How Do I Respond to Requests for Deeper Pressure?

We recently got a great question that had me stumped for awhile.

How do I professionally say no to a client that is asking for deeper pressure than I can comfortably give? I am finding myself over-extending to accommodate and I am worried about injuring myself. How do I say no without making myself look bad?

You are wise to be concerned about hurting yourself. Repetitive use injury is no joke and MTs have physical burnout at alarming rates.

I think you make yourself look good when you are honest, clear, and make a good effort to serve the client. To that end, here are a few of my go-to lines when I can't meet a client's pressure needs.

Hmm. I'm not sure I can go any deeper here.


This is all the pressure I can give. But if this isn't what you are looking for, I can get you the info for an other MT who may be a better fit.

That's it. I know it's not earth-shattering advice. There is nothing remarkable about these scripts. It's just being clear and honest.

But I want to explore this more. I want us to figure out why a client wants more pressure, because that is what leads to success and improved outcomes.

Do they like how the super-deep work feels when it's happening? Or do they think it will be more effective?

The former issue we can handle by learning techniques that feel super deep, but don't wreck our bodies. Ashiatsu is my primary go-to for this. 

The latter issue we can address with some client education. My schtick sounds a lot like,

I know in the past you may have learned that massage needs to be uncomfortable to be effective. That's not how I roll. I would like to try some of my techniques on your trouble spots, and check in to see how you feel later, tomorrow, next week. I think you'll find that you get the relief you need. If you don't, I can refer you to an MT who does the deeper style you are looking for.

This is tougher, because we need to get results and follow up to reinforce that education. This approach is also what wins over clients and makes for a great reputation as a pain specialist.

I suggest taking some classes in Ashiatsu, NRT, maybe myofascial work to lay the groundwork for this approach. 

It's also okay (and smart) to know your limitations and accept that a client may not be right for you. It's tempting to overextend ourselves and do damage because we want the client to like us and be happy with the treatment. But if we do that, the client will come back. And you'll find yourself having to hurt yourself more to give the treatment they expect. Ugh. That's a vicious circle that makes for a miserable career.

It feels scary and awkward to say no and refer out, but it's better to accept that you can't be the perfect therapist for everyone. You and the client are both better served if they go elsewhere.

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