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What Are Massage "Goals" and How to Communicate Yours?

Before we Begin ...

Anyone who has ever been on my massage table knows that I start every session with the same three questions:

How's your body today?

Are there any particular areas you want me to focus on?

Is there anything else you want me to know about today?

The dialogue prompted by these questions gives me a clear understanding of a client's goals and sets the tone for the massage session to follow. In my opinion, no great massage can take place without some kind of exchange along these lines.

What Are Massage Goals?

So, what do we mean when we talk about a person's goals for a massage session? Isn't the goal to get a massage? Well sure, but people come to the massage table to get a massage for lots of different reasons.

Some of the most common reasons a person seeks out a massage are:

  • To counteract the effects of chronic stress

  • To find relief from pain

  • To restore range of motion and eliminate muscular restrictions

  • As part of a general wellness maintenance routine

  • A once-in-a-while special treat

While there's usually some overlap, each of these reasons for seeking out a massage can call for a different approach to the work. An experienced massage therapist is a great listener who is flexible and able to adapt their work to accommodate different session goals.

Someone looking for overall maintenance, probably won't feel very satisfied if you spend half an hour doing deep work on their arms and zip through the rest of their body. While someone who wants to address low back pain will likely leave less than thrilled if you only spend a few minutes on their low back, hips and upper legs.


If you're thinking that all massage is the same - you'd be wrong! There are many (many!!) bodywork techniques. Massage Therapists who have been practicing for a long time tend to have a whole bag of techniques to draw from that compliment their stated modality and often sprinkle in a bit of this and a bit of that depending on client need. There are also subtle nuances to a session that can be adjusted to better suit each session's goals.

Speed and pressure are two of the most obvious variables that alter a client's experience of the work. But there are other subtleties as to how work is applied that can be adjusted as needed. Some of them are:

  • Pace

  • Flow

  • Squeezing vs. pulling

  • Broad pressure vs. pointed pressure

  • Gliding pressure vs. static compression

  • Active vs. passive stretching

  • Holding techniques

Let's take a closer look at each of my pre-session questions and see how they encourage a dialogue that clearly conveys a client's goals and helps the therapist know what adjustments to make.

How's your body today?

This question gives a client an opportunity to go inside and check in on themselves. The response to this question is the first clue about their most pressing need. A response of "stressed and tired" indicates extra nurturing techniques may be needed. A response of "My upper back is killing me and I haven't slept well in days because of it" signals a specific area that needs attention.

Are there any particular areas you want me to focus on?

Clues are great, but direct responses are even better. This question allows a client to say exactly where they want and need work and clarifies exactly what they're looking to get out of the session. Why guess when you can know?

Is there anything else you want me to know about today?

So much of what is going on in our minds, hearts and lives plays out in our bodies. this question acknowledges the interconnectedness of our physical and emotional well-being. While I emphasize that a massage therapist is not a therapist, allowing clients to share, even briefly, what might be affecting them holistically adds another layer of awareness for selecting the most beneficial techniques.

Communication is Queen

I believe the key to a really productive and beneficial massage session is communication between the client and therapist both on and off the table. That starts with the therapist really listening to what a client says is going on in their body, where they want to focus and what they want to achieve with the session.

It's also important for the therapist to clarify that what they hear is the same as what a client is saying. I will almost always repeat back what I'm hearing a client say:

So that shoulder has been giving you a lot of trouble and you want the focus for today to be deeper work on that area. But you'd also like some focus around your head and neck with gentler work to relieve stress. Does that sound right?

Taking this extra step is a really simple and effective way to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Increase the likelihood of having your goals met

Massage is a time and money investment and it's important that you get maximum return on your investment. There are steps you can take to ensure your needs are met while you're on the table.

  • Check in with your body: Before you even get to your session take a few quiet moments to really listen to what you're feeling in your body. What is your body telling you it needs: Rest? Pain relief? Nurturing? Many people wrongly assume that what has worked for them in the past will work for them every time. In reality, the needs of our bodies are always shifting and it's important to check in with yourself often.

  • Communication: Before you get on the table make sure you've communicated your needs to your Massage Therapist. If you want a lot of focus somewhere specific, say so. If you want a different speed or pressure than usual, say so. If something feels off while you're on the table and you can't relax into the work, let your therapist know so they can make adjustments.

  • Know your therapist: If your therapist is rigid in their routine, consider building a team of specialists who can collectively address your diverse needs.

Knowing Your Goals Leads to Better Outcomes

Knowing exactly what you're looking to achieve from your massage session and clearly communicating this to your therapist greatly improves your experience on the table and increases your outcome. Work with a skilled and flexible therapist that you feel comfortable communicating with and never be afraid to state your needs or request a change from your usual session if you sense your body requires something different than the work you usually get. If a therapist doesn't have the skills, tools or techniques to meet your goals, that's ok too. Clear communication means you won't be left guessing and next time you'll know to seek out a different provider for that specific goal.




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Hey there, I'm Juliette (She/her) – I'm a Bodyworker and Writer.

I run a thriving massage practice in the East Bay California, where I've helped thousands of people feel amazing in their bodies.
When I'm not helping people feel better in their bodies or writing about wellness, practice-building and the messy art of being human, you can find me hanging with my family, curled up with some chocolate and a book, drinking room-temperature tea or hiking the gorgeous Bay Area with my pup.

My daily grind involves battling my brain to carve out a space for healthier living, personal growth, and a pinch more self-love. It's an ongoing challenge!

Join me as I explore wellness of the head, heart and body. 

Stay curious, stay humble, stay kind.



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Juliette Wilk is a licensed and certified Massage Therapist with 20 years of experience. She runs a thriving private practice in East Bay California, where she's helped thousands of people feel better in their bodies. When she's not helping people achieve a state of bliss or writing on wellness and practice-building topics, you can find her hanging with her family and pup, curled up with a book, drinking room-temperature tea or hiking the gorgeous Bay Area. Work with her or read more @


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