One of our ultimate goals as massage therapists is to see our clients walk out after treatment feeling better than when they arrived. But while we’ve got the medical side of our minds focused on muscles, tendons and joints, we need to also make sure that we create an all-round positive experience for clients. Good draping is key to this.
Draping can set the tone for the entire massage. If it’s done well, the client will feel comfortable and relaxed. If it’s not, the client will feel exposed and vulnerable. They’ll be tense and you won’t be able to treat them properly. They might even make a complaint about you.
Massage is one of few jobs when you come into close physical contact with people who you don’t know, or don’t know well. So gaining trust is important and good draping helps you to gain this trust. It also helps to de-sexualise the experience of physical touch so both you and your client feel comfortable.
While Discover Massage Australia’s Whole Body Massage course covers draping, here are a few reminders about covering your client during a massage.
START AT THE VERY BEGINNING
Put a fresh large towel on your massage table and change it for every client. Not only is it more comfortable (and less cold!) for a client to lie on a towel, not having them in direct contact with your massage table is more hygienic.
Once you’ve talked through treatment options and gained necessary consent, show them to the covered table and give them a large towel for them to cover themselves with. Leave the room while they undress (they must keep their underwear, including bras on). Knock again, and verbally confirm that they are covered and comfortable, before going back in the room.
Note: For clients wearing bras, get their consent if you want to unclip the bra to work the middle/upper back area, or just move the straps out of the way as you work.
COMMUNICATE WITH THE CLIENT
Don’t come in and pull the towel straight down from their shoulders and start working on their back without warning. Let them know what area you need to work on, make sure they are ok with that, and then gently draw back the towel on that area.
Once you have finished working on a particular area, re-cover it and tell them what you will work on next.
Keeping the client informed about what you are doing and what you will do next, means that there are no surprises. And if they don’t want you to work on a particular area, then they have a chance to say so.
KEEP YOUR CLIENTS WARM
Good draping not only makes a client feel more comfortable, but it also helps keep the body area you have just worked on warm. This helps to maximise the effects of the massage. Re-cover areas that you have just worked on to keep the client warm and comfortable.
USE THE TOWEL AS A GUIDE
When using a towel to outline the boundary of the area you are working on, for example bringing it down to the waist line when working on the back area, make sure you don’t work beyond the towel’s edge. Your client won’t be expecting you to move beyond the towel and may not feel comfortable. If you need to work a bit lower towards the top of the buttocks, then tell them this and ask them if it’s ok if you adjust the towel.
ENSURE THEY CAN ROLL OVER – AND REMAIN COVERED
Massage usually starts with the client facing down and the back area, and backs of the legs and shoulders being worked on. But when it’s time to work on the client’s front side, make sure the towels are large enough for them to turn around while remaining covered at all times. For larger clients, or pregnant clients, you may want to hold up an extra towel to keep them covered while they turn.
No matter how well you know your client, or how comfortable they feel with you or their body, always drape in a professional way. Your client will appreciate the high standard in service and you won’t start to develop bad or relaxed draping habits.
Stock up on towels. You’ll need large ones to cover bodies and tables, and smaller ones to roll-up and place under necks and for the face. Always have a couple of extra towels handy in case you spill oil or when others are being washed and dried.
If you are going to a training course, make sure you bring along some extra towels in case they are in short supply. Take at least one large towel and a couple of smaller ones. Draping is always important, even when training with other students.
Remember, a good massage experience isn’t just about the fantastic results that hands-on manipulation can produce. It’s about making sure that the client is comfortable at all times and trusts in you and the service you provide.