by Daniel Melmed, LMT
Owner & Founder, Body Well
How to Choose a Mobile Massage Therapist (Part 1)
Each year more people are discovering the benefits of massage therapy and making it a component of their wellness programs. As demand for the service has grown, so too has the need for massage therapists to perform these services. People from all ages and walks of life are enrolling in massage therapy programs, receiving their licensees and entering the marketplace. Similarly, the business of delivering massage has taken many shapes and forms, from independent massage therapists to spas, clinics, and other types of managed services like mobile massage.
With all of these dynamics at play, it can be challenging for consumers to find the right fit, both in terms of finding the right therapist as well as finding and individual or company that is also a pleasure to do business with. As a therapist, a massage therapy business owner, and not least of all, someone who really loves and appreciates a good massage, I’d like to share what I have learned, which may help others to make their own well informed choices.
First we’ll look at the two primary types of business offering mobile massage services from which we can choose to work with. Then we will consider the fundamental questions we should ask ourselves so that we understand what kind of massage we want and the type of therapist we are likely to be most pleased with.
Weighing your options to Choose a Mobile Massage Therapist
When looking to book a professional mobile massage therapist there are basically two choices: independent therapists, and managed services. Let’s take a brief look at them both and explore their respective advantages and disadvantages.
Independent therapists will have their own office and/or perform outcalls to homes and offices. They may also rent a room within a common establishment. You can try to find an independent therapist by personal recommendation, through advertisements, or perhaps looking on the Internet at different massage therapy association web sites. (Bear in mind that, while it is not uncommon, a therapist working out of a private home that is not licensed as a Massage Establishment is not operating legally).
The advantages of working with an individual mobile massage therapist are that their rates are usually reasonable and/or negotiable, and you are in some ways able to establish a more personal customer-client relationship. They may put in extra effort to keep your business; for example going 10 or 15 minutes over-time now and then without charging extra. If you are fortunate enough to find an independent therapist you like who provides good service, then you are in luck.
But there can also be disadvantages. For one, when you approach an individual therapist, your choices are limited based on their particular expertise and style of massage. You may also be dealing with someone who is most interested in the hands-on aspect of their job, rather than customer service (returning phone calls, being prompt, etc.). Since they only work for themselves, there is no one besides you to whom they need to be accountable. Finally, if they are not available when you need them, of if they move or change jobs, you will need to spend time trying to find someone else.
The other option is working with an establishment or some kind of managed service. You can find these also by way of recommendations or through advertisements.
The advantages of working with a managed service (clinics, spas, outcall agencies, etc.) are numerous. You will usually have a variety of therapists to choose from, available from one source. You book appointments through a manager or receptionist, who can (ideally) give you objective information about individual therapists and the kind of work they do, thereby helping you to find the right one. Presumably, the therapists have been screened by management, so they should have proven at least a minimum level of competence and professionalism, and their license has been verified. Finally, being a managed service, there is accountability, so that if someone doesn’t do a good job or behaves unprofessionally, you have some recourse.
The main disadvantages of working with a managed service are that in exchange for most of the advantages listed above, you may pay more, and you also may not like working through a “middle man”. Making contact with therapists outside of formally scheduled appointments (and vice versa) is forbidden due to non-compete contract provisions between the therapist and the company.
The right massage for YOU
While there can never be a guarantee that you will be thrilled when working with a new therapists (no matter how highly recommended they are) there are some ways to tip the odds in your favor.
First, understand what it is you want to get out of the massage. Are you looking for relaxation or for pain relief in some tense part of your body? Often therapists will be particularly good at either relaxation techniques, or, on the other hand, deep tissue/clinical work. Many can do both quite well, but it is important to make sure that there is compatibility here. Also, if you are looking for a specific kind of therapy, you will want to find a therapist who has had some formal training in that area.
Next, try to determine what kind of therapist you will feel most comfortable with. For example, might you be happier with someone who has a very spiritual or energetic perspective or would you prefer someone more down to earth? Do you want someone who is going to be quiet as a mouse for the whole massage, or do you like someone who is also fun to chat with? Last but not least, do you have a preference for either a male or female therapist? As people get more experience receiving therapeutic massage over time, they often do not let this be a deciding factor, but it is quite common for people to have a preference.
Finally, if you are not pleased for any reason when you are actually receiving your massage, be sure to mention whatever is bothering you to the therapist. People sometimes hesitate to make a request or suggestion when receiving massage. Maybe it is because the service is so personal that we feel like we are going to offend the therapist. But this need not be the case.
Speaking as a therapist, I can tell you that for the vast majority of us, our goal is to please our clients. That’s why we love our work – we are in service to make people feel good and be happy! So if there is something that you are not enjoying, or if there is any way we can make you more comfortable, please speak up and we will try our best to accommodate you! This will also afford your therapist a chance to earn your business again in the future.
So there you have it! Once you’ve considered what kind of massage you want, the type of therapist that best suits your preferences, and the kind of business arrangement that appeals to you most, you will be well on your way towards finding that perfect traveling massage therapist / mobile massage therapist.
This edited article originally appeared in Natural Awakenings, Greater Fort Lauderdale edition, November 2006. Part 2 will consider other aspects of massage “delivery” including all-important equipment, presentation, liability/safety concerns and more.