The Art of the Intake in Massage Therapy

My friend Jason Peringer has been a massage therapist and business owner for more than fifteen years. I’m pleased and humbled to bring you his guest post.

Whether you are a seasoned massage therapist or still in school working in the clinic, there is something more important than your skills, and that is information. In the several careers I had before massage, all dealt with gathering information. Even before I graduated from college, the importance of information was evident. One of my classes was “MIS”, or Management Information Systems, where I learned that if you put garbage into the system, you are more than likely to get garbage out of the system. As a massage therapist, the information you acquire from your client comes from the intake; both written and verbal.

There are many different intake forms that a massage therapist can use to gather the information to treat a client, but the written form is only a beginning. Before a session even starts, every therapist should open the line of communication with the client by verbally going over the information on the form. This does not mean that you simply regurgitate what the client has entered into the spaces provided, but dig a little deeper to get a sense of what the client might be expecting from the session. This accomplishes two things. It invites the client to feel comfortable expressing their wants and needs, and allows you both to be clear about how the session will evolve.

For as many years as I have been doing massage, I have heard as many different ways to conduct an intake. Whenever a new therapist begins working in my office, I like to conduct the practical part of the interview as if I am the client. This allows me to experience what any given client might encounter when they come into my office for massage. There have been some therapists who have been better than others, and a few that just did not “get it”.

First and foremost, conduct the verbal part of the intake in the treatment room. You never know what sort of information the client could divulge and you really need it not to be done in the reception area where anyone could suddenly be privy to some rather sensitive issues. Second, try to begin the intake by inviting the client to share what information is on the intake form in their own words. After that, the therapist should confirm the priorities of what the client might be expecting to have worked on during the session. The importance of both client and therapist being on the same page can never be understated. Finally, giving the client a basic roadmap of the session before ending the intake will give the client some assurance that they have been heard and their issues will be addressed. I usually conclude the intake by asking if there is anything else they have to add before I step out of the room. It might seem trivial, but it strengthens the line of communication that can be so vital during the massage.

No matter how thorough the intake, written and or verbal, there will always be those issues that seem to slip one’s mind, which is why the intake needs to be the beginning of the client/therapist line of communication, allowing the exchange of information to continue throughout the session.

The intake establishes a foundation from which the entire client/therapist relationship can build on; make it a work of art.

Jason Peringer combines a degree in Sports Medicine and a background in strength and conditioning with advanced training in Sports Massage, Reflexology, and Shiatsu to provide the best massage you can find on Martha’s Vineyard. He is the owner of the Center for Therapeutic Massage and THE go-to therapist for both residents and seasonal visitors to the island. He coaches high school track, makes a mean pancake, and rules twitter as @mvmassage.

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