As a male massage therapist, I sympathize with my male colleagues because with the massage field being around 85% female, male therapists are sometimes discriminated against.
Over the past decade as an educator, I have had many conversations with male therapists seeking advice on how to gain acceptance and trust clients. Here are five pro tips to help male massage therapists be more successful.
1. Offer massages to reception staff
Early in my career, I chose to offer the front desk staff a free 1 hour massage to show off my skills and thank them for helping me as much as possible to book clients for me. After each employee received my massage, they spoke confidently about my skills and reassured clients that I was a professional therapist.
2. Become an expert
Clients will respect a therapist who speaks in anatomical terms and presents himself as an expert in this area. I have found that most clients are fascinated when I teach them about their musculoskeletal anatomy; most people never attend a formal anatomy class, so they value knowledge about the vessel we carry on a daily basis.
There are many specialized certifications that a therapist can obtain to gain credibility in our field. These specializations generally complement training in massage related to medicine. Some examples include training in myofascial release, kinesiological taping, oncological massage, neuromuscular therapy, and lymphatic drainage. Plus, you can become an expert in working with specific musculoskeletal conditions, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatica, and whiplash. Other healthcare professionals will be happy to refer clients to you when you are considered an expert with such clients.
3. Use tools during treatments
The use of tools and instruments can greatly benefit your practice. Over the past ten years or so, more and more continuing education courses have focused on the use of tools. The tools allow the therapist to preserve his hands, fingers and forearms; allow a deeper massage application safely; and help a therapist stand out from their peers.
Clients may feel like they are going to a medical or physiotherapy office when they see a massage therapist using a myriad of tools. This shift in perception can help a client feel like an expert in your chosen field.
4. Offer fully clothed modalities
Many clients are uncomfortable removing their clothes during a session. Using modalities in which clients remain fully dressed has helped me with those who do not wish to undress. Their reason is none of my business, so I will not ask for any justification; I just let the client know that I can provide sessions of an hour or more while they remain dressed. It relieves the minds of many customers.
I often practice Shiatsu, a Japanese body work that involves pressure and stretching, to stimulate muscles and circulation. I also used sports massage techniques on the clothes. Craniosacral therapy can be a welcome addition in the same vein, as well as reflexology techniques.
5. Look in the mirror
Ultimately, you may need to look at yourself in the mirror to understand why some clients feel uncomfortable receiving a massage from you. Here are some aspects of professionalism to consider and potentially correct:
Behaviour: the way you behave in public. When you stand up, walk, approach people and converse with others, do you seem confident or gentle? mature or immature; constant or inconstant; accessible or inaccessible?
Dress: People will react to the way you choose to dress. Are your clothes neat or sloppy? pressed or crumpled; well adapted or clearly ill adapted; clean or not maintained?
Hair: People will react differently depending on your hairstyle standards. Is your hair groomed or messy? stylish or unstyled; long or short? Keep in mind that facial hair can cause varying reactions. Not everyone is in favor of the appearance of a beard, goatee or colored hair.
Body language: People will judge you based on your vocabulary. Do you speak with good articulation or do you mumble in words? speak loudly or softly; make inappropriate jokes or clean jokes; use foul language or plain language?
Professionalism: People prefer to be cared for by someone with appropriate communication skills and a bedside manner. The way a therapist speaks to clients, fully answers questions, actively listens and responds to clients’ needs is a telltale sign of their level of professionalism.
About the Author:
Jimmy Gialelis, LMT, BCTMB, is the owner of Advanced Arts and Education in Massage in Tempe, Arizona. He is a member of the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork, an approved continuing education provider. He is a regular contributor to MASSAGE magazine and his articles include “Treatment Planning: Why One Size Never Works for a Massage Practice”.