The Myth Of Magic Hands
"I feel so good, your hands are magic!" Have you ever said this to your massage therapist? I'm here to bust this myth of magic hands!
At the end of a massage session, when I’m asking for feedback from my client, often they will tell me something like “oh, you just have magic hands”. And that feedback is not unique to me – other therapists get this all the time too. Are massage therapists some race of people gifted with magical hands and the power to put every client we come across at ease? No. And I want to help break this myth of magic hands down.
When I am presented with compliments on my bodywork style or skill, my response is something like, “thank you for sharing that- I am glad you are getting benefits from the work we are doing”. Or, “thank you for coming in and being here for yourself today” (if the situation calls for it, I might tack on to that reply, “you must really have wanted a change/to heal and I commend you for that”) If the praise continues and I get the sense that the client won’t accept my more modest response until I accept more ownership over the positive results of the session, I might say something like “thank you, I put a lot of effort into our work together”. I intentionally put the focus back on the client’s effort or (if I must) the working therapeutic relationship we have together.
I also keep a complete list of recorded positive review quotes (and if you follow my TikTok, Instagram, or Facebook you will know this practice well with my “Testimonial Thursdays” series of videos). I keep this log of the written positive feedback for a couple of reasons; the first of which (of course) would be marketing. Client testimonials and positive reviews help instill confidence in me as a professional for perspective new clients. Similar to word-of-mouth referrals, reviews and survey responses help the right client find the right therapist. The other, more sacred reason I keep this list of praise is because I truly cherish the kind words my clientele leave about the work we do together.
You’ll have to excuse me if I wax poetic for a moment. I consider tracking my client’s kind words as a form of reciprocal veneration. They praise me, in turn I praise them by sharing their words. If a client thought enough of our work to take the time to write out and leave a review (not many people do!), I am going to acknowledge their efforts to leave their feedback. Why wouldn’t I want to keep track of them?
I hoard the compliments that my clients leave me. I should also confess that I have always compared my massage work to the work of other’s – students when I was in school and colleagues once I began working. The bodywork I was doing often couldn’t hold a candle or stack up when compared to others. In fact, while I was studying at Blue Cliff College almost a decade ago, my cohorts used to call me “feather-touch Clark”. I struggled (and some days still do) to develop the skills necessary for deeper work and higher client satisfaction. I have to work twice as hard to get the results that others don’t even have to try to achieve. This is all without acknowledging my past struggles with herniated discs in my low back. When a client leaves me positive reviews, it means more to me than it might to others.
I have skilled and well-trained hands, but they’re not magic… the magic comes when the right therapist meets the right client. Remember, I know massage therapy, but clients know their body! Do not be confused; I do NOT heal, I only help facilitate the healing process the client’s body is already capable of. That is why my first intake question is often, “I am here to SUPPORT your peace and healing, tell me how we can accomplish that together?” I am the support, not the healer.
The truth behind the myth of magic hands is I am only half the magic. I can’t do it alone! The client has to show up and be there for themselves- I can’t massage without a body on the table. It takes receptibility and openness from the client. Remember, the client is an active participant in the session- the action being to Relax and Communicate. All the client has to be is willing. I am only half the magic. You are the other half of the magic!
When a client reports feeling better, reduced pain, or "being cured", the glory of those results are not mine. The full credit goes to the client.
My praise is your victory!
Peace and Healing,
Kirby Clark Ellis, MMT, BCTMB