Advice From Industry Experts

How To Build Strong Client Connections (With Boundaries)

updated on

May 30, 2024

How To Build Strong Client Connections (With Boundaries)

In a recent Lunch & Learn session, Melissa, a successful massage therapist with a background in social work, shared her insights on building strong client connections while maintaining professional boundaries. Here are the key takeaways:

  • Be Present: Focus on your client’s needs and create a safe, comfortable environment.
  • Communicate Clearly: Set expectations upfront for both parties.
  • Listen to Clients: Address their specific needs and design sessions around their goals.
  • Maintain Professional Boundaries: Protect your energy, limit what you share, and set clear policies for availability.
  • Build Genuine Relationships: Take a genuine interest in your client's experiences and concerns.

Melissa’s practical advice is invaluable for massage therapists looking to enhance client relationships without compromising their well-being.

Watch the full Lunch & Learn replay here:

How To Create Genuine Connections With Clients

Creating genuine connections with clients is all about being present, communicating, and setting boundaries. Explain expectations for both parties upfront. Create a safe space for clients to air their grievances and complain about body issues. Honor their requests, and take a genuine interest in your client’s experience.

Countless clients have told Melissa that they stopped seeing their previous massage therapist for one of two reasons:

  1. They didn’t do what they asked.
  2. They talk too much.

Some massage therapists get so stuck in their massage routine that they neglect the issues their clients want addressed. It’s not enough to ask your clients what they need. You must take what they say into consideration, and design the session around their goals. Explain what you’re doing and why, so clients understand how the work you’re doing will help them.

Every relationship is different. Some clients like to chat, others like to remain silent during the massage. When it comes to talking, keep the conversation focused on your client. They came to see you for a personal experience. Their massage appointment is not the time to share your own drama, even if they are sharing theirs.

Building rapport with clients early on is vital to making genuine connections and lasting relationships.

How To Build Strong Client Connections (With Boundaries)

What Is Rapport?

Rapport is building a friendly, harmonious relationship with someone. It’s characterized by agreement, mutual understanding or empathy that makes communication easier. Rapport is vital to building strong connections with your clients because it’s how you build trust - and trust is the cornerstone of the therapeutic relationship.

Melissa explained that in many relationships agreements are often not spoken, but rather just understood. As a therapist, your agreements need to be clearly stated, so clients understand what’s expected of them and you understand what they need from you.

You start building rapport with clients the very first time they encounter your business - which is to say, before you even meet. The sign on your building, the word-of-mouth referral, or your post on social media is the potential clients' first impression of your business. The language you use on social media, the content on your website, and your client’s ability to explain what you do are all important. Your personality, wisdom, and genuine caring should shine through every message, no matter where it comes from.

Melissa made an important point when she said, “We’re not selling massage. We’re building relationships. You never know if that relationship will last 15 minutes or many years.”

How To Create And Maintain Boundaries Within The Therapeutic Relationship

When it comes to creating boundaries in your practice, protect yourself and respect your energy first. Create policies around availability, who has access to you, and pricing. Use ClinicSense to enforce your policies. Then, build time into appointments to talk to clients about their needs and personal boundaries.

Setting Boundaries For Clients

Create space for clients to share their own boundaries with you. Have a conversation before the massage starts to get on the same page. Make it clear that this is their time, and you’re creating this experience for them. If there’s something they don’t want touched, a position that doesn’t work for them, or clothes they want to leave on - that’s fine. Talk about it, and how it may affect the massage.

Then, honor their request. Melissa admits that sometimes she gets in a zone, and in the moment, forgets things like someone not liking their feet touched. So, before the massage starts, she asks them to remind her when she gets to that area. If it’s something like ticklish feet or a sore toe, she asks them to leave their socks on so that cues her to avoid it.

How To Set Personal Boundaries As A Massage Therapist

As you know, being a massage therapist requires a lot of physical, mental, and emotional energy. Your time and energy are finite, and you must protect those resources. 

Have set hours, and don’t work on your day off. Build your schedule around what works for you and your life. Melissa has found that when you use online scheduling, clients respect the hours that you set. 

Be mindful of how many clients you see in a day. After a month of being closed due to the pandemic, Melissa noticed her body didn’t hurt anymore. That’s when she realized she’d been working too much. When her practice reopened, she never went back to that same client load. Melissa sent an email to her client list explaining that she’s reducing her workload for her own well-being. She was living by example.

Her clients respect that, and she may have inspired a few to make changes in their own lives. If you’re worried about seeing fewer clients or turning people away, Melissa points out that turning people away is a sign that you need to raise your prices. It’s also wise to have a good cancellation policy in place. You can automate enforcing your cancellation policy, share your pricing, and create set hours with ClinicSense.

Tips For Introverts Who Struggle With Boundaries Or Relationship Building

In a people-pleasing career, it can be challenging to enforce your boundaries. If you’re an introvert, boundaries are only part of your people-problem. If talking to clients and building genuine relationships feels intimidating, just know that you don’t have to change who you are to succeed

Here are some tips for those who struggle to speak up.

  • Display your policies on your website.
  • Have clients sign a consent form agreeing to your policies.
  • Display your policies prominently in your clinic.
  • Use software to enforce your policies, so you don’t have to handle it personally.
  • Create a script for new clients or uncomfortable situations, and practice it.
  • Use information shared on intake forms to spark conversations that matter. For instance, if they mention they sit at a desk for long hours, talk about the impact that has on their body and strategies for mitigating problems.
  • Educate clients about their own bodies. Share your knowledge, not your story.
  • Use email to send personal messages, important updates, follow-ups, and wellness check-ins.
  • Send monthly email newsletters with useful, actionable content, and infuse it with your personality to connect with clients outside the massage room.

Keep in mind, your clients are in your clinic by choice. They want to be there, and they chose you. Dealing with difficult clients is rare in the massage world. A few good policies will help you avoid stress when a conflict arises.

How To Keep Clients Coming Back

The secret to getting clients to come back is making them feel understood and doing what they ask. It’s really that simple, but not everyone does it. Address the issue they present to you. Respect their boundaries. Explain your treatment plan, give them self-care tips, and encourage them to reschedule.

Using ClinicSense can help you stay in touch with clients and boost retention. It’s an all-in-one platform that makes connecting with clients easier. Here’s how you can use ClinicSense to get clients to rebook.

  • Birthday Emails: Send birthday messages to make them feel special on their special day.
  • Email Newsletters: Create regular email blasts to keep clients up-to-date on what’s going on in your practice and in the wellness industry, as well as to inspire them to take good care of themselves..
  • Availability Summary: These automated emails are designed to fill those empty spaces on your schedule and make it easy for clients to snag last minute spots.

How To Talk To First Time Clients To Ensure A Positive Experience

Talk to every new client as if it’s their very first massage experience. Explain how your practice works. Give them a tour of the space. Show them where to put their things. Explain exactly what’s going to happen and what they are supposed to do. Then, do the intake.

People are much more at ease when they understand what’s expected of them. That’s why it’s so important to explain everything to them, especially the little things. It might not matter to you, but they’re wondering about it. Tell them where to put their things, how to lay on the table (under the sheet), what to wear, and explain your process. Do all that before you jump into the massage, so they can relax about it.

How To Protect Your Time When Building Your Practice

Melissa uses a priority matrix, aka an Eisenhower Matrix, to organize her time. This is a grid that organizes the various tasks on her to do list. It has 4 quadrants:

  1. Important and Urgent
  2. Important but Not Urgent
  3. Urgent but Not Important
  4. Not Urgent or Important

How To Protect Your Time When Building Your Practice

Spend your time on things that fall in the 1st quadrant. These are tasks that make you money or keep you out of trouble. For instance, returning a client’s call or filing your taxes.

After tackling tasks in quadrant 1, schedule the tasks in quadrant 2 for an appropriate time. Tasks in quadrant 3 are usually someone else’s problem or things you can delegate. Often, those tasks rob you of time better spent taking a walk or having a nice meal with your family. Then there’s quadrant 4, cross those tasks off your to do list. They’re unnecessary.

Use ClinicSense to automate as many business tasks as possible. This will make accounting, marketing, and scheduling tasks quick and easy. 

Using the priority matrix to organize your tasks helps put what’s important into perspective. It’ll help you reclaim more time for your own well-being, and that’s really important in modeling self-care for your clients. When you practice what you preach, people trust your advice.

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