I am a massage therapist and had a small private practice back in Austin, in addition to my job working with some AWESOME people at the University of Texas (hook’em horns!). Now that I can look for employment and start a business, if I wish, here in Ireland, I am slowly reaching out. I joined the Irish Massage Therapists Association and have attended a regular meeting, and plan to attend their upcoming annual meeting. I’ve registered a business name so I can purchase a domain here. (strange side note: seems you must have a business number to register an .ie domain – this is very different from the US. For those wondering..I did try for the .com, but it was taken) In my first attempts at networking, I scored an interview. Can you feel the story building?

I was trained as a therapist at the nationally recognized Lauterstein-Conway Massage School. I received a wonderful grounding in professional etiquette and best practice, in addition to superb theory and hands-on training. To employ healing touch through soft tissue manipulation is a gift, a sacred encounter that has been honored as a healing modality for millenia. A therapist must also be mindful when approaching the body. Systems are interconnected. What heals and nurtures one system, could impact another in a harmful way when certain conditions are present. These conditions are called contraindications. When a therapist discusses a clients medical history, or general health, they are looking for these signs. Primum non nocere . Once I verify that it is wise to proceed, I encourage my clients to relax into the nurturing glow of therapeutic body work, which will either entail a softer holistic approach (think Swedish, with long strokes) or a session working targeted muscle groups with a deeper focus, whichever we have discussed beforehand. Or so I was taught….. :sound of breaks screeching:

So, I saw that a center in Dublin was looking for a holistic massage therapist. The website seemed interesting, and expressed a relaxed environment. They even had a purple treatment room! (all hail The Purple Room – how I miss thee) The owner phoned and we arranged a time for me to come in. When he indicated that I should plan for an hour and a half, I “assumed” it would include a massage, though he never communicated it directly. When I arrived I was pleasantly surprised by the very hippy vibe. The rooms were full of gorgeous art. Every square inch of space was covered in a bright painting, rocks and crystals lined the shelves, books were stacked and spilling. If you know me, you know I was immediately smitten. The owner walked in, and I “expected” him to greet me. He looked at me, gave a weak hand gesture, then walked into another room. Puzzled, I started rifling through books. lol. His partner soon appeared and she greeted me, shook my hand, asked me a bit about my website, joyfully commented on my “not a dog, cat, or chicken free environment” disclaimer, and explained that the owner would be receiving a massage from me, and that he would want it deep. She then takes me into the room where I will work. Their purple room. joy, joy….

Until I see the table. OMG. There must have only been an inch of padding. It must feel hard as a rock! She proceeded to place three bed pillows on top, and cover the entire thing with a sheet of paper roll, like at the doctors office, and handed me a towel. I must have had my mouth completely open at this point. No sheets? No blankets? This is Ireland..it’s COLD. She places a small bottle of oil (oil for deep tissue massage??) on the radiator, to warm. She then leaves me, but before she leaves she asks if I need to get changed. What??? I was wearing nice linen pants, a fitted short sleeved top, my great little leather shoes… basically, my therapist get-up. I admit, I had a moment of panic. What if this is a Happy Ending place?? What if they aren’t real therapists at all!! No matter. I was in charge, and I was just happy to finally work on a table again! (I still don’t have mine!!) When he FINALLY (30 minutes late) comes into the room he barely looks at me. He mumbled something about whether I needed anything else. He had a classic forward head rounded shoulders, almost collapsed in on himself, posture. He needed deep work. Since he wasn’t giving me any direction, or communicating clearly, I took over. I told him I would like to sit down for a moment and discuss the work I was going to do, and whether there were any conditions or injuries I should know about.

He looked straight up for that one! “Look, I know you were trained in the US where they go in for continuing education and learning new methods :hand flourish: but we don’t do that here. This is just a massage after all!” Alrighty then. I can see he and I don’t agree on some things. I step out so he can get on the table, when I return only his genitals are covered with the towel. So THAT’S what it was for! geesh. No draping, no covering of muscles not being worked. How on earth will those muscle groups stay warm and pliable. 😦 I can’t imagine receiving a massage here without a nice toasty sheet and blanket on top of me. Then the table! Oh, lordy the table. It was a good thing I was focusing on deep work, because any amount of rocking or vigorous effleurage or petrissage would have ripped the paper. There was no face cradle, just a hole in the table for the face in the prone position, which he wasn’t using, instead there was a bed pillow covering it. His neck was always craned to one side or the other, never achieving spinal alignment. It was a nightmare. lol. I did my best and counted it as a learning experience.

At the end….his only words were, “You are technically very good, but massage is an ancient art. I prefer the hands never leave the body.”

I translated that as….. We don’t think of massage as a complimentary therapy here and we don’t bother wondering whether our clients have high blood pressure or just found out they are pregnant or are taking blood thinners. And when we say we want a deep massage, we just mean Swedish with a bit more pressure.

It’s a pity he communicated so poorly. I would have enjoyed understanding his own approach, learning where he trained, and engaging in a dialogue about deep massage as I was trained. Any Irish therapists reading this…. how in the world do you work on a paper strip?? help???