Updated: Nov 19, 2018
An Ezine article I wrote back in April 2013:
To talk or not to talk… (to your Massage Therapist)
Some clients talk during their massage or reflexology treatment, others maintain silence. Which is best for maximizing treatment? I believe it's a matter of personal preference and always aim to adapt to what my clients want.
I complete a health & well-being consultation with new clients before they get on the couch, so that I know enough about them to deliver a safe and tailored treatment without them needing to speak. However, if it makes people feel more relaxed to establish a wider dialogue, then that's totally fine with me. Sometimes it is easier to explain an ache when the associated muscle is being worked on, and it's easy to forget to mention minor complaints until treatment brings the errant body-part to mind. And then there are clients who reach a point in their own thoughts where they need to release it. Massage and reflexology can amplify supressed emotions… emotional response is very common and every experienced therapist has worked with clients who weep, get the giggles, fidget, or develop a beatific smile. If these clients were standing in a beautiful isolated spot at the time of this emotional transition, they'd feel much better for a good old primal scream! On the massage couch, emotions often translate in to a less socially alarming talk. These clients tend to start talking towards the end of therapy. This is tempered release and it's all positive.
However, no therapist 'expects' conversation from their clients; some even find that chatting distracts from providing a fluid treatment. Time on the treatment couch is owned by the client and as such it is precious, often that hour is the only time they get to themselves, some people don’t want intrusion on that personal space. Many of the clients who switch off completely and focus on the physical experience attain a deeper level of relaxation than those who chat randomly. But, if you are primarily a verbal or auditory communicator, subduing communication can be disconcerting, feel artificial and therefore prove counter-productive.
If I think a client is chatting due to nervousness (eg during their first massage) or from a sense of social obligation to me, I might invite them to join me in a few deep-breathing exercises, and encourage them to focus on that for a while. Afterwards, if they still want to chat, I will take their lead.
Personally, if I’m receiving a treatment from another therapist, I prefer to do so mostly in silence, because I know that I relax more fully when left to my own thoughts (it's very difficult to enjoy a long effleurage stroke whilst answering a question!). But we are all different, and our moods and preferences can differ from treatment to treatment.
That said, there are times when you do need to talk to your therapist, so that they can make your experience better by changing what they are doing. For example if you want them to alter their pressure; if a particular spot feels tender; if you want to shift your position; if you feel too cold or too warm, or if you just really enjoyed something and want it repeated. In these instances, do not hesitate to speak up immediately, your therapist will thank you for it. It’s difficult to improve a treatment without feedback, and ultimately, what your therapist wants, is for you to experience the best treatment they can possibly give.