The Massage Therapy Career Focus Workbook

Touch Depth — Understanding Your Options:

There is no doubt you will encounter styles of massage which will require the use of all the preceding touch depths—often within a single treatment. However, you must decide which touch depth interests you most because it will have a bearing on both the styles you learn and your overall technique.

Whether you prefer to work at a shallow, medium, or deep touch depth, you can make your choice independent of the core focus you decide upon. That is, it is entirely possible to flout convention and provide corrective biomechanical results with a shallow touch depth focus, or experiential psychosocial with a deep touch depth focus.

Also, keep in mind that the medium and deep touch depth options do not necessarily translate into the use of hard, crunching, or painful procedures. Given proper training, experience, and knowledge of anatomy, you can provide satisfactory results at the deep touch depth without causing your clients undue discomfort. If working at the medium or deep touch depth level does cause your clients to squirm, there is a good chance you are working too hard or inappropriately.

If the bulk of your clients constantly tell you to either work deeper or shallower you may be misleading yourself with regard to your preferred touch depth. If you haven't mislead yourself, there may be another reason. One possible explanation to consider has to do with brand name massage styles. Sometimes a client with a prior history with another therapist who practices the same brand-name style ends up associating the style with the previous therapist's preferred depth of touch focus. Chances are touch depth had nothing to do with the style, but the client won't be happy until you work deeper or shallower. That is why it's good to have a touch depth focus which you can tell clients about before a treatment begins. Remember, just because you do massage doesn't mean you have to go to depths at which you feel uncomfortable or unqualified to treat.

Having a touch depth focus will also prevent an even less desirable scenario than having clients nag you to work deeper or shallower. This is the scenario in which your clients simply suffer in silence. Without saying a word they will lie on your table in either extreme discomfort or utter boredom. When you ask these clients if they would like to re-book another appointment, they usually smile weakly then suddenly remember that their mothers will be in town for the next few months. You end up being the last to know that they took their dashed expectations to another therapist (or worse yet, have decided to never use massage again).

It is always a good strategy to tell clients your touch depth focus before you begin any treatments. As for career focus? Knowing your touch depth preference will make it easier for you to decide if you want to learn a certain technique. It may also prove to be a helpful piece of information for future employers. Suppose you end up choosing a shallow touch depth focus and you apply for a job at a big, multidisciplinary clinic where every therapist has a deep touch depth focus. Chances are they will need someone like you in order to appeal to a wider segment of the community.

Insightful Tip — Touch Depth

For the sake of clarification, muscles and their related soft tissue structures need not be beaten into submission. Too often, inexperienced therapists operate under the misapprehension that they must relax impaired muscles utterly, or restore function completely, within the scope of a single treatment—even if that means resorting to highly aggressive modalities and techniques.

The experienced therapist, on the other hand, knows that muscles and soft tissues need only be coaxed with gentle persuasion to be normal and they will, in the majority of cases, return to a state of proper function. He or she will also know how to virtually slide under, around, and through superficial tissues and structures in order to reach deeper layers without causing any undue pain.

There's a great maxim from the business world that really applies to touch depth:

Work Smarter not Harder!