What is Success?

By Liz Sharkey

By some industry standards I suspect I am a failure.

If I spoke to a business “guru”, no doubt they would give me that look and smile with an “I pity you, you poor, innocent fool” smile and their eyes would roll back and be replaced with $$$ as they saw the potential they could drain from my already empty pockets.

The reason why I am a failure after 10 years in the massage industry is I do not feel the need to rebook.

I am happy if I do not see my clients ever again, especially if they have come to me with an injury or present with chronic pain. Do not get me wrong; I really like most of my clients, but if they do not need to see me on a weekly or fortnightly basis, then, to me, that indicates they are not in pain.

It would be nice if they popped back every couple of months because they enjoy it or have a few aches and niggles, but I certainly do not feel any pressure to encourage them to come back any more than that.

I started writing this article a few months ago, and came back to it after reading a discussion thread in a Facebook group. A therapist was feeling down and questioning his business model. He was doing his job really well, and helping many clients with chronic pain conditions. So much so that they did not need to see him on a regular basis and he was struggling to make a dependable income from massage. The post sparked some great discussions but did raise the question as to the ethics in rebooking.

Why do we rebook a client? When do we rebook for their benefit and when is the rebooking more for us?

There are several reasons for rebooking: some reasonable, some not so much.

Scenario 1

The client has presented for a remedial treatment with a specific injury or issue. You assess, treat and develop a treatment plan over several sessions.

You discuss this with the client and involve them in the process, and in subsequent treatment sessions, you reassess, adjusting the plan as required and look for signs of improvement.

Rebooking in this instance ticks all the boxes:

  • You are informing the client
  • You are meeting your obligations to the health funds if they are claiming the treatment.
  • You are practising in an ethical and appropriate manner.

The question is, though, how long does this go on before enough is enough? 5 sessions? 10 sessions? 20 sessions? When is continuing to rebook this client more about them being a dependable source of income for the massage therapist, and less about the client’s wellbeing?

This is something that only you can answer. So long as the client continues coming because they want to, that’s fine. If they feel they are getting a benefit, that’s awesome, but blindly rebooking without a purpose is less awesome.

Scenario 2

The client presents with a niggling issue, e.g. tightness in the neck and/or shoulders. It’s not an injury per se, but rather simply a condition of life. They request a remedial session so they can claim it on their private health insurance. This might be okay for a session or two, but does it really fit the criteria for the purpose of health funds?

If the client is getting some relief then that is OK but you should be following a remedial treatment plan. If the condition is persisting and the client keeps presenting week in, week out there will come a time when you have to ask “why”? What do you need to do differently? What do they need to do differently? Do you need to refer elsewhere or get a consult with a colleague for a review?

Scenario 3

A new client presents with a gift voucher that she was given for her birthday. She just wants 1 hour of time to herself where she can chill out and relax. You perform the massage, the client comes out to the front desk with that vague look in her eyes and you have the “when would you like to come in again” discussion. Before she knows what’s happened, she’s gone home with an appointment card for a massage next week that she doesn’t really want, doesn’t really need and doesn’t know how to get out of it without offending you.

The key to treating your client ethically is to make sure that they are informed about why they are having a massage. There is a big difference between encouraging them to rebook and manipulating them to rebook. If they want to come on a regular basis, that is their decision. Fear should never play a part in this decision.

If the client WANTS to come every week, that’s great. There is nothing wrong with them coming simply because they enjoy a massage. Just do not keep seeing someone for 5 years every 2 weeks and kid yourself that it is just about the client. If it is the same treatment, for the same condition, week in, week out, then what you are doing is obviously not working!

The time has come to ask what do you need to change and why do you keep rebooking?

Still a Success

I may not be making a 6-figure salary from my massage work but I AM a successful massage therapist and I am proud to operate my practice in an ethical manner.

Please do not judge yourself or your worth as a therapist by your “rebooking rate” and please do not rebook a client simply so you can sit back and take pleasure in having a full schedule three weeks in advance. I would much rather a client walk away without rebooking and tell three friends to come and see me. That is how you build a successful business.

About the Author

Liz has been a Remedial Therapists for over 10 years and has taught both the Cert IV and Diploma. With a background in Corporate Risk Management, Liz started Massage Training Australia to combine three of her passions – massage, compliance and training. Liz actually gets excited by rules, regulations and checklists and hopes to help other therapists understand their obligations and have the systems in place to provide safe and ethical massage services. Liz runs online compliance training through www.massagetrainingaustralia.com.au.

This article first appeared on Massage Training Australia’s website in October 2018.

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  1. This is such a great article and very timely for me as I am in a position where I am pressured to encourage clients to sign up for packages, to find their “goals” and use them as the excuse for them to keep coming back. I’m uncomfortable with the notion as I think the same as you, if they are happy after just one session then that’s fine with me. I don’t like pressuring people, especially having to stand next to them at reception to make them rebook, it makes them and myself feel uncomfortable!! It’s very hard when you work for someone else!

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