• Awkward massage moments
In fact, massage is a really great way to explore non-sexual, therapeutic touch, which some people don’t have. The elderly don’t get touched at all
“Be prepared to have weirdos. You will have weirdos. That’s the nature of the business ...”
These days when human contact makes headlines, it’s usually in a bad way — like when that police officer in Kirkland, Quebec, brushed aside a young registered massage therapist (RMT) who had reported a client’s bad behaviour (namely, masturbating)
But for RMTs, human contact is a positive force that promotes empathy and well-being. Here, an RMT with 13 years of experience in Ottawa talks about the benefits of therapeutic massage, her career path, choosing music, and awkward moments on the table.
In the Door
I have a curvature of the spine — scoliosis. All through high school, I had really bad back pain. I had episodes where I would be on the couch for three days. I just thought, I’m going to live my whole life with horrible back pain. That’s just the way it was going to be.
One day my mom booked me for a massage with her therapist — a male therapist. As a young 20-something woman, I was terrified. So at the last minute, I called and made up an excuse. After talking with my mom about it, she suggested I try again. Still terrified, I kept thinking: I’m going to get naked. There’s a strange man I’ve never met before — what’s going to happen?
It was totally amazing. I felt comfortable, the man was very professional, and I walked out of that massage feeling so good! And that was the moment I decided that I was going to become a registered massage therapist.
It Just Got Weird
I did have a client who was [visibly] sexually aroused. When it happened, I simply continued to treat him in the way I would anyone. I don’t know what his expectations were and I didn’t ask, but after a few more sessions, I think he eventually realized that what he was looking for and the kind of treatment I was giving were two different things and he simply stopped coming.
I am touching people all day, but from my perspective, there’s nothing intimate or sexual about it.
There are clients who are very keen to get up on the table, and while I’m giving my little spiel, they start undressing in front of me. That makes me uncomfortable.
In fact, massage is a really great way to explore non-sexual, therapeutic touch, which some people don’t have. The elderly don’t get touched at all. Even if people are getting a massage just to feel the touch of someone, that’s amazing. Human touch is an important element of our mental and physical well-being. I’m so focused that I don’t notice the [ambient] music. Now, I would love if clients brought in their own music because it would take the pressure off me from wondering, Does the client hate this music? The few times I’ve chosen [non-ambient] music, it’s totally backfired. I tried a k.d. lang album once and the client said: “Oh my gosh, turn it off. There’s two voices in the world that I can’t stand and hers is one of them.”
Older is Better
The average lifespan of a therapist is five years, and I think it’s because they don’t make the money they think they will — and some have an easier time with the demands of the job than others. I think it would be hard to go directly from high school or university to the [massage therapy] school and into the workforce. They don’t have that life experience, which is necessary in order to empathize with someone.
I’m working on “holding space” right now — that’s when you just allow another person to release what they need to release or dialogue without feeling the need to jump in and give your opinion. To hear them, sense them, without reacting to them. And you don’t necessarily know this when you’re 20.