I just left my appointment and I'm feeling a bit buzzed. Actually, I'm feeling so buzzed I'm having a hard time thinking of a creative and elegant way of writing this blog post. Let's be clear, I wasn't chugging alcohol during my massage. It's the kind of buzz that makes you tingle all over, like you've been bathed in warmth and now you're nearly free floating in some zero gravity space. I'm not actually doing any of that and I'm fully aware of that, but it FEELS that way. I feel...relaxed.
Normally when I say I feel relaxed, what I really feel is so tired that my mind and body are nearly shut down. It's a great feeling to be on the verge of shut down, but how disappointing to hear a therapist misinterpret "relaxed."
Relaxed is not complete exhaustion to the point of full body power down. Relaxed is that buzzed feeling, minus the tired. It's incredible. So now I'm wondering why it took me this long to enjoy a good massage and feel truly relaxed for (quite possibly) the first time in my life. It's been several years since I even had a massage. Why have I been resisting relaxing?
The answer is simple, I didn't really know what I was looking for in a massage therapist (or a massage) so I quickly gave up. If I'm honest, there's also the additional bit about not making this a priority in my schedule...just so we're clear - I too am human and flawed.
Naturally, this got me thinking about the client's that reach out to me with horror stories of previous therapy experiences in hope that I will give them a better experience...I hope I've been able to do that for them. It also got me thinking about all the others that never again reach out after a bad experience with therapy.
If you are one of the many who have had a bad experience in therapy, or heard of bad experiences, I get it. Check out my process on finding the right massage therapist and how that relates to your search for the right mental health therapist:
1) I sought a referral from a trusted source that knows me well and consistently uses this massage therapist - my boyfriend knows my preference and had been talking about his incredible massages for months. Find referrals from those you trust, that know your style well, or that are similar in style to you and have already experienced a great therapist.
2) I sought consistency. I don't care who you are, you're going to prefer consistency in the service provided. My boyfriend was consistently satisfied. Listen to those that receive consistency in their care provider.
3) I sought a specific type of massage. I didn't want the usual relaxing massage - if I wanted that I could just chill with my lovely four-legged companions at home since they love to touch and be touched. Instead, I know my preference is for deep tissue massage - I want someone to really dig deep. What do you want? There's a lot of different styles of therapy and this one may require a bit of research on your part if this piece is important to you. Don't discount it.
4) I sought her out when I was ready. My boyfriend would have loved to see me go to her immediately, but I have to do things in my own time - just like you do with mental health therapy.
Now, after I arrived at my appointment I realized there are additional things that most of us need after we've finally pulled the trigger. What are your expectations here? I will tell you mine to give you some general ideas:
1) I need a clean and comfortable space that is not crowded with people (be that staff or customers). This is huge for me, hence, it is number 1 on my list.
2) I need a space that has an ambiance similar to what I'm receiving services for. What does this mean? Match the environment to the service provided - you wouldn't want a massage in a sterile bright white room so why would you want mental health therapy in one? Therapy is clinical, but it doesn't have to feel like a hospital setting if you don't want it to.
3) I need to know my service provider cares about the space as much as I appreciate it. When I say care, what I mean is putting in effort to create an appropriate environment. These are the extra touches - light switch dimmers, soft music, appropriate temperature, soft blanket, etc etc. Shouldn't your mental health therapist do the same for you?
4) I need my massage therapist to read me a little bit. I'm not the expert at massage. In fact, I know nothing about it so I need to be prepared, warned, and educated as needed throughout the process. Don't just throw a hot towel on my back - I don't know that's about to happen and that's an unusual feeling when unexpected. Likewise, read my tension or difficulty breathing - it's possible that I'm not fully aware of my own body and need some of your guidance here. Shouldn't your mental health therapist do the same? Acknowledge when they're noticing you're becoming overwhelmed or uncomfortable, educate you on the process as it's occurring, and warn you when something is about to get uncomfortable?
5) I need to feel a shift afterward. It doesn't necessarily have to be a shift that makes me feel happy, but I need to feel like I didn't just waste my time. I am certain that I will feel sore, and quite frankly, all that oil left me feeling uncomfortable, but I felt like it was all going to be aiding in some kind of recovery in the long-run. Don't you want that same feeling when you leave your therapist? To feel a shift? You may not feel great immediately, but you know what you just worked on shifted something inside of you and you're in good hands.
I want that for you. I want to see you in good hands. I want to see you in the right hands. Your preferences for therapy and therapist may be quite different than my massage preferences and that is exactly the point. You're narrowing your focus and getting clear on what you need in the person you choose to walk along side you in your journey - are you listening to your own needs? Maybe now you will be able to hear them a bit more clearly.
If this post was helpful, give me a quick shout or let me know by leaving a comment below. I'm only able to be as good as the feedback I receive!