There are many reasons people choose a particular massage therapist. Certainly location, availability, skill set, and price are initial factors that define your search. A therapist across town who can’t see you until next month is not likely to be your first choice, unless s/he has unusual skills or rapport you need. Likewise, if you are looking for injury rehabilitation, you won’t go to a student clinic, even though the price is much lower. Presumably you want a therapist who does the kind of bodywork you prefer, in a relatively convenient location, whose work you can afford, and who can see you within a few days.
If you need somebody right away, you’ll probably call around until you find a therapist who is available immediately. On the other hand, the massage will be the luck of the draw. If you are flexible with your treatment time, you may well find a more appropriate therapist. On the other hand, I’ve had many clients come to me because I was available when they needed me, only to find that I was the perfect therapist for their needs. Sometimes things just work out really well.
Two critical factors:
Skills and experience suited to your specific needs
If you have been injured, you need a therapist who has the skills and experience to assist in your healing process. A good rehab massage not just a matter of applying the proper strokes in a particular sequence. A relaxation massage might feel good, but it won’t remodel scar tissue or improve your joints’ range of motion much.
Caveat emptor! I’ve found that therapists who tout proficiency in many methods are rarely expert in any of them. 30 or 50 hours of Shiatsu (for example) in a massage school class can only open a student to the possibility of practice, usually integrating techniques into a full-body massage. It doesn’t qualify anybody to actually practice the techniques as a stand alone system.
Rapport – a therapeutic relationship based on trust
No therapist can help you much if you don’t trust them, no matter how skilled or compassionate s/he is. Trust can be a slippery thing; some people are trustworthy and others aren’t. Sometimes we trust those we shouldn’t, and sometimes we don’t trust those who are worthy of it. My only advice is to trust your feelings. It’s much better to be wary of an otherwise excellent therapist than to mistakenly trust a therapist who does not deserve it for whatever reason.
Some people trust easily. Others are easily trusted. I seek to earn your trust by respecting your treatment goals, your privacy, and your body’s innate wisdom. I will communicate with you openly and honestly, sharing what I think and admitting the limits of my understanding. Most importantly, I respect your ability and need to make your own choices. My personality and skills are not right for everybody. Most people know during the first massage whether they’ll be coming back to see me again.
The role of referrals
If a friend or colleague recommends a particular therapist, by all means check them out! Pump your friend for as much information as you can to make sure that your situations are similar. Find out why your friend likes this particular therapist so much. “S/he gives a great massage” doesn’t convey nearly as much information as “s/he works deep enough for me and focuses on my painful areas,” or “s/he just always seems to know what I need.”
Word of mouth is the best marketing around. I appreciate all my clients who send others to see me. I also appreciate clients who refer others electronically, like posting feedback on various sites or rating me on Google, yelp, etc. While you’re at it, how about leaving a comment on my “Testimonials” post? Every little bit helps people who need me (like you?) to find me.