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Free Massages – How Not to Give Them

When you are a student massage therapist then providing a free massage for Sydney family members and friends is considered part of the training. In return for you giving them a massage then you get the chance to practice strokes and techniques that you may have learnt in class. In addition, you can solicit feedback from the recipient of the free massage.

It is a win-win situation.

However, once you have qualified and start working as a massage therapist then this synergistic situation changes. You are confident of your skills and how your bodywork is received by clients and client feedback is less important for you.

If you have been working hard at a clinic, doing mobile massage or at a spa then the last thing you want to be doing when you get home is to give away a freebie.

free massage in SydneyUnfortunately from the therapists point of view though friends and family don’t necessarily see it this way and many therapists are frequently asked to give them a few minutes of time to massage their stiff neck or sore shoulder.

A question that is often posed is how can I, as a therapist, politely decline to work on them?

On a recent Facebook posting, therapists gave suggestions on how to deal with this issue. The most common response was along the lines of handing the person your business card and asking them to call to make a booking.

Here of some of the other answers.

I say in a funny sarcastic yet friendly way, “I have all my free massages when I was in school for two years. I have to pay off my student loans before giving anymore free massages.”

I’m just honest. I tell them that I don’t have the stamina on my days off and they always understand. If I can tell someone is just trying to get a freebie, I tell them they can have a business card. They laugh and say, “Smart answer”.

Tell them you’ll trade if they work on you first

When family and friends come crying to me about what is hurting on them (hinting about wanting me to work on them) I always reply by telling them what is hurting on me. They usually get the hint

It seems that people think that because we are MT’s, that we never hurt. Typically don’t like it when I say… Yeah, my neck and back are killing me too!

Sometimes if my friends say “Oh, my back hurts so badly!” I answer with, “I’m sorry, I wish I knew someone who could help”

Make an appointment, today’s my day off.

“Sure! I’ll trade you. I can always use a massage! 5 minutes for 5 minutes?” “Uhh.. uhh… uhh… “

But probably my favourite is

If you know someone who is a mechanic, and says “My back hurts, can you help me?” answer: My car needs brakes, can you help me later tonight?
If you know someone who does daycare and they ask for free massage, ask them in turn to babysit your kids for free when they get off work.
You get the point. If they wouldn’t work for free, why should you?

By Richard Lane

Student Massages

In most major cities where there are massage schools then the chances are that there would be the option for you to book in for a student massage. In Sydney, for example, these are available at some of the TAFEs, Nature Care in St. Leonards, ACNT in Surry Hills and the NSW School of Massage in Clarence St, Sydney. Booking in for a student massage is generally fairly straightforward and checking out the website for a particular massage education establishment should provide you with all the information you require.

Studet massage clinicThe procedure when you arrive at the student massage clinic is fairly similar to any other clinic, with a couple of fairly major differences. These differences include the fact that you will have no choice over what therapist you will see and that you may very well be in a room with a number of other people getting a massage at the same time (this varies from school to school so check when booking if you are shy about disrobing in a room with other people). In addition, regardless of how many times you visit the clinic, you will probably have the therapist go through the case history each time (which can eat into your massage time). And finally, the student massage therapist may check in with their supervisor a number of times during the session.

    Advantages of Student Massage Clinics

(1) Price. Student massages are significantly cheaper than visiting a professional therapist in a clinic (or have a Sydney mobile massage therapist visit you in your home). So if you are constrained by your budget and you can only afford a cheap massage then student massages are a good option. (please note that you are unable to claim health fund rebate for massage with a student therapist).
(2) You may very well get an attentive therapist who is keen to please and improve their skills and professional interactions with clients.
(3) You are supporting the future of the massage industry.

    Disadvantages of Student Massages

(1) No continuity of therapist and no continuity of massage standard. If you receive a good massage one week then it is unlikely that you would ever get the same therapist again. Chances are that if you have a good experience one time then the next time you go in then it may very be less than satisfactory.
(2) Limited availability. Many student massage clinics only operate on specific day and at specific times. In addition, even when the clinic is operating they may be offering a different massage modality to the one that you are after (eg the students may only be trained in Swedish massage when you are after a remedial massage).
(3) As mentioned above, having a massage in a room with lots of other people is not relaxing when compared to a Sydney massage clinic or a home massage. Also being shy and modest is a definite reason not to book in for a student session.
(4) If you have a significant medical issue would you want a student to be providing bodywork to you?
(5) If you book in for a one hour session, then by the time the student sets up, takes case history and you undress/dress then chances are you will only get around 45 minutes of massage (even less if supervisor intervenes).
(6) Student may work on the areas that they want to, not that you specifically want depending on their level of training and their preferences. (In fairness, this can apply to professional therapists as well but with a professional you probably have more recourse to direct the massage the way you want).

There was a recent online discussion amongst massage therapists whether they preferred student or professional massages. The following quotes are some of the comments that were made. (Obviously there is a slightly different perspective compared with if the same questions was asked to a non-massage therapist, although many of the points are relevant for both groups)

If you get a massage from a student, it can be great, it can be average, it can be a challenge. If you get a massage from a professional, similarly it can be great, it can be average, it can be a challenge. However, the advantage of a professional is that when you get the “great” experience you can go back next week or the next time you want a massage so you can guarantee that you will be satisfied with the massage. With a student massage there are no such guarantees.

Sometimes students are more diligent and pay more attention to your needs. “SOMETIMES”. Some professionals don’t listen and have their ‘own’ way and often that is disappointing (happens quite frequently) Hmmm? What to do? I would love a professional that is in tune, pays attention to “your’ needs and can make me float away while my body heals through their wonderful touch. BTW I have had some awesome student massages in my many years.

Depends…who is actually good at massage? Massage professional only means they are licensed, not good at massage. Some massage students have great skill, some professionals do not. So…I will go to either if they have the passion and skill to give a great massage. Unfortunately you do not know for sure until you feel their work.

I prefer to receive massage from someone who knows how to give an awesome massage, be it a student, professional or anyone else who may just have a gift! Just sayin.

I’m a student and hve been told by several clients that I’m better than a pro because the pros don’t listen to what the client needs are. To me, when I hear that, it means the pros just don’t care about the client and their needs.
A professional , more education on specific conditions and modalities which increase a range of techniques which sometimes need to be combined to deliver desired results. A student is more routine and knowledge of basics. Which is why we are required to do CEU. I feel I was an exceptional student but I often find myself using and combining different modalities in which I had no knowledge of as a student like advance deep tissue neuromuscular sports/or Thai combo. The difference in the results are non comparable.

Both- you can learn from each one

I luv getting massages from students as i remember those “student clinic” days well!!! BUT i PREFER a professional because i usually opt for a specific modality such as craniosacral, trager, bowen technique, fascial mobilization, muscle energy technique, myoskeletal alignment technique, soft tissue release and my 2 fav’s: THAI MASSAGE & WATSU!!!. . .so i usually require a professional to perform these modalities…………………but i do keep the student clinic at a local massage therapy school busy!!!

From a professional, because they know what muscles I need work on to get relief. When I go back to my massage school to be an intern’s ‘guinea pig’, I am always disappointed with the massage, simply because when you’ve had the best, amateurish massages don’t make the grade.

I believe in supporting the students, and I’m pretty understanding because my first clinic was a nightmare. I pity the first person on my table. But the last few student massages I’ve gotten were awful. And it was their third term in clinic! I wondered if they even paid attention in their first Swedish class!

It really doesnt matter to me! Massage is massage either way its still good!! I really dont judge at all, my co~therapist are all completely different styles!! Always Good:)

To me it depends. I Ave had both and some of the best and the worst ones have been for booth. Only time I have an issue with a student working on me in a clinic, is when they are just starting. One had a student tell me she just started less tan a month and hadn’t even learned the muscles yet. I couldn’t believe they allowed her to start in clinic yet without an instructors supervision.

Lmt Massage professional… my theory, you get what you pay for…

Professional… I find students trip up my nervous system and I have the shakes for the rest of the day, or they over work / under work areas. Well worth the $$$ to me to have a professional work on me or trade with another LMT.

A brilliant question to which we are not sure there is a clear cut answer. The general feeling in the office is that we are great supporters of education and everyone nees to learn. Our student experience has always been good as you can sometimes be a little more diligent when learning. However, there are also some really awesome massage therapists out there.

There is no such thing as a bad massage, some are better than others but all good. I’ll take one of each

Whoever has the most passion for their trade! Years of experience does not out weigh true passion and true passion can not be taught.

It depends. when I was a student there were some that were really good with their techniques. some were not. I have had a massage from a licensed massage therapist and did like it much better. I went to the schools clinic once to get a student massage and it was horrible. she didnt listen to what I wanted done and did her own thing. There are just parts of my body that I dont like worked on. and when I told her that she just stated that I needed the work done, and worked on the area anyway. intercostals are very sensitive and I dont like them worked on. needless to say I did say something and they talked to her about it. When I was in clinic we had LMT evals. where we had to give a massage to a licensed massage therapist. The lady I had was very nice and in her eval wrote that she almost forgot that I wasnt licensed yet. so I guess it just depends on the person.

I don’t care as long as I’m getting massaged!

I honestly prefer a professional, I’m too nervous to be worked on by a student. However, if I am on a really tight budget and can’t afford the extra money for the professional and I really need it, then student. But outside of having student in my class work on me, I have yet to have a student in clinic work on me since graduating.

I certainly would not try to discourage anyone from getting a student massage if you have never had one. If you regularly have massage then it is a great way to experience a different bodyworker without paying big bucks. However, for many people though, the disadvantages do outweigh the cost advantages.

By Richard Lane