How Does This All Work – Part 1

Posted on June 13, 2016 By

How Does This All Work,
or What are the Unspoken Rules??- Part 1

When you go to get a massage, there’s a kind of etiquette involved in the whole thing.  Etiquette?  Seriously?  Actually – yes.  It’s a way that you treat the massage therapist, and that the massage therapist treats you.

Just like there are socially acceptable ways to behave at the dinner table (which change when you get to tables with tablecloths and white napkins), there are appropriate and inappropriate ways to behave when giving or receiving massage.

No matter how many massages you’ve received, there was a time when you went for your first massage.  You placed that first phone call to schedule a session, and wondered “how does this work, anyway?”  I thought I’d share some insight from the therapist’s side of that question.  I hope it will make that first session easier for any one who has either not received a massage recently (why ever not??), or who has not yet discovered the wonder of bodywork.

Some of these things seem obvious to many people.  Some may seem so obvious to you that you wonder why I’m wasting bandwidth on them (it’s because I’ve seen the issue as a problem at some point, so yes, this really happens). Furthermore, many of these things also apply to almost anyone whose services you use (doctors, dentists, physical therapists, hair stylists, lawyers, CPAs…. anyone with whom you make an appointment).  Others are more specifically related to massage therapy.

Making Your Appointment 


While every therapist or spa or clinic has it’s own way of doing things, some are prettyGreen phone w: swirls universal.

  1. When you call, if you get a voice mail, please do leave a message.  Many times your therapists handle scheduling ourselves, and cannot answer the phone while we are in session.  If you don’t leave a message, we don’t know who to call back. You’ll just miss out on a great massage …
  2. Please be sure to provide your name, phone number and or email at the time of booking.  If something happens that requires changing your therapist’s schedule, we want to be able to reach you!
  3. calendar w apptTry to schedule your session at least a week in advance.  Sure,discovering that your therapist of choice has no same day appointments can be frustrating, but it’s just as frustrating to be unable to get you into the schedule because there’s no lead tim.  A full schedule is likely to mean that your therapist is good at what he or she does, and thus has regular clients who book ahead.  Since few of us do this just for fun, we actually can’t afford to allow huge holes in our schedules just in case someone calls at the last minute.
  4. When you put your session in your calendar, you should block out enough time to arrive, possibly fill out paperwork, have a brief discussion with your therapist, undress, get on the table, receive your full session time, rest a moment, get up, get dressed, pay for your session, and rebook for your next session.  You simply can’t complete an hour massage and take all the other steps in only one hour.  Give yourself time after the session to enjoy feeling relaxed before you have to do the next thing.
  5. For your first appointment, expect to fill out paperwork when you get there.  We’ll get into this a bit more later, but be aware that since massage is healthcare, your therapist will need to know some of your medical history, and to know what is going on with you.  So, give yourself some extra time to fill that out.
  6. Before you hang up, verify the form of payment that your therapist accepts!  No one will be offended if you ask whether they take credit cards, but everyone will be embarrassed if that’s all you take to pay for a session with a therapist who can’t take them!

Keep your Appointment!!

  1.  When you schedule your appointment, your therapist sets aside time for you and holds it.  That means that not only can therapists not book anyone else at that time, they can’t book someone at the half- hour before.  They’re holding at least an hour and fifteen minutes, if not an hour and a half just for you.  They’re counting on you to come.
  2. If you have to miss your appointment, please, give your therapist as much notice as possible.  Most folks have a 24 hour cancellation policy.  With 24 hours, they have a chance of filling the slot (especially if they have a waiting list), and thus not losing money on your schedule change.  Unless it’s an emergency, you should expect to pay for your session if you cancel last minute.

Arriving for Your Appointment

  1. on timePlease arrive on time — even a few minutes early.  If you’re late to your session, your therapist may not be able to extend your time past the originally scheduled end-time for your session.  If there are clients after you, their scheduled appointment has to start on time, which means your session can’t run over.  If you’re right on time, or a few minutes early, you’ll have time to go to the rest room, explain your current issues to your therapist, and get undressed and on the table while he or she steps out to wash his or her hands.
  2. If you’re late to your session, you don’t get a discount because your massage was cut short.  Your therapist was ready and waiting for you.  It is unfair to dock someone else’s pay because you got delayed.
  3. BUT – don’t come too early. If you’re too early, you will find that your therapist still has someone either on the table, or still in the session room getting dressed.  You’ll need to wait while your therapist handles the check out (receiving payment, explaining what to do to avoid future pain, rebooking the appointment), and then continue while he or she cleans the room and re-dresses the table for your session.  Your therapist will feel rushed, and you’ll feel impatient.
  4. dirty-feetPlease arrive clean.  This should go without saying, but please don’t spend the morning working in the garden, getting dirty and sweaty, and then go straight to your massage therapist before showering.  In the summer time, please pause on your way and check to see whether the soles of your feet are black with grime from walking barefoot (or in sandals that get all that dirt in them).  *
    shower (1)
    Bathing, or washing your feet, show respect for both you and the therapist.  And, it prevents the dirt from being inadvertently spread further around your body.  (Remember, many therapists work your face last — which means after your feet.)
  5. Finally, please be sure to bring with you the appropriate form of payment.  Nothing is as frustrating for either of you as ending a session and not having the cash or check to pay for the session only to learn that your therapist can’t accept credit cards.

In Part II, we will cover what to do once you’ve actually gotten in the door.



*Dirty feet image from

Broader Issues