• Awk­ward mas­sage mo­ments

Ottawa Magazine - - CONTENTS - — Matt Har­ri­son

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.

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