Tell me if this sounds familiar…
You’re sitting in your office, interviewing a new client, and they’re describing this chronic pain that they’re having in their posterior hip that just keeps getting worse. They’ve tried everything…muscle relaxers, pain meds, ice, heat, acupuncture, physical therapy, and chiropractic. Nothing seems to help. They’re hoping that massage therapy will be their miracle cure. No pressure.
As they continue to tell you about their symptoms you can feel your eyes start to gloss over and you force yourself to continue to smile and nod attentively. Meanwhile, deep inside, your entire insides start to freeze over, and not in a “Let it go!” liberating kind of way. We’re talking full blown deer-in-the-headlights-frozen panic attack.
Thoughts begin to race through your head…”I have no idea what to do! If they’ve been to all of those professionals, how can I possibly help them? I don’t know as much as all of those guys. They’ll see right through me, and they’ll know that I know that they know that I don’t know. And they won’t like me and they won’t come back. And they’ll tell all their friends that I was horrible and I’ll be RUINED! Waaaahaahaaa!” No? You don’t think that? Ok. Scratch that. Apparently I’m the only one that has paranoid delusions of failure. Ahem. So. Moving on. You can skip the entire rest of this email.
But, if you are like me and you’ve ever felt like this at any time in your practice, don’t worry. There’s hope for you. You’re not alone. We all have those moments in our practice when we don’t feel qualified enough to do what we do. I still have those moments, even after 14 years. And I’m assuming that even my gurus (see below) who’ve been in this field for 30 or 40 years still have those moments too. At least I hope they do, because if they don’t then I’ll really be convinced that they’re not human.
So, what do you do about them? Well, here are some of my simple solutions that should prevent you from wallowing in chocolate and brie. Because even though those two things are absolutely fabulous, and who wouldn’t feel better while soaking in a chocolate bath (who the heck thought mud was a good idea? yuck!), eating brie and sipping wine, they’re not exactly great for the figure.
Don’t worry. These little nuggets of advice won’t hurt nearly as much as my elbow in someone’s backside does.
First…get involved in a community. Whether it’s online where you can talk to other like-minded individuals without having to actually talk to anyone (a blessing for socially-awkward and conversationally challenged individuals such as myself), or a local LMT gathering, trade with another therapist, or meet-up.
Connections within a community allow you to brainstorm and help each out when you haven’t a clue what to do.
Second…trust that you know what you know. You went to school. You passed the state licensing exam. They have entrusted you with their seal of approval. Trust yourself and what you’ve already learned.
When all else fails, palpate where it’s tight and release the tension. Every body on the planet can benefit in some way from just having the tension released. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a special technique in order for the work to be effective.
Third…don’t get overwhelmed. Easier said than done, right? If you allow that panic to snowball you like Elsa’s uncontrollable fear that locked Arendelle in an eternal winter (don’t judge – I have a toddler; I’ve seen this movie 80 million times), then you really won’t know what to do. It’s literally impossible for anyone to think clearly when their brain is frozen. Or at all, actually. But that technically falls into the realm of neurobiology and cryogenics, which are way outside our scope of practice and only remotely interesting to die-hard sci-fi fans and anyone who happens to like the movie Demolition Man. And it’s only redeeming quality was a 3/4 naked view of Sylvester Stallone’s booty.
Stop, take a deep breath, and chill out. Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s all about baby steps. Again, identify where the areas of tension are, use the techniques that you know to release that tension, re-evaluate and either repeat or try something else until you find what does work.
Fourth…remember the old saying, “Love will set you free”? It’s not just a song, although Google seems to think that’s the only worthy mention of it. Just try it. Be kind to yourself, admit to yourself that you might not know what to do RIGHT NOW in this VERY moment, but that’s OK. You can find out and be ready the next time your client comes in.
Ain’t no shame in honesty and opportunity…2 of the founding principles of this country. And in my experience, your clients will R-E-S-P-E-C-T (sing it Aretha!) you for saying, “I don’t know, but let me see what I can find out.”
Fifth…let your intuition guide you. When your mind is calm, and you can take a step back and let that inner voice guide you like Inigo Montoya’s sword to the secret doorway of the Pit of Despair in the Princess Bride, you might just find that your inner voice has some very helpful suggestions when you stop and actually listen. Complete with dramatically inspiring music and golden rays of sunshine. AAHHH!
When I tune into that voice, sometimes I remember a technique that I literally haven’t thought of in years and I try it and, miracle of miracles, it helps! Trust that little voice in your head and heart, but you have to be quiet enough to hear it because it usually only speaks in whispers. It’s even more afraid of rejection than I am.
And sixth…learn as much as you can. Take CEC courses as often as possible. Don’t just wait until you have to renew your license and then try to cram them all in just so you can stay in business. You should be taking at least one 8-hour course every quarter. If you’re a total nerd like me, it’s a lot more than that, including the textbooks I read (yes, I really am that nerdy), the internet and journal research I do, and the online webinars I take.
(I can learn in my PJ’s with a cup of coffee or an adult beverage without ever having to leave my home? Sweet! Can you do massage that way too? No? Ok. Just thought I’d ask. But wouldn’t that be cool? Although I’m pretty sure they didn’t have that on Star Trek. They didn’t even have headaches on Star Trek. I wonder if they even had massage therapists. I bet they used the Holodeck for that. See? Even we will be subject to automation and technology in the future, in a galaxy far, far away. OK. Long, drawn out side rant done.)
Find a few people in the industry who’s work really speaks to you and who’s teaching inspires you and gets you excited about doing massage. I love learning new things about how the body is put together and how it functions. And I get REALLY excited when I start to make those connections between the things that I’m learning, the things that I already know, and the ways in which the new information can be used to help my clients. (Pssst…it gets really cool when you start to put that new information into practice in your sessions with clients and you start to see some amazing results! I get kind of giddy!)
Just in case you’re wondering who my gurus are, here’s a list. These are the guys that I follow online, in live workshops, home study courses, online webinars, etc. These are the guys that I go to when I need help understanding what I’m seeing in assessments, what my clients are telling me, and figuring out an approach to try and work on their issues so that my office does not become a frozen wasteland like Arendelle.
In no particular order (ok, alphabetical cuz I’m a nerd):
OK, that’s it for now…just thought this might come in handy.
Your Therapist Today,