Eleven Phrases to get Your Client to Relax, Without Saying “Relax”.

We all have those few clients who have a hard time relaxing. Some are chatty, some are extra tense and stressed, and some just truly don’t know how to physically relax. You give their arm a gentle shake and their response is to raise it higher…you rock their leg gently and they start rocking it for you…none of your non-verbal cues seem to be working, so you resort to “Go ahead and relax your arm for me…” on some clients, that gentle reminder is all they need to remember to release the tension in their arm or hips and the session progresses as normal. For some though, the mention of the word “relax” can be confusing and even in some rare instances perceived as accusatory. I find this particularly common with women, especially women with a busy family life.

The word “Relax” comes with all sorts of connotation. Everyone knows they need to relax more and stress less, especially everyone who ends up on your table. We live in a culture with numerous technological advances that were supposed to free us up to have more leisure time and do less work…but often times have had the opposite effect. So many of us (myself included) try to cram so much more into our days than is humanly possible to achieve…simply because we can. We strive for growth and excellence and sometimes we lose our balance in it all. The list of tasks most of us have is so long…scheduling in a massage may be the only down time we have (and thank goodness for that, and our opportunity and honor to be a part of that.) It is SO easy for anyone to say: “I know I should relax, but I can’t.” Letting go is hard. Getting on the table is the first step.

So when you say “relax”, the client can hear so much more. They can start beating themselves up in an instant if you let them. I have found it important, for this subset of clients, to avoid the use of the word “relax” altogether.

These phrases help avoid:

The annoyed, “I am relaxed”, as his shoulders are 3 inches off the table and he’s holding his breath, pointing his toes towards the wall.

The helpless “I just can’t relax” as she holds her arm up for you.

Or my personal favorite, “That’s just how my body is” as her arms are folded neatly over her stomach and she is sticking out the goods and elongating her neck, trying to look pretty on the table.

If you have ever run into one of these problems, or notice clients becoming more tense when you use the word “relax”, try using one of these phrases instead:

  1. “Pretend you are a rag doll.”
  2. “Be a sack of potatoes.”
  3. “Don’t hold up the weight of your body, let me hold it for you.”
  4. “Let me hold that arm/leg for you.”
  5. “Let those joints go loose.” “Let that shoulder go loose.” etc
  6. “Let the weight of that arm/leg/shoulder fall to the floor.”
  7. “Allow those muscles to release” “Allow them to melt into the table.”
  8. “Give me a spaghetti arm/spaghetti leg.”
  9. “Allow that arm/leg to go slack.”
  10. “Let your full weight sink in to the table.”
  11. If you are stretching a leg and the client tries to stretch it for you try: “Release the tension in your lower back, now your hip, your leg, your knee, your calf and ankle, there we go.” Normally they will release about halfway through. You usually don’t have to repeat this sequence on the second leg…but sometimes you will. You can use this sequence for any body part, obviously, working proximal to distal in your recitation.
  12. *Edit: added 4/14/14* Bonus number 12! I forgot about this one but I use it a lot: “Soften your shoulder”, “Soften your elbow for me” “Soften your hip and knee” etc. It works very well.

I find that avoiding possessive pronouns when possible (using this/that/those/a instead of you/your), as well as using verbs that reinforce their control (allow/let) is more empowering for them, allowing them to live in their physical bodies and disengage from their vision and mental embodiment of Self. Don’t allow them to think that they don’t have the ability to relax. Through your words, you give them the power and help them recognize that they can make the conscious choice to release (obviously, only if they are physically able to and with extra practice for some who are very resistant mentally).

These phrases should be used in conjunction with your non verbal cues. I have found them to be very effective for most clients. If after this, they are still resistant and say something like “I’m just not a relaxed person” then I change my approach and start using different techniques on the body part I am working on, while using my standard reply: “No worries, it takes some time but we will get you there. There’s my job security.” and a smile. The next time, I try out a different phrase or combination of phrases…but I will usually find the right one for a particular client in the first session.

They haven’t made a liar out of me yet :)

I hope that this is helpful for some of you that might be struggling with this particular issue. If you have additional ideas/verbal cues to add please do so below in the comments!

(Author’s note: I just couldn’t resist the Dirty Dancing reference. Side note, I found this while googling for it. Hehe)


Found in Translation: A Transgender Rights Primer for Massage Therapists & Spa Folk


At age eighteen, I was an activist. I was a clinic escort for Planned Parenthood, and an active member of the local chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW). I womanned tables during The Vagina Monologues, attended punk rock feminist conferences across the country, marched on Washington, and Took Back the Night. I went to massage school, worked, and volunteered. This was what I did during my last decade in New York, and I loved it.

My dear friend Alicia and I, brides for equal marriage. Rochester Pride Parade, 2005. Photo by Davette Glover, http://zectaproductions.com. Used with permission.

My dear friend Alicia and I…brides for equal marriage! Rochester Pride Parade, 2005
Photo by Davette Glover, zectaproductions.com. Used with permission.

Then I moved from Rochester to Las Vegas. My NOW ladies encouraged me to remain active with the organization by way of the Vegas chapter. This didn’t happen, mainly because I looked for but didn’t find the level of community involvement and outreach that I had become accustomed to in Rochester. Besides, I was setting the foundation to begin a new life in a new city, and these things take time. I focused on meeting people, going back to school and working – and had become a slacktivist of the highest order, with a side of soul-sucking, conformist banality.

Things started to change in 2009, around the time of my non-traditional, Herve Leger bandage-dressed Vegas wedding (and you’ll notice I’m still—and always have been — a Lipomi, thank you very much). Convinced it was bullshit that a straight screw-up like myself could tie the knot while same sex couples were denied the right, my better half and I registered with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) instead of with Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Kwik-E-Mart, etc., so our wedding guests could make a donation for marriage equality in our names. We raised some cash, and avoided ending up with mismatched china and six toasters.

Now here I am, four years later — once again a student, and now a business owner – feeling the irresistible pull of community involvement. Thanks to the other activists (and just all-around inspirational people) I’ve met over the last year or so, the volunteerism fire in my soul has been stoked, and I’m ready to get out there and do unto others without collecting a fee once more.



I like good people. I like it when good people fly in the face of convention and challenge the misguided status quo. I like it when good people are able to live their respective truths, and my heart breaks for people who can’t, for fear of violence, abuse and/or pain.

Recently, in chatting with a massage therapist friend over hot beverages, the topic of transgender massage therapy clients came up. My coffeemate pointed out that it’s tough for trans clients to find service providers they can trust. I thought back to the multiple instances during my years in the spa industry when a co-worker would burst into the employee break room and shout “I think there’s a he-she in the relaxation lounge!”, or a receptionist would yell “Did a he-she come in today? Because I couldn’t tell if they were a man or woman on the phone, and I said ‘sir’, and then they said they were female! WTF?”, or any number of equally ignorant-sounding vomitisms. It turns out this petty stuff is just the tip of the iceberg, with the more substantial, submerged portion of the ‘berg being something I hadn’t given too much thought to until this coffee convo took place.

Some things* I’ve recently become aware of:

  • Transgender rights can vary greatly from state to state, so you really ought to look into your state’s laws regarding gender identity and discrimination. You can do that here. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Nevada is among the more enlightened states located in America the Beautiful.
  • In Nevada (and several other states), it’s illegal to deny trans folks access to “public accommodations”. A driver’s license that lists someone’s sex as “male” does not necessarily mean they MUST use the men’s restroom, locker room, changing room or spa, if they identify as female. If someone identifies as female, for chrissakes, they should be allowed to use the women’s facilities.
  • Different states have different requirements for changing the sex field on a state-issued ID, like a driver’s license. You can read more about that here.
  • Spas have been reported and/or sued after denying trans customers access to gender-specific facilities. Here’s a story about a spa in Virginia, and here’s one about a spa in the Chicago area.
  • Ignorance of transgender and genderqueer issues in the workplace reeks of hospitality failure. Will “sensitivity training” (barf) on LGBTQ issues ever be a part of employee orientation curriculum in the mainstream workplace? I’m thinking it’s time.

I could go on and on about society’s related gender issues — centered around a collective fear of feminism, aggro females, sensi males, penises, and nudity in general – but I won’t, because there’s a short-blog-post soapbox right here with my name on it, and I only have two feet. <3

(Many thanks to the intelligent, talented, wonderful people who helped me with this piece. You know who you are.)

*Keep in mind, I’m not an attorney. Antidiscrimination laws change all the time, so do yourself a favor and do your own research specific to your own situation.


Andrea Lipomi is a licensed massage therapist and esthetician who lives and works in Las Vegas, Nevada. She also peddles massage therapy ebooks and NCBTMB-approved continuing education courses at ConfidentMassage.com, will travel hundreds of miles for a fantastic spa experience, and craves dark chocolate and Depeche Mode’s upcoming tour dates on an almost daily basis.

The Best BBQ Advice You’ll Ever Get (from a Massage Therapist)

A guest post from Leslie Forrester because she’s awesome (and wrote about food). 

bbqAdmit it, you clicked because you were like WHAT???  This is the story of stories.  You’re a massage therapist, you know you can help people, but you get the blank stares and the “Oh, I’ll call you”.  But your table is empty more often than you would like.  What to do?  You’ve tried advertising or social media.  But eventually you have to go out and talk to the general public.

Many people who are unfamiliar with what we do have misconceptions about massage – some of them are completely incorrect and some are just a little a little outdated, shall we say?  With all the continuing research, even the most seasoned massage “junkies” in our practices need some updated information.  But how to go about that?  It’s very easy to dazzle people with our knowledge – our own knowledge base is very different than the general public’s, and there is a danger in getting too technical – and often you can do damage to a potential therapeutic relationship by overuse of jargon.  You want to be technically correct but it can be to the detriment of their overall understanding.

WWJD?  I’m not saying that I bring religion into the session – but I do use analogy very extensively when I am out and about in my public networking and during my intake process and the conversation that happens during and after the sessions.  I embrace the parable and the analogy.  It brings our work to the public in a way that all the jargon and modality talk can never do. There are a few specific examples I’ll share with you.

The Bridge

I use the bridge extensively with clients or potential clients who are involved in chiropractic care.  I live in Tampa Bay, where there is a gorgeous suspension bridge called the Sunshine Skyway.  Think Golden Gate – cables, bridge, arch, etc.  The point of it is about tensegrity – the body working together.  The basic wording I use goes like this:

The body is like the Skyway Bridge – If you want to move the bridge, you need to loosen some cables and tighten others – if you don’t it means either the bridge is going to go RIGHT back to where it was or fall into the sea.

The Beef Jerky 

I use Beef Jerky as an example with clients in intake when I have to explain fascia and myofascial release.  Lots of clients are men doing physical work that makes them sore and that’s how they end up on my table.  This analogy really speaks to them.

Ever try to rip really good homemade beef jerky in half?  You know the white stringy bits – it’s not just in cows and pigs, it’s in us too!  It wraps around all the muscles and in the spaces of the body, making it hard for muscles to separate and work properly.

Cobwebs – I use cobwebs to describe fascia to the non jerky eating set.  Fascia looks like cobwebs and acts like cobwebs, sticking to itself and everything around it.  Who hasn’t walked into a web and had it stick to their face?

Let’s get to the BBQ advice, though.

Clients and people who get to know me want to know how I can tell, what do I feel, how do I know what hurts?  Obviously it’s not as simple as JUST the information in the above video, there’s a lot of anatomy and school and everything but that doesn’t help them to understand in the same way that explaining if your body in general feels medium-rare and I come across this one little spot that is well-done…that’s probably the problem area.

If you didn’t click through on the video, there is basically a handy temperature guide for red meat  – on your hand.  If you touch right at the fleshy part at the base of the thumb (abductor pollicis brevis, for those who are keeping score) with all fingers loosely extended, that’s rare.  Put down your middle finger, that’s medium, and if you make a fist, that’s well done.  So STOP cutting into your meat to check the temperature, it lets out the good juices that make steak yummy.

And if you want to make your body feel yummy, get a massage.

Leslie Forrester is the owner and solopreneur at Quality Life Massage Therapy, located just outside Tampa, Florida. She has used these and other networking techniques to fill her practice from scratch in just two years. You can find her on linkedin, Facebook, and at www.QualityLifeMassageTherapy.com.

Image courtesy of artur84 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

On Getting and Receiving

I read a book.
I earned a degree.
I appreciated a song.
I watched a movie.
I shared an idea.

I got a burger at Wendy’s.
I got a parking ticket.
I got a migraine.

I got a massage.

Maybe it’s just a little thing, but how did massage come to be spoken of as a passive activity, something that just appears in our lives, occurs without our interference, and then vanishes again, like an itch or a coupon? I got a gallon of milk for half off. Nice, huh?

To receive is not to give up autonomy. It’s half of an interaction. When a phone line goes bad, we say, there’s no reception. We understand that that conversation has ended, and try again later, somewhere new.

Being an active recipient of massage doesn’t mean you have to chat. It can mean focus, meditation, deep breathing. It can mean speaking up when you’re uncomfortable, or asking for what you need. Being an active recipient of massage can mean making a conscious decision to give your body into someone else’s care, allowing yourself to daydream or even sleep. But it means owning those choices, knowing that they contribute to this process that you’re engaging in with somebody else, this process called massage. It’s not something that happens. It’s not something you can get.

to receive

I don’t know what kind of language we can use to communicate this understanding. To share, to experience, to explore, to feel, to enter into … none sounds quite right. Maybe receive is the best we have right now, with its undertones of to welcome, to take part.

But whatever language we choose, let’s try to find creative ways to acknowledge that our clients are not just consumers, but partners, and save get for the flu.

Kat Mayerovitch is a licensed massage therapist and recent Midwest transplant to Dallas, Texas. She also works as a copywriter, volunteers like mad in local community development, and plays the ukulele. If you like her writing here, Kat writes more good stuff at LMT or Bust.

photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography via photopin cc

The Fifteen Commandments of Mobile Massage and Personal Safety

  1. Thou shalt: not be afraid of thy clients, as most of them are normal, harmless individuals and perfectly lovely people. Being prepared for a bad client is not bad juju, negative thinking, or paranoid.  It is simply cultivating the tools you need to go into a potentially dangerous situation confidently so that you and your client are both at ease.
  2. Thou shalt: understand that most people seeking sexual services are not violent, and can be avoided with clear communication.
  3. Thou shalt: understand that de-escalation and removal of oneself from any dangerous situation is the first goal.
  4. Thou shalt: understand the predatory mindset, and realize that most victimizers go after easy prey so projecting steady confidence may be an effective deterrent.
  5. Thou shalt: always inform a colleague, friend or family member (exit buddy) of where they are, and when they will be checking in. In addition, always have detailed instructions for the exit buddy in the event no call/text is received. (How soon to call, when a 911 call is appropriate, etc) and consider making two safety calls: one when the service has concluded and one when safely in his/her vehicle. If texting, thou shalt consider including a specific code word or phrase to verify identity. It may not be a bad idea to delete these text messages immediately after they are sent.
  6. Thou shalt: feel comfortable with screening clients thoroughly and not be afraid  to ask over the phone: “Just to be clear, are you seeking sexual services?” if you have a feeling they are. If asked such a direct question in a polite manner, most creepers will either hang up or say “Yes”…at which time you can politely let them know you don’t perform those services and to have a good day, then hang up. Do not be rude or scold…that is simply feeding the troll and may result in some unwanted flak. Firm, yet polite, is the best policy I’ve found to avoid harassment. You are not condoning their behavior, you are simply refusing to engage with them. and there is nothing wrong with that.
  7. Thou shalt: get all pertinent details about thy client at the time of booking and NEVER be afraid to refuse service at the risk of offending someone, when thy personal safety is an issue. Pertinent details include: First and last name, phone number, address, name of community (if any), gate code (if any), service length and type.
  8. Thou shalt: feel comfortable both googling a client and mapping the address ahead of time on google maps to verify the location if they have any apprehension.
  9. Thou shalt: not accept wishy washy crap from anyone when booking and shalt not be afraid to say the word “No.”. Examples of wishy washy crap include:

    Q: Can I decide how long my massage will be when you get here
    A: No, I need to know how long your appointment will be ahead of time so I can schedule other appointments that day.

    Q: Can I decide what type of massage to get when you get here?
    A: No, I need to make sure I bring the right supplies for the service…which ones were you trying to decide between?

    Q: Can you met me in the hotel lobby?
    A: No, I check in at the security desk before and after each appointment and they need to know where I am in the hotel for security purposes.

  10. Thou shalt: create or obtain and use a written client intake form including an informed consent specifically stating that sexual innuendo is not tolerated and will result in the termination of the session without a refund.
  11. Thou shalt: be aware of thy surroundings, including other people in the space, exits, and possible red flags. If thou shalt spy visible condoms, an envelope marked gift, or any other sexual paraphernalia thou shalt resist the urge to become visibly indignant and leave as quickly as possible.
  12. Thou shalt: never enter a dark room in front of a new client or turn thy back on a new client.
  13. Thou shalt: consider obtaining training in self defense, including but not limited to: martial arts, verbal judo, and firearms or other weapons training including (very importantly) weapon retention. Thou shalt understand all local laws and that in close quarters and without proper training, an attacker is much more likely to disarm you and use your weapon against you.
  14. Thou shalt: consider carrying non lethal personal safety devices such as high quality personal alarms and pepper spray. Thou shalt understand local laws regarding these devices and substances.
  15. Thou shalt: understand that avoidance is a form of self defense. The goal is to be prepared for any bad situation that arises, but above all else to avoid putting oneself in a dangerous situation in the first place. Trust your instincts.

    Image Courtesy of vudhikrai at FreeDigitalPhotos.com

    You could always bring him with you…but that may be just a tad off-putting.

Article by Butch Watson of MassageCop.com
Interview with Butch Watson on The MassageNerd show
MassageTherapy.com/Outcall Safety
Massage Magazine Reader Advice


Please note: all content provided on this blog post is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for training or legal advice. The author will not be held liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The author will not be held liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.

My Client, the White Supremacist and Cross Gender Massage.

(In which I go to bat for clients that have a penis.)

So, ya, you read that right. I wasn’t at a Klan rally.

I do teacher appreciation days at local public schools. It is a great way to advertise to one of my targeted demographics, and I truly enjoy providing this service. I wanted to be a teacher for as long as I could remember, and actually began massage school so that I could have a part-time, high-paying job while I went through a four year university and got my teaching degree…but then, Massage Therapy and I fell in love…and you know the rest of the story. Teachers still have a special little spot in my heart though, since I have been fortunate enough to have so many great ones. At these teacher appreciation days, I raffle off a free 1 hour gift certificate. The person that won this particular gift decided to give it to someone else, which I was ok with.

When I arrived at my client’s house, things went a little differently than planned. Over the phone I was told we would be setting up in the bedroom but when I arrived, he had a worried look on his face and we set up in another room instead(I learned later, upon passing the room in the hallway with the door open, that it was filled with Nazi paraphernalia). At this point, I couldn’t really interpret the vibes I was getting – except that I didn’t feel threatened. I felt comfortable enough to stay. The house was full of people and I wasn’t afraid of him, just a little put off. So I set up, asked the usual questions, he let me know he was a tattoo artist so he has the usual neck/shoulder issues from long work hours,  and excused myself while he clambered up onto the table. (Normal, normal…normal).

Then I came back in and undraped his back.
A giant swastika glared back at me.
I blinked.
It didn’t.

I closed my eyes and centered myself, blinking a few more times to hold back wet eyes. Holy shit. I had a racist on my table. I had a Proud and Out racist on my table. I’m not white, but I pass as white pretty well. They think I might have a little Italian in me, or some Greek, or maybe I just have a good tan. I have a bit of a western twang…in other words, people have said I “sound white”. No one can usually place my racial mutt-ness of Seminole/Creek/Irish. I finally understood his confused and apprehensive behavior. He was trying to figure out whether or not I was white. Apparently he had decided it was worth the gamble for a free massage. Apparently also gambling on the fact that if I were white, that I would be ok with his hateful views. …and I was PISSED.

Then something happened. I heard a little voice inside of me say “First, do no harm.” I clung to it as I breathed steadily and began the massage. It became my quiet mantra, and I performed my best work, while remaining disengaged from the person on the table. Or rather, from the identity the person had imposed on themselves. I felt the human creature beneath my hands. I marveled at the intricacies of his circulatory system, the thought that he had been nurtured and loved as an infant. That he had grown and survived. I filled myself with pleasant thoughts of life and living, and rubbed/pressed/stripped/rolled/rubbed.

I wondered to myself why I didn’t just ask him to get up, or throw the jerk off the table and leave. Something made me stay. Not fear, but a sense of duty. I had work to do, damn it, and I was very well going to do it. I hadn’t finished my work. I thought of the only other line that I knew of the Hippocratic Oath, or at least what I thought was the Hippocratic Oath at the time (It is actually the Oath of Maimonides):

“May I never see in the patient anything but a fellow creature in pain.”

His neck and shoulders were a inflamed hotbed of trigger points and hypertonicity. Years of stress, possibly anger, possibly a great number of life’s other tragedies, failures, heartbreaks, or irritants had lodged there tightly. He was in serious pain. That is why he took the gamble.

I continued to work quietly, as I wondered why I only knew two lines of the Hippocratic Oath, even though I felt like a healthcare worker.

I continued to wonder how anyone in this day and age can actually be a racist.

I had a boyfriend when I was 21, who always wore jeans to the river. We had a summer romance and went to the river, the lake and the pool a lot. One day at the pool he flipped in and on his way down I noticed a swastika tattoo on the backside of his thigh. Naturally, I flipped the hell out. He had managed to hide it from me for the 2 months we had been together. After a day and a half of refusing to speak to him (I’m mature like that) I finally let him in and he explained that he got it in a garage when he was 13, he was part of a little punk group that thought themselves to be racists, and he acted like a complete ass for about 2 years – generally doing a lot of dangerous drugs, messing around with a lot of dangerous people, and spreading around a lot of hate. He wouldn’t tell me exactly what changed his mind, just that “there was this girl.” I asked him why he didn’t have it removed, and he said it was because he never wanted to forget how he felt and he kept it to remind him not only how wrong he could be, but how wrong other people could be. We had a long conversation about empathy and second chances, responsibility and growth. That conversation along with his gentleness and candor was one of the many reasons that I loved him.

This wasn’t the case with my client. It was the first thing I reached for in my attempt at empathy and understanding. An explanation.  His Swastika tattoo was fresh and bright, and if that wasn’t enough to convince me, it had other embellishments with names and was dated 2012. It wasn’t a misunderstanding, this man meant with every pixellated inch of his tattooed skin to convey his message to the world. I would have to reach deeper to find what I would need to get through the next hour.

The truth is I came up with a lot of the same insights as I did when I examined the idea of refusing cross gender massage, which is why I have tied these two posts together.

There is a huge faction of massage therapists that refuse to perform massage therapy on clients of the opposite sex. This really bothers me, the same way that it bothers me that men have such a hard time in our profession. For a lot of the same reasons.

When a client shows up at a spa for a massage, and refuses to see a male therapist, it shows a distrust. They don’t see men as nurturing. Some of them that are male aren’t quite homophobic, but just don’t feel “right” having a man touch them. This is discrimination. It is allowed, because as a consumer, we have the right to decide who touches our body. As therapists, we continue to educate to the best of our ability, but some people just aren’t “there” yet, or are holding on to old ideas of what nurturing means, or are confused about aspects of their sexuality or even the boundaries between sensual and sexual. They might be afraid that men will massage too “deep” or be dealing with a multitude of emotional issues that we can only refrain from guessing at.

Most people hold on to their prejudices. Many don’t care “why” they feel what they feel. They just know that that is the way they feel and that is the end of it. They don’t want to have to explain it to themselves or anyone else. Growth is uncomfortable. People need to do it on their own terms, and the best we can do is educate, in our individual practices and as a profession.

However, this is how I feel: Practitioners don’t get those same rights. Or rather, we seem to, but we shouldn’t.  Please let me clarify. I feel that a massage therapist should have the right to refuse service to someone, on an individual basis. If someone treats you badly, drains you, pushes your buttons, asks you for sexual favors, implies things, or makes you uneasy or afraid, you have the right to refuse service to them at any time. If over the phone you feel like someone poses a potential threat to you, or you get that uneasy feeling about them, you can refuse to see them. There is no reason for them to come in if all of your alarms are going off. Human beings made it pretty far on instinct. It is there for a reason. There is no need to have a mind so open that all of your brains start falling out.

This is different than refusing to service a specific subset of the population such as: “I don’t work on men”, “I don’t work on women”, “I don’t work on black people”,  “I don’t work on white people”, “I only work with healthy people”, “I don’t work on fat people” or “I don’t work on republicans.”

You can also target a specific demographic, no problem, that is different than refusing to work with a specific population (I mention this because recently in Facebook threads there has seemed to be some confusion between these two ideas).

I am of the idea that we should be held to the same standards as healthcare workers in terms of non discriminatory practices and other practices outlined in the following (and pictured below). As I learned more about the Hippocratic Oath, the Oath of Maimonides, and the Declaration of Geneva…I read through them and although I am not religious, I was touched. I got goosebumps. I think there is a reason for that.

When you dedicate your life to service, to taking away the pain of others, there is a certain responsibility that comes with the knowledge and skills. I’m trying to articulate this the best I can…and I keep coming back to this simple sentence:

We can be more.

Therapeutic touch transcends all boundaries. We can be more than what we are. We should always strive to be better human beings and to better serve the rest of humanity. To be of the best possible service. In a culture rife with sexism, misogyny and rape it is all the more necessary that we strive to provide non judgmental, healthy touch. I am of the idea that we are on the front lines of this change, this shift, in the way that people look at human contact, relationships and gender roles.

We are waking up from hundreds of years of imposed religious ideas about female sexuality and the role of women in the hierarchy of civilization. Even today, women continue to fight to be taken seriously in the workplace, to receive a fair wage, to have control over their own bodies, and to hold positions in elected offices. Even today, men in the political spotlight are criticized for their voting history and opinions while women are criticized on the size of their waist, the color of their nail polish, or what they chose to wear that day.

Women today continue to fight (socially, if not legally) for the right to be treated as equals to their male counterparts…and so do our male allies. Many of those women who have fought for our rights, did have men standing next to them, or behind the scenes, who supported them. Many had supportive husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, nephews, grandfathers, cousins and male friends.

No matter how you look at it, when you refuse to serve half of the population because something might go wrong in the session, or you might get hurt, or you might feel uncomfortable – you are perpetuating the idea that all men are potential rapists. Furthermore, you are reinforcing someone else’s idea that the men in your life are potential rapists. This is disingenuous to our profession, disingenuous to good men, and to all of the work human beings are trying to do to collectively improve our perception and understanding of one another and civilization.

Men are not rapists. Rapists are rapists.
Men are not creeps. Creeps are creeps.

People are individual.

As their massage therapist, it is none of my business if they have a penis or a vagina or any amalgamation thereof.

Or what race they are.
Or how old they are.
Or who they voted for.
Or how much money they make.
Or where they come from.
Or who they choose to love.
Or what their religion is (if any).

My job is to relax them, to relieve them of pain. To help them feel better in , and move with, their body. Plain and simple.

Now if a religious person preaches to me and makes me uncomfortable, I have no problem refusing to see them. Or if a man leers or starts wagging around his wally the one eyed wonder, or asks suspicious questions over the phone, or if a right-wing person pressures me about my political views, or if someone is generally just being a rude jerk…then they can be fired. But they are the exception, not the rule.

As I finished up on my racist client and left, I’m not going to lie, I cried a bit in the car. Partially because I was uncomfortable and confused, and partially because I felt truly sorry for the person I was working on. I felt he would lead a life compartmentalized by his belief system,  unable to feel that loving thrum of humanity…that dazzling, rusty, rough hewn, unpolished, vibrating plane of connection we are still working on while reconciling our emotional and rational selves to work harmoniously together…to further our understanding, to be open to new ideas, to connect to one another, learn, engage and grow. It is a beautiful thing.

People can become shackled by their beliefs. ” I mean, you can change an idea, changing a belief is trickier. People die for it, people kill for it.”

I silently thanked him. I had finally sorted out my thoughts and feelings regarding refusing a specific client vs refusing to service a group of people. I won’t be seeing him again…but for the span of an hour, he made me uncomfortable.

Just uncomfortable enough to help me grow.


(Please click on the images to enlarge them)

Declaration of Geneva or Physician's OathOath of MaimonidesThe Hippocratic Oath

Thirty Two Add-On Service Ideas for Non-Spa Massage Therapists

(This post is inspired by a question asked over on the Massage Nerd Group on Facebook today. If you aren’t a member, yet, come join in on the discussion! 1,838 minds are better than 1.)


I have a lot of fun with spa services. You will probably see me write about them a lot. I love to have creamy concoctions that smell pleasant smeared onto my skin and massaged in. I love to have my dead skin cells sheared away with tiny crystals and to have hot steamy towels envelop various appendages while I soak it in and pretend to be Cleopatra. It is heavenly. Moreover, I love to design, implement and execute these services in my practice. For me, it is soothing, relaxing, artful, and restful.

…however, this post isn’t about me. It is about you. The therapist who doesn’t sit by as they massage hot oil into a client’s scalp or apply warm sugar scrub to the feet and enjoy the service by proxy, like some therapeutic succubus, vicariously living through every girly spa treatment she gives.

(…what? I said it isn’t about me…)

It is about you, the therapist in the trenches who doesn’t want to bother with essential oil selection, whether to use raw turbinado sugar or salt, or use a mortar and pestle because it makes them feel old timey and cool. You, who when asked about “spa services” cringe when you think about the additional laundry, the oil stains, the salt granules between the toes, the ooey gooey, creamy, slimy, smelly, sticky, girly, messy stuff flying around all the time. You think about all of the bowls and bottles and canisters of extra stuff you have to procure, mix, and handle…and it just seems like more trouble than it is worth.

Fear not, non-spa massage therapist, for you too can offer add on services that can help increase your bottom line and add value for your clients without adding to your laundry basket or taking away from your ability to stay goop-free. For the purposes of this article, I am including both energetic types of work and more clinical approaches in order to satisfy/address a wider audience.

Here is a list of ideas, in no particular order:

1) A scalp massage add-on. You can do this dry, or with your lubricant if it is good quality. Some people hate stuff in their hair so of course be sure to ask first. A little goes a long way. If you feel like you want to add something a little extra or different, you can use a shampoo brush or scalp massaging instrument along with your hands and fingers. They even make battery operated scalp massagers…which I haven’t tried yet but want to. I’m not sure if they would work well for clients in a service but might make a good product offering for self care.

2-5) Reflexology add-ons. If you are trained in reflexology you can offer it on the feet, hands, ears, and face.  It can be incredibly relaxing and doesn’t involve any additional product or set up.

6) Abdominal Massage add on. You can use or combine different modalities, or receive training specific to this area, such as Maya Abdominal Massage. 

7) Facial Massage. You can do this dry or with your lubricant if it is very gentle and of high quality. I prefer to use jojoba, virgin coconut or safflower oil on the face. A little goes a long way. There are lots of CEUs and instructional videos on this subject.

8) Acupressure.

9) Reiki.

10) Cupping

11) Facial Cupping

12) Facial lymphatic drainage

13) Dry Brushing exfoliation

14) Hot and cold stone massage. If used as an add on you can simply use 6 stones, and a refrigerator or small heating device. There’s no need to heat up or cool a set of 30 stones. It doesn’t have to be that complicated.

15) Hot or cold stone facial massage. Both can be great for headaches and can be very relaxing.

16) 15 or 30 minute therapeutic stretching and/or ROM time. This can be a great add on for those that request relaxation massage but you know they could use something a little more. They are more receptive to it because you aren’t taking away from their full treatment time.

17) They can book a time block for 15/30 mins before or after their massage to just zone out on the table. You can call this “meditation time” or just “decompression time” etc.

18) A lot of my clients enjoy therapeutic hair pulling. These are usually my clients who constantly have in weaves or extensions, and they book their sessions in between getting new sets installed. I have been trying to come up with the best name for this service and I think I will add it my menu as “Hairapy”. I know, gimmicky…but I don’t want it to get confused with the scalp massage options I offer.

19) Kinesio Taping

20) Craniosacral Therapy

21) Indian head massage

22) Asian reflexology. Did you know that there are actually many different methods of reflexology besides the Ingram method? Check them out. You might find something you like better.

23) Ice massage add-on. Water, mini dixie cups, and a freezer. You will need one hand towel for this one.

24) The Toasty Toes add on. For those clients that get cold feet easily. You can have them in this the entire time and end the massage with an extra 15 minutes of massage on their nice warm feet.

25) Ice plunge add-on. For those that work with their hands a lot. You walk them through it and include printed instructions on how to effectively do it at home. all that is required is a little ice and water (easy if you already have a freezer in your office) and a small tub or bucket.

26-31) Other self-help protocol add-ons. You can add self-help protocols with or without tools such as tennis balls, specific stretches and ROM exercises, etc. The “add on” would be an extra 15/30 mins allotted to teaching them how to use the information or tools effectively, maybe a print out reminder, and a set of tennis balls etc.(example: wrist relief, shoulder relief, low back relief, foot relief, neck relief, headache relief, etc)

32) Extra 15/30 minute samples: I usually let my clients know that they can “sample” a different modality during their regular massage time to see if they like it and want it added in later. I have decided to start advertising this as an “add-on”, in the hopes that people won’t have as much trepidation because they know they are getting their full massage time, with just 15 mins “extra” of trying something new.

I hope these ideas have been helpful. I realize different therapists might already include some  of these services in their regular session pricing…my intent was to include as many as I could think of on this list to stoke the imagination.  If you are a therapist who chooses to maintain a goop-free lifestyle and you feature “add-ons” in your practice, please let us all know what they are below. We would love to hear from you!

Image courtesy of SweetCrisis / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You Are Not My Audience

I finished reading Erika Napoletano’s THE POWER OF UNPOPULAR while sitting alone in an isolated booth at a bar known for its goth night and hipster art fest runoff. I was there to show my face at a fundraising event, and your teetotaling narrator had arrived sans company, because well, that’s her lot in life.

I only mention this detail because it amuses me. All you really have to remember is that I mentioned “Erika Napoletano’s THE POWER OF UNPOPULAR”, because it is a good business-y read, and if you’re a business owner or project leader, it’s likely to give you hope and make you feel less alone in this world. Here’s what I loved about it:

  • It gives you permission to be yourself.
  • It gives you permission to make mistakes, and to be nimble enough to turn mistakes into opportunities.
  • It gives you permission to identify who the right client is for your business, and to adjust this assessment at any time if need be.
  • It gives you permission to stop wasting your time trying to please everybody, which includes many people who are not your audience.

I realize my repeated use of the word “permission” could be a turn off to some (or a turn on to you BDSM devotees out there), but sometimes it’s nice to have a respected marketing guru tell you “It is perfectly OK if you do this! Civilization will not crumble to the ground if you do, and you will be better off for having done it!” Feel free to swap “permission” for “two thumbs up” and it’s the same difference.

As a small business owner with an edgy business name in an up-and-coming neighborhood where certain suburbanites still fear to tread, these are all valuable reminders — with the last two points holding special significance as of late. While at my shop, I welcome friendly visitors and explorers with open arms, and I’ll happily answer questions and discuss the day’s events from bell-to-bell. My (mild and admittedly self-indulgent) irritation arrives with the rare yet reliable strangers who feel it’s their place to impose their multiple, unprovoked sales objections on me when they’ve never spent a dime in my establishment.

You demand that I perform couples massages in my tiny 140 square foot treatment room that quite obviously contains only one treatment table? And you’ve never been in here before, and you’re not buying anything today? And you also demand that I offer services that aren’t currently on my menu, in addition to providing you with a discount? And after alllll this preaching, you still haven’t bought even the least expensive item I sell in my little, local, one-woman-army owned and operated dream business?

Well my dear, you are not my audience.

And that’s a wonderful thing.


Andrea Lipomi is a licensed massage therapist and esthetician who lives and works in Las Vegas, Nevada. She also peddles massage therapy ebooks and NCBTMB-approved continuing education courses at ConfidentMassage.com, will travel hundreds of miles for a fantastic spa experience, and craves dark chocolate and Depeche Mode’s upcoming tour dates on an almost daily basis.


I’ve never consumed an alcoholic beverage in my entire life. I’ve never smoked a cigarette, joint, pipe, hookah, or taken a hit off a bong. Second hand smoke? Probably. First hand experimentation of the chemical variety? Nope!

We can get into the whys and what fors if you’d like: I didn’t grow up in much of a drinking, smoking household, and it was pretty strict. I had taken Prozac for a couple of months to try to alleviate my teenage OCD, but quit when I realized I could become dependent on it. Cigarettes smell like death, and lots o’ (drunk) people annoy me.

Maybe I have control issues. Maybe I feel the need to go against the status quo. Maybe I’d rather spend my money on clothes and breakfast. Maybe I’m just the most uncool person you’ll ever meet.

It’s OK, you can tell me I’m uptight — I’ve heard it before. Go ahead, become the millionth person who’d “love to see [me] get drunk for the first time”. Gaze into my eyes with bewilderment when, instead of hitting you with a heavy tale of rehab and broken dreams, I relay the history of a life devoid of cool.

I’ve lost so-called friendships over my choice to live the non-alcoholic life. The time these “friends” wanted to spend in my sober company decreased in proportion to the growing quantities of alcohol they were consuming on a now daily basis. In retrospect, these individuals did me a favor, but at the time it hurt. Alas, the only thing I had to drown my sorrows in after each parting of ways was a carton of unsweetened almond milk.


Even more pressing than the question “Why doesn’t Andrea drink?” is the question “Why is Andrea discussing this on The Young Thumbs?”


I opened my own little one-person day spa in February, and I am working hard to make it successful. I’m tickled to report that Feetish Spa Parlor is the center of my existence, is truly my happy place, and that cash money is slowly — but steadily — flowing into my bank account.

Obviously, marketing is on my mind every day. Spotting opportunities to meet new people, injecting myself into new social settings, taking advantage of the countless free events that take place in my community; you’ll see me out and about more now than ever before. And I enjoy it! It’s new, unfamiliar, and actually really fun! I have made some interesting new friends, and I don’t give a shit if they fall asleep each night spooning a six pack (of Coors Light).

But there are certain events that revolve around the availability of free alcohol that I just haven’t been able to bring myself to attend. And I feel like maybe I’m missing out on something by ignoring the siren’s promise of free whiskey on the rocks: Not to drink, but to surround myself with normal social behavior, an uncool anchor in a sea of libidinous lubricated linguists.

I watched “Blood Into Wine” on Netflix with an appreciation for Maynard James Keenan’s drive to get grapes to grow on the side of a mountain in Arizona, however I have no interest whatsoever in going on a Napa Valley wine tour. But what if I knew the tour bus would be full of wealthy wine snobs looking for a new spa experience in Downtown Las Vegas? Would I stuff my pockets with business cards and board the drunk bus to Napa?

You’re über cool, but let’s pretend you’re me.

What would you do?


Andrea Lipomi is a licensed massage therapist and esthetician who lives and works in Las Vegas, Nevada. She also peddles massage therapy ebooks and NCBTMB-approved continuing education courses at ConfidentMassage.com, will travel hundreds of miles for a fantastic spa experience, and craves dark chocolate and Depeche Mode’s upcoming tour dates on an almost daily basis.

Turning Warm Leads Into Well-informed Clients

Looking for some suggestions on how to get, manage, and effectively turn warm leads into “a client on your table”?  I’ve got some practices, here, in lead gathering and use that apply to primarily a sole-proprietorship but can also apply to any business.

Even before I started professionally practicing massage therapy, I knew I had to get as many people on my table as possible, and the more diverse in body type, considerations, and client goals, the better – I was going to open my own private practice someday.

But, before I even got out into the massage therapy world after my basic training, I knew that I had to come out from under my shell..and actually talk to people to get them on my table.  Student Clinic prepared me for that one-on-one interaction and encouraged me to get my hands on as many people as possible AND gave me a tool to keep track of everyone I had on my table [during Clinic]…and off the table [that I had talked with about massage therapy].


In the beginning, and with people that I talked to (trying to get them on my table) understanding that I was “new”, I had a hard time getting contact information, much less talking about what I would do with it once I got it from that person.

I thought a good method would be to direct “people on the street” to my website, where they could sign up for an occasional newsletter that I would publish and learn more about me – that way I could get their email address.

Then I thought, a good way to get “people at gigs where I was doing chair massage” to get on my table was to include a space for the chair client’s email address and permission to contact them on the release form.

Then I thought, why don’t I get “people at a wellness event/fair” to sign up for my contacting them via email.

These, unfortunately for me I learned, were really permanent warm leads that I was creating.  However, the web-disseminated information about massage therapy I did create to serve these warm leads allowed others who would search for a massage session and become my client find me (based on relevant search results, in “massage”) through my various (and consistent) business listings and profiles, and book with me based on my web presence or presentation.

Following are some practices I use to effectively and for-the-long-term interact with potential clients and some techniques I use to create, through my database information, working relationships as “people who get on my table”:

Contact [Enrollment] – anyone is a potential client.  Be aware that personal relationships can also be professional relationships and that your sister will eventually hold two or more roles in your professional practice: sister, client, referrer – be sure you put her in the appropriate-named database categories, too.  Treat every Contact as your client, and treat their contact information, permission, and intent like gold – because it really is fortunate that they want what you have to give.

admtCreating a List – collect contact/business cards.  If they don’t have one, ask for their name/phone #/email address [to write down] so you can keep in contact with them about that awesome, enthusiastic conversation you just had with them about massage therapy.  Any other information you think is important to know/note: also include that in the information you collect.

Storing your List – when you get their phone number through their business card or verbal information, keep it in your phone or, better, an online service that is seen through and interacts with your phone/website.  Often times when someone calls you, Caller ID may fail – if their name & phone number are already in your phone, you’ll know who it is right away and be able to minimize or avoid altogether that awkward feeling of that “I recognize your voice, but…who are you, again?” moment.  Also: computer spreadsheets, paper spreadsheets, paper address books, contact databases in a local email client (Outlook, Eudora, etc) or online (Gmail, Yahoo, etc) are efficient ways to keep the information permanent – in electronic version, you’ll definitely want to BACK UP your information or print it out on paper every once in a while to assure you never lose it.

Using your List – regarding contact information: if you have the ability to categorize your contacts easily, do.  I separate non-clients and clients in my database with color coded categories in Outlook for easy access later, for things like creating client letters, broadcast announcements, and the like.  Regarding email addresses you got in an online form: I use Google’s Feedburner to automatically send out my blog website’s RSS feed entries to my Feedburner-subscribed email list.  This is so I know that everyone interested in the information but who are not necessarily my client get the feed they subscribed to on my website.  With Feedburner, I can manually enter email addresses that I have collected and have “permission to market” on file.

Once you have your contact list started, populated with people who are “warm” leads (aka, of whom you have not yet had the pleasure of meeting) and of whom you have permission to market, start the scheduled emails.  Stay ahead of the game by always having more than enough articles to publish.  If you have specials to promote, make sure that you include that information (maybe even a link to a permanent webpage featuring the details of the special) somewhere in the email.

Maintaining your List – the best rule of thumb that I have used is: take care of it now.  Any delay in adding or removing a contact from your list only reflects on you as apathetic and uninterested in the needs/desires of your audience.  Most email systems, like Feedburner, Constant Contact, Email Brain, will have automated unsubscribe links within each email sent – easy for the recipient to Unsubscribe if they want.  But make sure manual entries and deletions to these permission-based list are done promptly – your efforts will be appreciated, leaving you looking professional…and possibly worth electronically- or professionally-reconnecting with at some point.  I like the automated emails that state “did you mean to unsubscribe?” or “if you would like to re-subscribe at any time, please click this link” in the unsubscribe confirmation emails – I keep these for future (resubscription) intentions.

The following suggestions are based more on ethical considerations moreso than business practice or practice-building:

DOs – establish permission-based marketing

checkedCollect business cards – it has always been my understanding that if someone gives me a business card, it is implied consent to contact them.  That said, I only contact them with their business card information about the “thing that we talked about” when they gave me their card.

checkedUse “sign up/in” sheets at events – include a space for [your client’s or potential client’s] email address AND indicate, somewhere on the form, that you’ll contact them [in the future] with…well, you decide: newsletter, specials, surveys, etc.

checkedCreate a form on your website that collects a visitor’s email address – when they are asked to sign up, they are usually promised something: a regular newsletter, specials notifications, first-time client offers, and the like.  You can make it worth their while – to be in your database – if you personally email them an article you wrote, a “tips”/information sheet, or even an infographic you have permission to use or made yourself to connect their website entry with you personally.

DON’Ts – spam

uncheckedCollect email addresses anonymously or “harvest” them from sites that explicitly state that using the information on the site in ways other than the purpose of the site (which is to connect massage therapist(s) to clients, for massage therapy purposes, et al).  This type of information gathering is not permission-based and will get you blacklisted on the major email services (AOL, gmail, Hotmail, etc) or account terminated on web-based email list management services (Email Brain, Constant Contact, , etc) if you are reported as “spam” – to the ISP, mail service, or list management services through their no-spam “unsubscribe” policies.

uncheckedPut people on lists that they did not sign up for.  The fastest way to lose an electronic client…and possibly a live one…when they figure out you added them because they were in your database and not subscribed or interested in the information you started sending them.

uncheckedSend too many communications by email/RSS feed – when you do more than monthly newsletters that have advertisement or promotion in them, “overbearing” comes to mind of the reader…and every time they see your email header in their Inbox.  This results in a behavior modification that not only hurts your business but also your identity/reputation.  If you send an article ONLY of interest to your email database – and make it relevant to the service and/or product you purvey in another space (like a booking webpage), link it in the footer or signature of every email you send out.  I promise: people will always know where to find you when you are consistent in placing your contact information there.


Now, if you’ve read this far AND are not familiar with all these concepts, your head might be swimming – please ask questions, give suggestions, confirm/deny, or feel free to leave your favorite smoothie recipe below.  Maybe you’ll be able to put down the Dramamine before you’re done typing 😛

What are some ways you collect contact information, methods you use to connect with warm leads, or “best practices” for maintaining a relevant database for your practice or business?