When I started my training for massage therapy, one of the first things our teachers did after getting us all introduced and comfortable with each other was introduce the idea of Unconditional Positive Regard (UPR). My teacher Niko put it this way:
“[Unconditional Positive Regard is] a practice where we witness without judgement… a practice where we just allow… When we can observe and maintain our mental composure, notice the sensations in our bodies but allow the mind to remain composed, maintain evenness of temper, be equanamous with whatever it is that stimulates the sensations, we can be in balance. Rather than associate with a part we can hold the whole. We feel the sensations, we are present, but we perceive withjout judging. When we connect with another human being from this place, it is unconditional. When we approach them with respect and no associated charge, with openness, without judgement, we call it unconditional positive regard…”
This term was first coined by Carl Rogers, one of the founders of humanistic (or client-centered) psychology. Simply put, it means that the client is accepted exactly as they are in the moment. No judging, just acceptance and support.
Our teachers knew that our clients would be varied, coming in with their own stories, problems, pains, and joys. From the start, they offered us a way of meeting each client where they were in the moment, with compassion, openness, honesty, and acceptance.
Of course, it is always easier to hold a sweet grandmother showing you pictures of her grandkids in positive regard unconditionally than it is someone who comes into your office space micromanaging the entire session and treating you in a rude manner. But then, our teachers never claimed that it would be easy.
The important lesson they taught was, every individual who seeks us out does so for a reason. They all deserve compassion, respect, and professionalism.
The idea of UPR has stuck with me strongly, even now, six years out of my training. In fact, in my mind it morphed into Universal Positive Regard.
I have had clients who were joys to be around, and I have had clients who pushed every button I had and several I didn’t know existed. With each one, I approached them the same way: all who seek to heal are welcome on my table.
You will be accepted for who you are in this moment. You will be offered compassion, peace, relaxation, acceptance, honesty, and humor. There is no judgement here. Only space and opportunity for growth.
All body shapes and sizes are welcome.
All colors are welcome.
Every shade of gender identification (or non-identification) is welcome.
Whatever you believe in (or don’t) is welcome.
YOU are welcome here.
More information on Unconditional Positive Regard:
More information on Carl Rogers: