It seems to be the question of the week. As I've been trying to decide on a topic for a first post, I have also had several new clients contact me to ask the same question: Where do I start? They know that they're interested in massage for themselves or a loved one, but have no idea how to go about making it happen. What sort of bodywork do they need? How do they choose a therapist? Is it safe to give as a gift, without knowing what sort of massage the giftee might want?
One of the problems with answering questions about massage is that very often, the only honest answer is, "it depends." The best advice I can offer is to poke around on line or make a few phone calls, and find a massage therapist who resonates with you. As with any health care practitioner, what makes a MT "right" is highyly personal.
There are a few things you can look for, though. First, check their credentials. You'll want someone who is licensed in their state and who has completed a 500-600 hour training program, preferably at a COMTA accredited school. Second, make sure that they are comfortable talking about their work. If they don't sound confident when they speak to you, its a pretty good indication that they won't be confident when they actually perform massage.
If you are booking a session for yourself, getting what you want shouldn't require any buzzwords. Ideally, you should have a clear idea regarding your goals for the session. Maybe you're just looking to relax and unwind, or maybe you are hoping to help with chronic shoulder tension. Whatever it is that you want, be sure to articulate that to your MT, and expect them to have a conversation with you about it, to make sure you are both on the same page.
If your massage session is a gift for someone else, you should be looking for a practitioner who is willing to speak with the new client and determine what they want. It will be important for a bodywork practitioner to be aware of any major medical conditions up front, but a good MT will have received well-rounded training and should be able to customize their session based on what the client tells them at the begining of the appointment. If a therapist insists on knowing whether the massage is Swedish or deep tissue or any other industry-specific term, or (in my opinion) if they expect to charge more for deep tissue work, that should send up red flags for you.
The bottom line is that you should trust your judgment--if, after speaking to a therapist or reading through their website, you feel comfortable with them, give their massage a shot. If their work isn't what you want, you always have the opportunity to dialogue with them about it until you work it out, or to find another therapist. As with anything else in life--organizing your closet or working through your to-do list or writing the first post for a new blog--all you can do it pick a place that feels right and jump in.