Creating a Therapeutic Space
by Veronica Adler, LMT

As massage therapists, we never know what someone walking through our door may be going through. Chronic pain issues, stress, anxiety, and injury are just a few of the issues that someone may be bringing to the table. In this post, I want to discuss the role of space in an effective massage therapy session. For me, massage is much more than just technique, it’s also about providing an appropriate therapeutic space.

In my experience, the ability to create an appropriate space can literally make or break a session. Have you ever experienced a massage where the therapist talked the whole time? Depending on what your needs were, this may have been a dream, or caused you to never work with that therapist again. In my training as an LMT, I was taught to be generally silent, in order to allow the client to have a quiet, relaxing space. There was a fear of “transference” which refers to the phenomenon of the therapist making a session about them, rather than the needs than the client. For some, massage is their only quiet time, away from life changes, children, or work pressures. Additionally, some clients also find it easier to focus on my touch if there’s no discussion involved.
However, once I entered the professional world of massage, I found this was not true for everyone. I worked with one client who remarked that his time receiving massage was “the only time he could speak to another adult”. He was a single parent with a young daughter, and for him, speaking with me was more therapeutic than silence. I also realized that some clients had too much energy, were perhaps too anxious, or too “wound up” to be silent on the table. In order for them to reach a space of therapeutic relaxation, they had to “talk out” their feelings, their stresses, to a listening and engaging ear.

This led me to realize that creating a therapeutic space as an LMT was much more complicated than I was taught. We do a subtle act of balance, walking a tight rope between transference and neglect. Every client is different, and their way of achieving an optimal state of relaxation is unique. Ultimately, we will do whatever we can to make their session therapeutic.
I want every client to know they are in charge of their session. As LMTs, we are here to serve you. If you want or need to talk things out, please do! And if you’d prefer silence, we can provide that too. I never want a client to feel they are not in control of their session or their environment. After all, this time is about you. An LMT who truly cares will do their best to provide you with the session you need, whether it’s in total silence or with a compassionate ear.