completely at ease with having a massage, some may find the experience a little more daunting for a variety of reasons.

Anxiety can prevent a client from fully enjoying the service you’re providing, so here are some tips on what to do to calm their nerves.

1. Talk them through it

Great communication both before and during the massage is vital. Anxious clients often feel nervous because they’re not sure what the massage will entail, so ensure that you allow adequate time to make the consultation as comprehensive as possible. Explain the process in detail and take them through what they can expect from the massage. Literature such as leaflets or posters can be a useful tool in detailing the products that will be used as well as any aftercare recommended treatment.

Check if your client is concerned about any aches, pains, or previous injuries and provide them with reassurance that all massages can be adaptable, with different pressures applied. If you’re planning on using a product on their skin which may result in an unfamiliar sensation (such as feeling tingly, or having a tightening effect), let them know what this may feel like. The more a client knows about the massage, the more relaxed they’ll feel.

2. Listen

Whilst this may seem like an obvious step, being able to listen and fully understand your client’s needs and expectations will ensure you deliver an excellent service that’s unique to them.

Massage therapy is personal, so make them feel heard by repeating their requests back to them just to confirm that you understand. This will help build up their trust in you and they’ll be reassured they’re in great hands.

3. Be confident and professional

A nervous client will be looking for reassurance that you know what you’re doing. Confidence should be portrayed from the moment your client enters the clinic. Present yourself professionally and be sure to greet them warmly, with plenty of eye contact. If a client is anxious simply because they’re having a bad day, make sure you deflect any negativity away from yourself so it doesn’t affect your mood. If you’re confident and happy, the client will pick up your energy and start to feel the same way.

4. Create a relaxing environment

Creating an atmosphere that’s calm, clean and inviting is key to ensuring your client feels as relaxed as possible. You can achieve this in the room through soft lighting and music, but also don’t forget that a welcoming smile and friendly conversation before the massage begins can go a long way in calming a client’s nerves.

Make sure they know they’re being looked after from arrival: chat to them as a means to try and take their mind off any concerns, and keep any waiting time before the massage to a minimum. It’s also a good idea to have some refreshments prepared whilst they’re waiting.

5. Give them options

For the more self-conscious client, the idea of being undressed in front of a stranger can be stressful. If they seem nervous about the prospect, explain to them that you will leave the room and they should lie on the table with the towel over themselves, and call out when they are ready. If a client’s concerned or embarrassed about a particular area of their body (such as acne or excessive hair growth), acknowledge their concern and reassure them that everything will be fine. You can cover the area for comfort until you need to massage the area. If acne is involved be sure it’s not a contraindication, as it may be an open skin wound which will need to be avoided.

6. Make them feel comfortable

If a client appears anxious, making them feel as comfortable as possible (both physically and emotionally) is an essential factor to keeping their nerves at bay. Many of us will know the feeling of being embarrassed speaking up if the room is a little cold or you find the massage pressure is too firm. Check whether the client is comfortable throughout the massage and let them know they can ask for something to be changed at any point. Keep reading their body language carefully so you can spot any signs of discomfort or pain in a particular part of their body.

A comfy massage table is also a must. Make sure you invest in a massage table that’s wide enough, and if required, have additional bolsters on hand to provide plenty of support for the shoulders, lower back and ankles.

7. Let them see what’s going on

A client will often feel more at ease if they can see what’s happening. A suggestion might be to start your massage with the client lying on their back so you can build a rapport and put them at ease, then after completing the front of body massage, turn them over. Distracting them with a foot or hand treatment at the beginning of the massage will help alleviate nerves and a motivational message either on the floor or ceiling of the room is a good option as a relaxing visual stimulant.

8. Eliminate potential embarrassment

Ahead of the massage, be clear about your clinic’s underwear protocol; this will help eliminate any potential embarrassment if a client’s unaware of the usual etiquette. Find out if the client has any particular problems in their lower back or groin region as the type of underwear the client has on may get in the way of being able to provide an effective treatment for the problem. Giving the client plenty of notice and time to plan will ease any stress beforehand.

Cameron Aubrey

Cameron Aubrey has over 20 years experience in the massage industry, and leads the team as Course Director at Discover Massage Australia. Cameron holds a Diploma in Remedial Massage, and his expertise runs across a large range of massage techniques, particularly sports, Swedish and whole body massage.