3 Ways Counseling and Massages are Similar

by | Nov 6, 2019 | Therapy

You may be wondering how are massages and counseling similar? In all my years of doing therapy I never connected the two but they are very similar.

About a year ago I started to commit to getting a monthly massage from one of those membership places that I won’t name. Who doesn’t love a massage, right? This was going to be one of my self care rituals that I did just for me. 

I know I was going because let’s face it I sit all day and needed something to help with the muscle tension in my neck and shoulders. This was going to be incredibly helpful. 

What came up for me in the process…

As I committed myself to this monthly practice, I needed to get clear on what the purpose was for me. There are many uses for a massage and I knew I had problem areas but I also wanted to relax in the process. 

I figured that my measurement for success was going to be a little bit of relaxation with a little bit of muscle soreness from working out all my knots. What’s that old saying ‘no pain no gain’, I thought I would feel a little pain afterwards because she was doing good work on my back. 

My first therapist provided me with that ‘ok’ feeling…I didn’t notice a whole lot of relief nor did I notice muscle soreness due to some big knot being worked out. I was definitely relaxed during the process so at least I was accomplishing one of my goals. 

I’d be lying if I said that I never thought about all the money it costs to see a massage therapist. I really wanted to reap the benefits and achieve my goals. But I didn’t know how to ask.  

Knowing My Why and Asking for What I Need

That’s when I began to connect how similar the process is between seeing a massage therapist and seeing a mental health counselor. In part, I was going through exactly what my clients go through when they start the process of seeking therapy.  

At some point I knew that I would have to ask for what I needed and work through all of the uncomfortable feelings that come up when trying to get my needs met. I believe I laughed at myself several times for how similar this process really is to what I provide to my clients and how much I didn’t want to do that work. 

See I liked the person I had been seeing for the past couple of months. She was nice, friendly, and I felt like she heard me when I complained about my body aches. 

But I needed and wanted more. I was having thoughts ‘that would be rude to just dis her…I wouldn’t want that to happen to me’. ‘I can’t tell her that I don’t feel significant relief after each session…could I?’

Vulnerability

I’m going to digress to another part of my experience that was happening co-currently, which is having to be vulnerable. Vulnerability, according to the dictionary is defined as “the state of being open to injury or attack.” No you’re not being attacked or injured (let’s hope) in getting a massage but it’s as vulnerable as it gets exposing your body to a complete stranger. 

As a therapist, there are so many parallels between being vulnerable with someone like me in an office where we aren’t touching but you’re sharing so much of you- to having a complete stranger work your muscles out half naked. I still am baffled and amazed at how vulnerable this process really is. 

It takes a lot of work to get to a place where you can feel that closeness as well as feel safe to put your thoughts out there and hope you won’t be judged or scrutinized. How similar that feeling is to having a massage therapist work on your problem areas session after session.  

As a therapist myself, I know that taking those risks and getting uncomfortable is what helps me and others grow- I’m a WIP (Work in Progress). I invite and encourage you to work towards sitting with uncomfortable in your journey- it is one of the best ways to grow. 

Knowing What You Need & Asking For It

One of the last things I do in my first session with a client is to ask if they feel it’s a good fit for them. I’m basically asking them do they think I will help them get their needs met. 

When I ask this I am truly looking for honesty but I know in the back of my head that some people are not quite ready to say – ‘Yeah that’s a hard no for me’. That takes courage in the first session and many times it was hard enough to get to that first appointment, so the thought of going back to the drawing board just seems like more work. 

In my process I decided that it was time I was clear with what I needed. I needed her to up the pressure and focus on those knots in my back. I actually had to talk myself through this a couple times. 

Guess what happened next! I received a call the week before my appointment that she was no longer there and I had to pick a new person. I have to admit there was a part of me that was relieved and a part that was frustrated because I now needed to have that conversation with this new person. 

Change

I have to say I don’t know what was harder, changing therapists, being vulnerable, or asking for what I need. Change is inevitable and most of us know this sub-consciously; but when it happens boy does it mess with you. 

Moving on to the next therapist I felt she was really cool and seemed to really understand the body. I told her from the beginning what my goals were and how much pressure I could handle. 

Well wouldn’t you know it. Her pressure left me crying most months. I felt super confused with what to do at first but then realized that I just needed to communicate this to her. It wasn’t easy but she heard me and was able to meet my needs. 

I went through one more person who was incredible but she left to go to law school before finding my current person. Each session, I work hard on asking for what I need and communicating what’s working and what’s not, as well as sitting with being vulnerable. 

 Remember that it takes courage to work towards your needs. You can do it and don’t give up trying. 

In summary:

  1. Know Your Why? What are you looking to get from the experience? What do you need? And how do you ask for that? Finding someone who is open to collaborate with you on this is essential. 
  2. Vulnerability is a normal part of the process. Growth comes from being vulnerable and uncomfortable. It won’t be easy but in the end you will be that much closer to your goals.  
  3. Change can come at any time in the process. It’s uncomfortable and difficult. It will make you want to give up but Change can help us grow too!

Check us out at www.turningstonecounseling.com!