Resources - Chapter 15 Supplement

Matching Massage with Societal Trends

by Cherie Sohnen-Moe


Mobile massage is an excellent answer to this trend. Not only are people becoming more reluctant to leaving their fortresses, few want to get into a car (or public transportation) and battle with traffic after receiving a soothing, relaxing massage. The demand for mobile practitioners continues to increase. Unfortunately, those same practitioners might experience conflict with their own increasing need to cocoon.

For those therapists who don't want to be mobile, their offices need to be designed as a safe refuge. Create an atmosphere where clients feel at home. The ideal "cocoon office" has the following: comfortable furniture; soft ambient lighting; a beverage dispenser (complete with juice and hot tea in the winter); ample reading material; a television; a DVD player; and a stack of health-related dvds.


The two major approaches to addressing this trend are to get involved in groups and to create a center where people like to hang out. Ample opportunity exists to connect with like-minded people given the thousands of special interest organizations (ranging from hiking clubs to quilting guilds) and the 500,000+ different support groups in the United States. People are more inclined to book a massage session with "one of their own" or at least someone who demonstrates genuine concern for people in the group. Therapists will become more involved in special interest organizations-attending meetings and activities and being board members. Think about the types of people you want as clients and the specific conditions you would like to work on. Contact the appropriate support groups and offer to give presentations and write newsletter articles on health and well-being and how massage can address the needs of that specific population.

Websites are crucial for addressing this trend. In addition to posting notices about open houses, classes and product specials, these sites will contain articles on general wellness as well as articles on how massage can assist specific conditions. These sites will have links at the special interest groups' sites so members of those groups can directly connect with the therapists.

Healing centers can foster a sense of clanning. Imagine a center with an array of practitioners, a healthy restaurant or juice bar, a bookstore, a health food grocery store, a community room and workshop space. People can spend the whole day there! The community room is an integral component being designed like the cocoon office and is an open place where people know they can come to relax, read, look at notices on the bulletin board and meet others who share similar beliefs.

Fantasy Adventure

For some people the act of receiving their first massage is an adventure in itself. Theme rooms and state-of-the-art equipment, products and modalities will help meet this growing desire for the advante garde. Therapists in group practices won't have their own room anymore because each office will have a different theme. Clients could choose from a range of total massage experiences. For instance the "jungle" room decor would be tropical, complete with lush plants, jungle music, warm, balmy air, and an indoor waterfall fountain. Other complementary services would be available in this setting such as a Vichy shower and body wraps. Therapists who have a solitary office can design theme specials that rotate throughout the year.

Therapists will continue receiving advanced training in a much wider spectrum of services. Clients will no longer be content to receive a "regular" massage each session. In addition to receiving the therapeutic benefits of massage, they want to experience something novel. They will also expect therapists to have the most current equipment and gadgets and to use top notch products. The side benefit to addressing this need for fantasy adventure is that it will generate a lot of word-of-mouth promotion for therapists.

Pleasure Revenge

This is one of the most difficult trends to address with massage since massage by nature is good for people. Perhaps an option would be to offer an occasional treat such as bringing in freshly baked chocolate chip cookies or double chocolate brownies.

Small Indulgences

The key to meeting this trend is offering services and products that are easily obtained, relatively inexpensive and provide consumers with a feeling that they are doing something special for themselves. Seated massage addresses this need perfectly. The numbers of store-front chair massage establishments will continue to rise. Massage kiosks will be commonplace in major public locations such as shopping malls and airports as well as private facilities (e.g., amusement parks).

Massage offices will stock a variety of products for clients to purchase for pampering themselves at home. These products will include specialty oils and lotions, aromatherapy supplies and equipment, bath salts, music, small waterfall fountains and self-massage tools.

Therapists will offer packages of services, some with specialty products such as hot stones. An example of a package could be the "Total Health Session" which would include several services besides massage (e.g., a paraffin treatment for the hands and feet, a ginger fomentation and an aroma-steam). Clients would also be given a small bottle of the same essential oil used in the treatment and an herbal eye pillow to take with them so they could continue their experience at home.


The key to anchoring is feeling connected and massage is a wonderful technique to assist people in feeling connected to their bodies and emotions. Massage has a spiritual nature and the massage practices of the future will extend this aspect by creating an environment that allows clients to experience that quiet oneness (see Clanning). Many practices will focus on the spiritual aspects of massage, offering other healing modalities such as Reiki and holding classes on personal growth topics as well as classes on movement and wellness. Many of these practices will also have a counselor available on the premises.


Going beyond basic customer service is the best way to address this need. Currently some therapists utilize computers in their businesses; in the future the majority of practices will be computerized. Therapists will use software programs (which are currently available) that provide easy access to client information. Therapists will meet clients' needs to feel respected and special by knowing their clients' personal preferences for things such as modalities, music, scents, temperature, oils and lotions. These programs will also alert therapists when to send greeting cards. Therapists will surf the web on a regular basis to find articles on subjects of importance to individual clients.


In general, women prefer a relationship marketing approach, which is handy given that most massage therapists operate from that perspective. Women are more inclined to become long-term clients-as long as they feel that they have a partner in their wellness goals. To appeal to this trend massage therapists need to do thorough intake interviews with new clients, co-design treatment plans and follow up with information and support. In the future we will see more therapists who focus their practices specifically to women.


This trend will be the key to an increased number of men receiving massage. Not only are men more free to express all aspects of themselves, they are becoming more interested in taking care of themselves and even getting pampered (as is evidenced by the increasing numbers of men visiting day spas and health resorts and purchasing beauty products). Massage offices will need to be designed so that men feel comfortable and special packages of services that cater to the needs of men will need to be developed.

99 Lives

As the years roll by consumers will experience a heightened sense of being out of control in terms of time. The massage practice of the future needs to demonstrate how massage assists people in being more productive (through reduced stress, increased energy and enhanced focus). Mobile massage, seated massage and the one-stop health center are three avenues to pursue in meeting this trend.

Cashing Out

A popular bumper sticker states, "Live Simply So That Others May Simply Live." This trend for quality of life is gaining tremendous popularity. Many massage therapists have always embraced this philosophy-it's actually one of the major drawing factors to this profession. Massage therapists in the 21st century will incorporate these values into their practices. Home offices and mobile massage will appeal to the cashing out crowd.

Being Alive

People are becoming more concerned with the quality of their lives and their overall well-being while a distrust of allopathic medicine is brewing. People are shifting their definition of what it means to be healthy and taking responsibility for their wellness through nutrition, exercise, herbs, vitamins and alternative therapies. This trend is ideal for the massage profession! To best meet this trend, massage therapists will need to diversify their practices by offering a variety of services and products and providing wellness literature.


This trend is not simply limited to the senior population. People want to be treated like they were in the "good old days," even if they are technically too young to have been in that era. The nostalgic elements that fuel this trend are rooted in exceptional customer service. The management of massage practices will need to address these desires. Clients will be greeted by their name when they walk in the door and therapists will shake their clients' hands (or give them hugs if appropriate). Therapists will implement customer service action plans to ensure that clients feel taken care of. The biggest shift will be with medical practices. Currently these offices tend to be sterile and impersonal.

For therapists who do target seniors, their waiting room decor will reflect the bygone era-complete with old movie posters hung on the walls and music from the past decades lilting through the air.

Vigilante Consumer

The major impact of this trend will be with insurance reimbursement. Vigilante consumers will continue to force insurance companies to increase their coverage of alternative therapies. As this takes place, massage therapists will need to learn how to fill out and file insurance reimbursement forms. Medical-oriented massage practices will be fully computerized and the insurance billing done electronically.

Icon Toppling

One of the biggest icons to come tumbling down is the American Medical Association. People have lost faith in doctors and distrust the medical system in general. The flip side is that people are clamoring for alternative therapies. Massage therapists in the future will need to authenticate their treatment results, demonstrate their knowledge, honesty and compassion, and work with their clients to develop long-term treatment plans.

Save Our Society (S.O.S.)

Consumers want to do business with those whose concerns go beyond making a profit. Massage practices will increase their involvement in social issues and become more ecologically responsible. Massage therapists will regularly sponsor activities to raise awareness and/or funds for special interest groups (e.g., selecting one day each month and donating all the proceeds to a specific charity). In the near future every city will have a group comprised of massage therapists and other allied practitioners who've joined together to provide assistance in emergency conditions.


Hygiene is the major consumer concern. Therapists will need to take extra care with their appearance (e.g., tie back straggly hair and bandage cuts on hands). Massage offices will be clean without appearing clinically stark. Therapists will make clients feel safe by offering bottled water to drink and providing each client with his/her own container of lotion/oil.