Giving the Gift of Massage… or Not (?)

As someone in the service industry generally and a Massage Therapist specifically, I meet a wide and varied spectrum of individuals. They are all at different points in their life, experiencing different things. Some come in, sweet as candy; others tart as lemons. But at the end of the day, they are all there for the same reason: to help ease their (mental, emotional, physical) pain for an hour or so.

Every once in a great while, I encounter this: someone who has been gifted a massage, but who would rather have had the money.

When you are a fan of massage (as I am, obviously) all you can think of is sharing the bliss you feel after a treatment with everyone you meet. And when you find a therapist that suits you, shouting your wonderful experience far and wide is as natural as breathing. Indeed, one of my first thoughts after having my first massage ever was: if all the world’s leaders felt as good as I do now, there would be no war.

How could you not want to share that feeling with everyone you know?

Gifting a massage to another is a present that comes from the heart. You are gifting them peace, relaxation, and ease. It is a wonderful thing.

It can be very difficult for those of us who love the experience to fathom that someone else may not have any desire whatsoever to receive a massage, or body treatment of any kind. How could anyone not want to feel like this?

Well… that’s where it gets complicated. We can never truly know another’s life situation unless they are willing to share, and when it comes to issues around the body and personal space sharing is often embarrassing or painful.

Sometimes reticence can be a result of low body self-esteem, shyness, or unfamiliarity with the process. If this is the case, many times the best option is to give the person the gift of choice. A 60m full body massage might be too much, but a Reflexology session or a facial may be perfect. In such cases, making the gift certificate for a certain amount rather than a specific treatment will help your friend or family member have a good experience, on their terms.

Sometimes, unfortunately, not wanting a massage can be the result of something painful, such as abuse or trauma. Whether they are seeking help or not, often loved ones, friends or coworkers will have no idea they are recovering from something so deep.

In most instances, a well-meaning someone who isn’t aware of the situation purchases the gift certificate and assumes that all is well. After all, who doesn’t like a spa day? The survivor is now put in the awkward position of either not cashing in the certificate – thus wasting the money or disappointing the purchaser – or going and having to re-experience unwelcome touch. It is a no-win situation, and there is no peace, relaxation, or ease to be found for anyone.

A good Massage Therapist always honors a client’s boundaries and individual needs. We encourage clients to speak up if something doesn’t feel right or good.

If it isn’t going to help you, we don’t want to do it.

If having a massage is going to be the worst experience of your life, then you should not have a massage.  We will work with you to find another alternative, even if that means refunding your loved one’s gift.

It may seem odd for a Massage Therapist growing a private practice to say these things, but the reality is not everyone wants body work. THIS IS OKAY.

My great request for all far and wide is this: before purchasing the gift of a massage, make sure that it will be a just that… a gift. Such things are priceless for those who desire them. There are many ways to find peace, ease, and relaxation. Your loved one will appreciate the effort you make in ensuring your find the right gift for them. Whatever it is.