Compassionate Touch training enhances even chair massage!
I had an interesting experience recently. My hospice employer participated in a fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Assn. It involved a golf outing and my fellow hospice massage therapist (and CT Practitioner) and I were asked to provide chair massage as golfers were arriving, before and after lunch and before they headed to the golf course. Attendees were to include retired pro football players! I approached this “with fear and trepidation”, as I knew this wouldn’t be the first massage for any of these people--whether former football players or those living the good life with bucks available to donate. In addition to (muscular) football players I was envisioning “the elite” that probably receive massage from only the best on a regular basis. My mind’s ear was already hearing “I can’t even feel that you are touching me!” and I had pre-determined responses such as “I am a hospice massage therapist, after all, and so I focus on comfort and relaxation” and would then hope for the best. I have never even had the desire to provide deep tissue massage, much less pursue instruction. So you can imagine my concerns.
My first client approached, and while he was filling out our intake form I noticed his Super Bowl Ring! Wow. Now I was really in the presence of what would surely be a demanding client!
I proceeded as usual. Over time my co-worker and I have departed from the high-energy, stimulating chair massage we were taught in school. Besides being extremely fatiguing for us, it just does not represent who we are and what we do. And so we do our own version of chair massage, approaching these clients in much the same way we do our hospice patients, focusing on the individual and doing our best to provide a relaxing, flowing, soothing experience, while addressing muscle tension to some degree.
As I was nearing the end of the 7-minute massage, I steadied myself for the client’s reaction. This dear, sweet 60s-looking man got up from the chair bleary-eyed, smiling and thanking me, and I could see he was relaxed and the endorphins were doing their job. He was calm, relaxed and happy! You could have knocked me over with a feather.
We sailed through the rest of the event, with very positive responses from each person. No one complained about the quality of the massage. No one suggested their experience was anything but relaxing and enjoyable. In fact, they were all very graciously thanking us and sending felow golfers our way!
Although I didn’t have the understanding to know to expect this, we get this same positive response at all of our chair massage events—whether for longterm care facility staff, caregivers, family members, or our own hospice staff. We even hear a few “that was the best massage I’ve ever had!” which always makes me laugh—it’s a chair massage after all! I always chalk it up to people being nice. Throughout school and after, I was never praised as a good massage therapist, never considered one of the best. And I was certainly never the preferred therapist for those that requested deep tissue work, which is what so many think of when they hear “massage”. After pondering all of this, I believe the difference, and what makes our chair massage experience enjoyable for all, is our Compassionate Touch training and mindset. My co-worker (and fellow CT Practitioner) agrees. After all, who doesn’t appreciate being approached with respect and dignity, with openness, with attention to the entire person rather than merely to Muscle A and Muscle B? Even “the elite” respond to this. I truly believe the transformational experience of Compassionate Touch training enhances everything I do, including chair massage. And because of that, I no longer have to stand in fear of my inadequate massage skills. The heart takes over and it truly comes through the hands.
And so I invite you: let Compassionate Touch training transform all of your massage sessions...even chair massage!