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Natural Awakenings Northwest Florida

Getting the Most Out of Bodywork

Jan 31, 2013 09:00AM ● By Sharalee Hoelscher, RCST, Certified Rolfer

Every person that has undergone bodywork would like to be able to say, “That was the best treatment I ever had! I felt so safe. All my pain vanished,” after their treatment. It takes two to tango, and we can help create success in the treatment room by the way we relate to a massage therapist, chiropractor, Rolfer, craniosacral therapist or other bodyworker, setting the stage for powerful healing, versus so-so results.

Although we collaborate with our bodyworker, we are ultimately responsible for decisions about our body and health. Clear, open communication gives the bodyworker more tools to help us. Honoring ourself by speaking up about our needs helps the bodyworker create a safer experience, too.

If we are experiencing pain or feel uncomfortable with a procedure, we should say so. Let the therapist know about the comfort level of lying in different positions and whether pillows or a blanket are needed, or the music turned off. Together, we can explore what works best for our body, which may vary from session to session. We always have the right to stop a session, especially if the bodyworker continues to cause pain after we request a gentler touch.

Bodywork is a therapeutic relationship, not a friendship or social hour. It is not our job to entertain a bodyworker with talk or to listen to their problems. While some conversation may be fine, idle chitchat can prevent deeper relaxation and distract us from experiencing our body’s response to a session. Unless the bodyworker is a licensed mental health counselor, they should only discuss what is best for our body, not offer personal advice.

Receiving healing touch can naturally evoke feelings of gratitude. We all like to be around people that care about us, and it is not surprising that a client occasionally wants to pursue a friendship or romance with their bodyworker. The code of ethics for most bodywork professions and state or local laws usually maintain that combining romance with a therapeutic relationship is not allowed. Even mixing personal and professional relationships is not advisable.

Getting the results we want is a two-way street. Let a bodyworker know what we desire help with and what our goals for the session are. Relate a complete history of accidents, injuries and surgeries, as well as any ongoing medications and treatments. While an injury incurred 20 years ago may seem unrelated to current issues, it gives the bodyworker valuable information about where patterns and problems might have originated and how those past events might still be affecting the body today.

We may receive treatment in areas other than the place where things hurt, because pain in one area may actually be coming from another area. We can ask what can be done on our own to maintain the results of the session. If we aren’t getting results from one type of bodywork, we should ask if there is something else that would be recommended or somewhere else we could be referred.

We and our bodyworker are a team, and working together can result in great sessions that just might lead to a better quality of life.

Sharalee Hoelscher, RCST, is a certified Rolfer, a registered craniosacral therapist and holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology. With 20 years of experience as a bodyworker, she practices in Cordova Square, Pensacola. Contact her at 850-450-8508 or

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