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massage therapist assessment

The difference between exceptional massage therapy and a mediocre or uncomfortable experience depends very much on having a great massage therapist. There are many qualities of a good therapist that can be identified at first glance while others may take a little time to determine. If your previous experience with massage therapy hasn’t been what you’d hoped for, here are a few qualities to look for when searching for the right therapist.

The Right Therapist For You

Most massage therapists have a specialty or niche at which they excel. Some therapists are great at giving good relaxation massages. Others may specialize in certain types of massage or certain client populations, such as pregnancy massage, sports massage, oncology massage or geriatric massage. A therapist who is great at giving a deep tissue sports massage may not be a good therapist for a fragile, geriatric client. Knowing what your purpose is for getting a massage will help you find the right therapist for you. In addition, look for a therapist with some experience. Most massage therapists take a year or two out of school to develop their techniques and specialties. A recent graduate is usually fine if you are looking for a relaxation session, but you should look for a more experienced therapist if you have special needs.

Communication Skills

One of the characteristics of a good massage therapist is understanding and working with their client’s needs and preferences. They will ask you what your goal is for the session, discuss recommended approaches for addressing your issues and ensure that you understand what the session will include before beginning. During the massage, they pay attention to verbal and non-verbal cues that indicate whether you are comfortable and whether the massage is working for you. They adjust the massage as needed, according to how you react to pressure and specific techniques applied.

A good therapist is clear about their strengths and abilities and will refer to another therapist if they aren’t able to meet your needs. No therapist is a fit for every client, and a great massage therapist is more interested in making sure their client’s needs are met, rather than keeping a client they aren’t helping.


Just like any other health care professional, you should expect that your massage therapist manages their time efficiently. They start the session on time and finish on time. This ensures that each client receives their massage on time. Sometimes a therapist may feel like a longer session would benefit you and has enough time between appointments to accommodate that need. In such a case, a good therapist will check in to ensure that you are comfortable with extending your session.

It is important to have a therapist who maintains professional boundaries. A good massage therapist knows that their role is to provide massage therapy. They do not try to diagnose any conditions, and do not act as a nutritional adviser or mental health counselor unless they are trained in those areas and hired by you to help in those areas. In addition, they do not discuss anything that you have said or any of your health conditions with anyone but you without your permission. A professional therapist refers clients to other practitioners when needed. They are up to date on contraindications and possible signs of problems that should be evaluated by a medical professional. They leave their own issues outside the treatment room and concentrate on your needs. Everyone has things going on in their lives. A therapist who is professional will give their full attention to their work and let everything else go for the duration of the session.

A quality massage therapist answers questions, responds to messages in a timely manner, and maintains communication with clients. No matter how good the massage itself is, it is frustrating and annoying to work with a therapist who does not take the time to respond to their client’s requests for appointments or new client’s calls to learn more about their business. Some therapists, especially in group practices, have a receptionist or software that allows clients to make contact and get information when the therapist is in session or away.


Much of the benefits of massage therapy come from the “good, safe touch” that occurs when a therapist works with you. This works best when the therapist is fully present in the session and has the intention to give healing touch. While this is difficult to measure, it is easy to discern once you have received a session. Is the therapist “tuned in” to you? Does their touch feel safe and comfortable?

Therapist Self-Care

A therapist who is tired or burned out cannot do their best work. One characteristic of a good massage therapist is they maintain their own health and well-being. This helps them last longer in the profession and acts both as an example to their clientele and as a way to ensure that each client gets quality treatment.

How to Find The Perfect Massage Therapist

Finding a good therapist in your area is sometimes challenging. If you have special medical needs, you may want to ask your physician who they know that is good at addressing your issues. Asking friends who they see, what they like and dislike about them, and what kind of massage their therapist specializes in can be a good way to find a good massage therapist. Social media and the Internet have resulted in most businesses, including massage therapy, to have online reviews. Don’t just look for the number of stars, but take the time to read individuals reviews to see if the therapist matches your needs. You can also go visit the websites of professional massage therapy organizations such as ABMP or AMTA to find a therapist in your area. Once you’ve located a massage therapist, don’t be afraid to call first and ask questions if you have any special needs or concerns.