Male Therapist, Female Therapist or First Available?
The typical response
When a new client calls to schedule an appointment we ask a few general questions, have you been in to see us before? Are you looking for a morning or afternoon appointment and end with - would you like a male therapist, female therapist or first available?
We have found that 85% of the male clients immediately request a female. If we do not have a female available they sometimes are willing to wait until the next opening, which is usually within 24 hours, or will tell us they will call back, and end up calling some place else.
If a female calls, only about 15% of the time will they request a female. Most of the time they are looking for the first available and really don't have a strong preference one way or another.
What we have found most interesting is when a male calls to make an appointment for a female, they immediately request a female. They say, "oh, she needs a female, she wouldn't be comfortable with a male." Sometimes I randomly ask the female, did you have to have a female, the majority of the time they say it would not have mattered to them, but to keep their significant other happy, they stuck with the female.
Several years ago, James and I decided we wanted to venture out an explore a new career that we could do together, build our relationship, as we built a new business. We went to massage school and opened our own office – Widdoss Therapeutic Massage in Birmingham AL in 2010. When we were in school we were required to give 100 free massages which would allow us to practice on all different types of bodies while we built our skills and our massage style. We also had to give 40 student clinic massages to allow the public to critique our massages. James always had a waiting list of free bodies and was full each week at student clinic. Reality kicked in when we opened our office.
As we looked at our clientele list we realized over half of our clients are male. Times are changing and as more people look to alternative health methods, massage is on the rise. But I still like to quiz my regular clients to get their point of view.
I've asked my male clients, why did you request a female rather than a male? I wouldn't ask this to a first timer, but after a client has come to see me for a few months and we've been a client/therapist relationship, I can ask.
The answers are all over the place because they know the male therapist is my husband, but they finally get to the underlying reason - "It would be strange having a male massage me." What they are afraid of is, what happens if my body decides to react to physical touch and I can't control it.
I remind them that it is my husband and they should considering allowing him to give them a massage, because in my opinion, his massage is better than mine. I've never received a massage from me, but I have received them from him and his massage is hard to beat!
Ok,so to be fair - I asked my regular female clients why they initially requested a female. Again, I received random answers but most often the response came down to low self-esteem or self-image complex that they couldn't seem to get over. After coming to me, they've become comfortable and don't want to switch therapists. They would go to James if no one else was available, but for now, they want to keep coming to see me.
I like to go into what I call my “professional therapist” conversation and tell them what I see, what I think and what I feel to help change the overall perspective. This is usually a very an eye opening conversation!
When a new client walks into our office my goal is to observe as many things possible as quickly as possible, without being obvious. I ask how they are doing - do they immediately go into a complaint, or do they respond with a typical impersonal type response. While I'm talking, I'm watching - are they having difficulty walking, are they wobbling, do they have a bounce in their step. How are they carrying themselves, is one shoulder higher than the other, are they carrying a heavy handbag, laptop bag, etc... the goal is to quickly make an initial assessment through observation - this is where people watching skills come in very handy. We like to watch people and determine which people could benefit from a massage. After you've been doing this for awhile it's easy to pick up on the signs.
The next thing I do is "size them up". Really, what I'm doing is looking to see if they are the same size, bigger or smaller than my last client. Why do I do this? I need to know if I have to raise or lower my massage table so it is the correct height to allow me to have proper body mechanics.
A quick shocking story that I'd like to share - I had a female client ask me during her third massage session if I was offended giving her a massage because she was overweight. I was extremely puzzled by the question because the thought never crossed my mind. She proceeded to tell me about a therapist she had gone to in the past that had asked her not to come back because she couldn't massage someone her size and she would be better off finding another therapist that could assist her. Wow!
There is more to you than the outside
Who would you choose?
Given the choice - who would you choose as your therapist?
Does it matter?
Professional Therapist Conversation
As I continue tell my point of view of a professional therapist, I make sure they are engaged in the conversation. I like to explain that a therapist shouldn't only look at the outside but really needs to shift their attention to the inside and what is under the superficial layer of skin.
They know that I follow the draping laws because they've been in to see me a few times. But I assure them that I make sure the client is covered with a sheet at all times except for the body part I’m working on, and in my office - there are no exceptions! When I’m finish with one area, I move on to the next, covering up each section as I go along.
As a professional therapist, I'm not looking at their physical features thinking, they really could stand to lose a few pounds, or they need to eat a cheeseburger with a side of fries. My goal is to look, feel, and fix as much as I possibly can for the hour I have you on my table. I could be working on the tension this is built up in their neck, eliminating that famous "knot", or determining what muscles are really causing that low back issue. The entire time I'm thinking about what stroke or what would be the best technique to use that will ease the pain.
A few months ago one of my regular clients asked - "Is my left leg smaller than my right leg? I went to see a different massage therapist when I was on vacation and she told me it was strange that my legs were different sizes." Again, Wow! I told him if so it is a very small difference because I haven’t noticed it, and this client has been coming to me for over two years. I think if it was a really big difference I would notice, and why would you tell or ask a first time client something like this?
Am I paying attention - yes!
Now, don't get the wrong impression, I am paying attention to what is going on, but I am totally focused on the muscles. I can almost promise that when you get off of my massage table and we are talking about what we accomplished, I am not going to remember what I saw when I had the sheet pulled back, but rather I am going to talk about what muscles were tight, what stretching I would recommend for that muscle group and then make sure you remember that you should drink some extra water after a massage.
When you come back, I’ll remember what we worked on, and ask if you have any new areas that need attention, but I’m probably not going to remember that scar that you had from a few years ago. I'll remember when I uncover that part of your body, but when you leave, I won't remember it until the next time I see it again.
A true professional
To me, a true professional massage therapist sees under your skin and not the skin you see every day.
So the next time you are in the Birmingham AL area and looking for professional massage therapists, call Widdoss Therapeutic Massage, we care about your overall well-being and are not focused on your weight or body image.
My next task is to figure out how to get males over the phobia of a male therapist or find a way to change the perception so that others can see the same things we do - the whole body, not just the outer layer.
Our hands knead your body
If a male client is looking for a lot of pressure, or is in a lot of pain and needs to see someone immediately, there is a very good possibility that we can offer them a male therapist and they will agree.
James is also certified in Assisted Isolated Stretrching (AIS) so if a client is interested in a stretching session, they have to see him. After one stretching session, they are usually willing to allow him to do their massage the next time too.
My personal opinion, before I became a massage therapist, is that my first choice would be a male therapist because I want as much pressure as possible. In school I was taught that it is in the body mechanics and technique. I can give as much pressure as my husband does, but I don't usually tell people that, I let them figure that out on their own. So the next time your presented with the choice - which will you choose?