Peace at Hand's Healing Blog


Where Do I Begin?

Posted on December 18, 2009 in: FAQ - Tags: advice, FAQ, massage

It seems to be the question of the week.  As I've been trying to decide on a topic for a first post, I have also had several new clients contact me to ask the same question: Where do I start?  They know that they're interested in massage for themselves or a loved one, but have no idea how to go about making it happen. What sort of bodywork do they need?  How do they choose a therapist?  Is it safe to give as a gift, without knowing what sort of massage the giftee might want?

One of the problems with answering questions about massage is that very often, the only honest answer is, "it depends."  The best advice I can offer is to poke around on line or make a few phone calls, and find a massage therapist who resonates with you.  As with any health care practitioner, what makes a MT "right" is highyly personal.

There are a few things you can look for, though.  First, check their credentials.  You'll want someone who is licensed in their state and who has completed a 500-600 hour training program, preferably at a COMTA accredited school.  Second, make sure that they are comfortable talking about their work.  If they don't sound confident when they speak to you, its a pretty good indication that they won't be confident when they actually perform massage. 

If you are booking a session for yourself, getting what you want shouldn't require any buzzwords.  Ideally, you should have a clear idea regarding your goals for the session.  Maybe you're just looking to relax and unwind, or maybe you are hoping to help with chronic shoulder tension.  Whatever it is that you want, be sure to articulate that to your MT, and expect them to have a conversation with you about it, to make sure you are both on the same page. 

If your massage session is a gift for someone else, you should be looking for a practitioner who is willing to speak with the new client and determine what they want.  It will be important for a bodywork practitioner to be aware of any major medical conditions up front, but a good MT will have received  well-rounded training and should be able to customize their session based on what the client tells them at the begining of the appointment.  If a therapist insists on knowing whether the massage is Swedish or deep tissue or any other industry-specific term, or (in my opinion) if they expect to charge more for deep tissue work, that should send up red flags for you.

The bottom line is that you should trust your judgment--if, after speaking to a therapist or reading through their website, you feel comfortable with them, give their massage a shot.  If their work isn't what you want, you always have the opportunity to dialogue with them about it until you work it out, or to find another therapist.  As with anything else in life--organizing your closet or working through your to-do list or writing the first post for a new blog--all you can do it pick a place that feels right and jump in.

Gratuity for Massage Therapists?

Posted on January 12, 2010 in: FAQ - Tags: FAQ

I mentioned something offhandedly on Twitter today about my tips at the spa and quickly had at least half a dozen people admitting that they were lost when it came to tipping at spas, or that they hadn't realized they were meant to tip at all.  Here is a crash course in what you might need to know:

Where Should I Tip?

Gratuities are appreciated any time you are seeing a massage therapist at a location where you are not paying them directly for their services.  In a spa or salon environment, tips are probably not only appreciated, but expected.  In most cases, MTs working at those locations are giving a portion (often the lion's share) of the treatment's cost to the facility and count on tips to make up the difference.

You never need to tip a therapist at their private or group practice.  In those situations, they are charging what they believe their work is worth, and generally not paying out to anyone else.  It is also unnecessary to tip massage therapists working in a medical environment.

If you are receiving a massage at a training facility or clinic, be sure to ask about their tipping policy.  Also, be aware that students are never allowed to accept tips or payment for their services.


How Much Should I Tip?

The standard tip for a massage therapist (or any other spa/salon provider) is 20% of the treatment cost, though tipping 15% is not uncommon.

If you are receiving a treatment at a discounted cost--particularly if it is a steep discount, such as those offered through a service like Groupon--consider tipping based on the actual treatment cost and not the discounted price.


Don't get me wrong: I appreciate any gratuity a client leaves.  I respect that anything above and beyond the treatment cost is optional.  The trouble is that social convention dictates that clients leave tips for spa services and anymore, tips aren't a reward for exceptional service.  They're factored in to what service providers earn.  That means that when I'm given a small tip, I have no way of knowing whether the client didn't know any better or couldn't afford more, or if they are trying to tell me something.  If a client can't or doesn't want to tip me, that's fine and I don't think any less of them--I just wish I were able to find out if there was a reason.