Is A Chatty Massage Good or Bad?

Time to talk clock

Most massage therapy students are taught in their entry level education that any speaking, with the exception of “is the pressure okay?”, should be limited to before and after the session.  In fact, a lot of instructors tell their students that if a client is speaking during a massage it is an indication that the therapy is not effective….no snoring client, no success.  On the other hand, there are a large number of massage therapists who rely on constant feedback during the session, continual instruction to the client for active movements during the massage.

Thus, the rub…..to talk, or not to talk.  The answer–NO, YES, IT DEPENDS.  How’s that for a clear answer?

Before the session, it is imperative that the massage therapist is crystal clear regarding the client’s expectations regarding the massage. Specifically, why have they scheduled the appointment?  Answering this question will determine the plan for THAT treatment session.  For example, if a client comes in stating that they are “stressed out” and they “just want to relax,” then the therapist should focus solely on relaxation.  You may ask yourself “But what about that client who says they want to relax, but the second they get on the table, they start chatting about everything that happened earlier in the day?”

Each of us have our own ways to “relax”,  and sometimes clients find it relaxing to talk.  Some sleep.  Some cry.  So long as the intention behind the massage strokes you are using are focused on relaxation (effleurage, gliding, slow, etc.,) you are doing your job.  If it is appropriate to respond to the client, use short responses, and NEVER interject your personal thoughts or opinions.  For example, if the client comments “my boyfriend can’t remember anything.  He was supposed to bring a bottle of wine for dinner, and, of course he forgot.  We drank water instead.”  It is not appropriate to reply “Oh, I know what you mean.  Just the other day, my boyfriend……” This transfers the roles, and the client is now thinking about your situation.

If, in your professional opinion you feel as if the talking is prohibiting your client from achieving THEIR desired outcome of the massage, then make sure to emphasize what YOUR interaction will look like during the massage.  For example.  “Okay Mary, I hear that you need to relax during this session, so I want to quickly review your intake form.  While we usually talk quite a lot during your sessions, I’m going to be silent unless you have a question.  Also, don’t forget that if the pressure I am using is too deep, or too light, please let me know.”  Or something along those lines.  You are acknowledging “Mary’s” desire to relax, and also letting her know that the focus of this session will be on her relaxation without making her feel uncomfortable about talking.

To recap:

  1. Remember that each client will “relax” differently
  2. Try to get as much information you need from the client prior to beginning the massage.
  3. You should respect the client’s request to relax by keeping responses, if appropriate, to a minimum.

NOTE:  If during the course of the treatment, you notice something that needs to be addressed, however it is not critical,  or does not appear to be immediately harmful to the client (a large hypertonicity, etc.) you should not discuss it during that particular session, and should limit your work in the area.  However, it is important to discuss your findings with the client after the massage, and suggest that they schedule an appointment to deal with that specific issue.  This will give you time to research potential approaches, communicate with other healthcare professionals if needed, and will also illustrate to the client that there are different strategies and approaches when their needs differ.

  • I let the client lead. If they want to talk, I let them. If not, then I’m quiet. If I need to address something going on with an area I’m working on, I will ask them. Each client is an individual and you can’t lump them all into talk or no talk. Each session with the same client is different too.

  • I have made the best connections with clients that share their conversations with me. It seems that the clients that are my regulars like to talk. I also feel out the mood of the client, you can usually figure out whether it is appropriate to talk or not.

  • Lisa Lewis

    I get confused about this topic as a massage therapist. As a rule, I am somewhat chatty as a person — i know this and one of the reasons I love massage is because the sessions are the times I can NOT TALK and still feel good about not talking. HOWEVER, when a client insists on talking and asks me questions and does not take the hint when I try to redirect the conversation back to his or her areas of stress and what to do about them, I end up feeling I have to participate when they are being social, to some degree, to avoid seeming rude or dismissive. Ideas anyone?