Dear Clients, Find a Therapist Who Respects Your Time

Last time, I wrote about clients who disrespect their massage therapist's time and what a problem that can prove to be for all involved. But what if you have the opposite problem and your therapist is the one not respecting your time? When I was attending massage school, one of the biggest pet peeves of several of the instructors was massage therapists who were "flaky," and we were consistently warned that, if we wanted to have a healthy practice, we absolutely could not flake on our clients. So what did it mean to be flaky? The general idea was that there were therapists out there who seemed to perceive their massage practice as more of a hobby than a business, and if they "just weren't feeling it" on any given day, they would call and cancel their clients' appointments.

Our instructors made certain to have us look at this situation from the client's perspective. Here you've cleared a section of your day – no phone calls, no children interrupting you, no distractions – to just have some time with your massage therapist to relax…until you get that phone call, and your day just got a little bit less enjoyable. To add to the disappointment you're already feeling, you've probably been anticipating getting that massage all week (or all month, if you go a little longer between appointments), and now you've just been let down. Sometimes, situations like this are inevitable. The therapist has a family emergency to attend to or they wake up with a fever and sore throat and don't want to pass anything on to their clients, but these instances should be rare and the therapist should make every effort to reschedule you as soon as possible. If your therapist keeps cancelling your appointments because they're not feeling well (or "just not feeling it"), it's time to look for another therapist.

Flakiness doesn't always mean canceled appointments, though. It can also mean not allowing enough time to properly prepare for an appointment. I remember one time when I interviewed at a local spa at which I was interested in working. After having done my "oral" interview, I did my practical interview by giving the therapist a massage and allowing her to feel my touch. Shortly after I finished the massage and was concluding the interview with her by thanking her for her time, a couple walked into the spa ready for their massage appointments. The therapist whom I had just massaged looked at the schedule and gave it a puzzled look. "You're sure your appointment was for today?" she asked. The couple said that yes, it was for that day with the owner and that she had called them the day before to confirm it with them. The husband, who already did not look happy with the situation, made a remark that "she forgot again" and proceeded to mutter and make further remarks like "she's late again," "it's just like last time," and "I'm going to call her and find out what's going on." I decided to make a hasty exit as he pulled out his phone to call the owner and, thanking the therapist I massaged one more time, made my way to the door.

As I went to my car, I overheard the owner picking up the call from the husband. She had just pulled into the parking lot near me and was heading towards the back door at that instant. Granted, she was there a few minutes before the appointment start time (as I heard her assure the man over the phone as she explained that she was just coming in), but red flags were already going up for me. Clearly, this was not the first time that this couple had been disappointed by either a missed appointment or a late appointment, and as a professional, I thought it highly odd that the owner was walking into an appointment three minutes before it was supposed to begin. Normally at least thirty minutes is allowed for setup with appointments to make sure that everything is ready and such items as the table warmer and hot towels are at a comfortable temperature. Needless to say, when the spa got back to me a week later to say that they were interested in hiring me, I politely declined.

So clients, what do you do if you really like your therapist but they just don't seem to respect your time? As a first step, make it apparent to them that you feel as though your time is not being respected. After all, your time is just as valuable as theirs. This conversation can be very difficult, but it is necessary if you want to continue seeing your therapist. A suggestion is that you state clearly but politely how you feel about the situation, and suggest that if it isn't improved, you will have to look for another therapist who will consistently give you the treatments you need. If this has no effect and the therapist continues to disrespect your time, then it's time to move on.

For those of you in between therapists or who have not yet found one, how do you determine whether a therapist is going to be one whose touch you will enjoy and who will give you appropriate time and attention? Online resources may be your best friend in this case. Such sites as Yelp and Google Business enable fellow massage recipients to post reviews of their experiences. These methods are not foolproof (the spa at which I interviewed actually has decently high ratings on Yelp) because the people with average or negative reviews don't always write them. However, short of trying every therapist in the area to see which one you like the best, online research is certain to help narrow your choices. I can assure you that there are plenty of therapists out there who do not flake on their clients and actually put a great deal of time and effort into their practice and their clientele.